A proposed meeting between President Donald Trump, the Taliban, and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani at Camp David was axed partly due to disagreements over the political showmanship, a new report says.
According to The New York Times, the idea of a meeting on US soil was subject to an argument between Trump and his National Security Council as to whether it should come before or after any concrete progress was made towards peace.
Trump wanted to go sooner, The Times reported, so that the optics of making a deal could be part of the negotiation.
A meeting between President Donald Trump, leaders of the Taliban, and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani at the presidential retreat in Camp David was called off due to disagreements over political showmanship, a new report claims.
According to a New York Times article published Sunday, a potential peace agreement was ironed out on September 1 by US special representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, which ended in the suggestion of a visit to the US.
The idea for the Taliban's trip to the presidential resort was reportedly embraced by Trump, but some National Security Council officials were not privy to the fluid developments, The Times reported.
A point of contention ensued when the Taliban leaders accepted the proposal, but insisted the trip be held after a peace deal was announced.
Trump, however, believed the Taliban's trip should be held before then, and wanted for it to be a part of the peace process, according to The Times.
Trump, who dispensed with decades of political norms when he abruptly met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone in the Korean Peninsula, reportedly wanted to be perceived as the chief negotiator of peace with the terrorist group.
U.S. Army / Sgt. Trey Harvey
Trump intended to hold separate meetings with President Ghani and the Taliban at Camp David, after which the US president would have the prime opportunity to showcase the new relationship, according to The Times.
Other issues were raised in the days leading up to the Taliban's trip. Afghan officials reportedly said they objected to releasing thousands of Taliban prisoners, which the US had agreed to.
On Thursday, the potential trip was nixed after Trump was informed of a suicide car bomb in Afghanistan which killed US Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz Ortiz, as well as a Romanian soldier and at least 10 civilians. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
Trump and his aides came to an agreement that the Camp David trip — which would have been held three days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — could not be conducted after the car bomb attack, The Times said.
"This is off; we can't do this," Trump said to officials, according to the article.
Afghan officials reportedly seemed unaware of the change because the White House did not make a formal announcement.
Trump would later announce the cancellation of the trip on his Twitter account: "Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, [the Taliban] admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people."
"I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations," Trump added. "What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position?"
News of the potential trip, which was first revealed through Trump's tweet, was widely condemned