Trump rejects peace talks with Taliban, Afghanistan says they've 'crossed a red line'

KABUL/PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Afghanistan said on Tuesday the Taliban would have to be defeated on the battlefield after U.S. President Donald Trump rejected the idea of talks with the militants following a series of deadly attacks.

The Taliban reacted to Trump's announcement by saying they never wanted to talk to the United States anyway, but one senior member of the group said he suspected efforts would still be made to get negotiations going.

Talking to reporters at the White House on Monday, Trump condemned the militant group for recent carnage in Kabul and said the United States was not prepared to talk now. He pledged to "finish what we have to finish."

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An Afghan woman mourns inside a hospital compound after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
An Afghan man removes fragments of glass from a building after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
An Afghan boy collects debris after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan municipality workers clean up a road at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH Afghan investigators work at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani TEMPLATE OUT
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH Men move the dead body of a man into an ambulance after a suicide attack was carried out in Kabul, Afghanistan July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail TEMPLATE OUT
Afghan shopkeepers collect remains in front of a shop after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. July 24, 2017.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
An Afghan man looks outside through a broken window at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Afghan women mourn inside a hospital compound after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN-JULY 24: Afghan security officials inspect the Suicide attack site in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 24, 2017. (Photo by Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Footwear of victims are seen on the ground as Afghan residents inspect the site of a car bomb attack in western Kabul on July 24, 2017. At least 24 people have been killed and 42 wounded after a car bomb struck a bus carrying government employees in western Kabul on July 24, an official told AFP, the latest attack to strike the Afghan capital. / AFP PHOTO / WAKIL KOHSAR (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
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His comments suggested he sees a military victory over the Taliban, an outcome that U.S. military and diplomatic officials say cannot be achieved with the resources and manpower he has authorized.

A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said while the government had encouraged the Taliban to talk, the attacks in Kabul, including a suicide bomb attack on Saturday that killed more than 100 people, was a "red line."

"The Taliban have crossed a red line and lost the chance for peace," said the spokesman, Shah Hussain Murtazawi.

"We have to look for peace on the battlefield. They have to be marginalized."

He declined to comment directly on Trump's announcement.

A spokesman for the Taliban, who are fighting to oust foreign forces, defeat the U.S.-backed government and impose their version of Islamic rule, said they never wanted to hold peace talks with the United States anyway.

"Their main strategy is to continue war and occupation," the spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a statement.

He said Taliban fighters would respond in kind if the Americans wanted to focus on war: "If you emphasize war then our mujahideen will not welcome you with flowers."

'PUBLIC CONSUMPTION'

Trump last year ordered an increase in U.S. troops, air strikes and other assistance to Afghan forces.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said this month the strategy was working and pushing the insurgents closer to talks.

That was before a suicide bomber penetrated the highly guarded center of Kabul on Saturday and detonated an ambulance laden with explosives, killing more than 100 people and wounding at least 235.

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The past 16 years at war in Afghanistan
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The past 16 years at war in Afghanistan
The United States and Britain on October 7, 2001 launched a first wave of air strikes against Afghanistan and President George W. Bush said the action heralded a "sustained, comprehensive and relentless" campaign against terrorism. Eyewitnesses said they saw flashes and heard explosions over the Afghan capital of Kabul in the first phase of what the United States has said will be a protracted and wide-ranging war against terrorism and the states that support it. The attack had been prepared since the September 11 suicide attacks on the United States that killed around 5,600 people. A U.S. Air force B-52 bomber drops a load of M117 750-pound bombs over a bombing range in the United States in this undated file photo.B-52s, B-1 and B-2 stealth bombers are some of the aircraft that were reportedly used in the attacks on Afghanistan. REUTERS/USAF-Handout KM/HB
Two Northern Alliance soldiers watch as the dust and smoke rises after explosions in Taliban positions on Kalakata hill, near the village of Ai-Khanum in northern Afghanistan, November 1, 2001. The Pentagon said on Wednesday B-52s dropped heavy loads of bombs, a tactic known as carpet bombing, on Taliban troops north of Kabul as a result of improved tergeting intelligence, partly from U.S. special forces on the ground. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko VF/CRB
U.S. Marine PV2 Eileen M. Schnetzko stands on guard at Bagram airport, March 2, 2002. U.S. troops are based at Bagram, north of Kabul. There are some 4,000 U.S. troops based in Afghanistan as part of the international war against terrorism. REUTERS/Mario Laporta REUTERS ML
A U.S. special forces soldier (L) watches while Afghan militia wait in line to turn in their weapons at a military base in Kunduz, Afghanistan October 22, 2003. A long-awaited U.N.-sponsored project to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate 100,000 soldiers across Afghanistan was under way in the north, a key step to bringing eventual peace to this war-torn country. The "New Beginnings Programme," which lets soldiers exchange their weapons for jobs, began in the northern province of Kunduz this week. REUTERS/Richard Vogel/Pool RV KAJ/FA
A Chinook helicopter hovers over U.S. troops in the village of Jegdelic, about 90 km (56 miles) southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, in this picture taken on December 24, 2004. A U.S. military helicopter carrying up to 20 American troops crashed during an anti-guerrilla mission in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, U.S. officials said. The fate of those on board was not immediately known. Picture taken December 24, 2004. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood Am/mk BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE
An Afghan boy looks at U.S. soldiers as they patrol a village near the town of Makkor, southwest of Kabul April 20, 2007. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic (AFGHANISTAN)
A U.S. soldier works with a shovel as a vehicle is stuck in mud, some 70km south of Ghazni, southeastern Afghanistan April 23, 2007. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic (AFGHANISTAN)
British and a U.S. soldiers control the crowd during medical assistance in Kabul February 26, 2008. U.S. and British troops provided medical assistance worth of $50,000 to the Afghan locals in Kabul on Tuesday. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood (AFGHANISTAN)
Sgt. William Olas Bee, a U.S. Marine from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, has a close call after Taliban fighters opened fire near Garmsir in Helmand Province of Afghanistan, May 18, 2008. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic (AFGHANISTAN)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (L) and U.S. Army General David McKiernan, the top U.S. and NATO Commander in Afghanistan (R) listen to Afghan governors and local officials during their visit to Forward Operating Base Airborne in the mountains of Wardak Province, Afghanistan, May 8, 2009. Gates on May 11, 2009 replaced the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General David McKiernan, less than a year after he took over the war effort there. Gates said he asked for McKiernan's resignation and recommended Army Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, a former commander of special operations forces, to take over command of 45,000 U.S. troops and about 32,000 other troops from non-U.S. NATO countries. REUTERS/Jason Reed (AFGHANISTAN MILITARY POLITICS)
U.S. soldiers of the 2-12 Infantry, 4th Brigade prepare to tow a broken-down improvised explosive device (IED) detecting Huskie vehicle during a patrol in the Pesh Valley in Afghanistan's Kunar Province July 30, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (AFGHANISTAN CONFLICT)
U.S. soldiers kneel during a memorial ceremony for Captain Daniel Whitten and Private First Class Zachary Lovejoy from Charlie Company, 4th Brigade combat team,1-508, 82nd Parachute Infantry Regiment at the Remote Sweeney FOB in Zabul province, southern Afghanistan, February 8, 2010. CPT Whitten from Grimes, Iowa, and PFC Lovejoy from Albuquerque, New Mexico, were killed by an IED on February 2. when on patrol in southern Afghanistan. REUTERS/Baz Ratner (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT MILITARY)
Canadian soldiers play table football under flashlights at a military outpost near the village of Bazaar e Panjwaii, in the Panjwaii district of Kandahar province August 8, 2010. REUTERS/Bob Strong (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: CONFLICT MILITARY)
U.S. Army medic Staff Sergeant Rahkeem Francis with Charlie Company, 6-101 Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, treats an Afghan boy with a broken leg onboard a medevac helicopter near the town of Marjah in Helmand Province, August 19, 2010. REUTERS/Bob Strong (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: CONFLICT MILITARY POLITICS)
U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, B battery 2-8 field artillery, fire a howitzer artillery piece at Seprwan Ghar forward fire base in Panjwai district, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Baz Ratner (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: CONFLICT MILITARY IMAGES OF THE DAY POLITICS)
An Afghan shepherd walks with a flock of sheep past a U.S. Marines armored vehicle of the Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines outside the Camp Gorgak in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan July 5, 2011. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY ANIMALS IMAGES OF THE DAY)
First Sergeant Mac Miller from Comanche Troop 3rd Squadron 4th Cavalry lift weights as he exercises in Forward Operating Base Connolly in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan, March 3, 2012. Picture taken March 3, 2012. REUTERS/Erik De Castro (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: MILITARY CONFLICT)
A U.S. Army soldier and a member of the Afghan Uniform Police arm wrestle prior to a joint patrol near Command Outpost AJK (short for Azim-Jan-Kariz, a near-by village) in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, January 28, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Burton (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A U.S. service member takes a "selfie" as U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with troops after delivering remarks at Bagram Air Base in Kabul, May 25, 2014. Obama, on a visit to Afghanistan, said on Sunday his administration would likely announce soon how many troops the United States will keep in the country, as it winds down its presence after nearly 13 years of war. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY)
Afghan children gesture at U.S. soldiers from Grim Company of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment as they stand guard near an Afghan police checkpoint during a mission near Forward Operating Base Fenty in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan December 19, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT)
U.S. soldiers attend to a wounded soldier at the site of a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan June 30, 2015. At least 17 people were wounded in a suicide bomb attack on NATO troops as their truck convoy passed down the main road running between Kabul's airport and the U.S. embassy, police and health ministry officials said. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A U.S. soldier keeps watch at the site of an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan January 4, 2016. A large explosion struck close to Kabul airport on Monday, causing at least 10 casualties near to the area where a suicide bomber blew himself up earlier in the day in the latest in a series of attacks in the Afghan capital over the past week. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
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That attack followed a brazen Taliban assault on the city's Intercontinental Hotel on Jan. 20, in which more than 20 people, including four Americans, were killed.

The Taliban said the attacks were a message to Trump that his policy of aggression would not work.

Another Taliban member said the United States had been approaching states that have relations with the Taliban to try to get them to push the insurgents to the negotiating table.

"President Trump is saying this for public consumption," the ‎Taliban member, who declined to be identified, said of Trump's rejection of talks. "He and his team are making every effort to bring us to the negotiating table.

"Actually, the latest attack in Kabul awakened President Trump and his puppets in Afghanistan about the capability of the Taliban and their ability to mount big attacks anywhere."

The Taliban refer to the Afghan government as U.S. "puppets."

The United States believes the Haqqani network, a faction within the Taliban, was behind Saturday's bomb blast in Kabul.

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It and Afghanistan have long accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, and the Haqqani network in particular, as assets to be used in its bid to limit the influence of old rival India in Afghanistan.

This month, Trump ordered big cuts in security aid to Pakistan over its failure to crack down on militants.

Pakistan denies accusations it fosters the Afghan war, and condemned the recent attacks in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials were not immediately available for comment on Trump's rejection of talks with the Taliban. (Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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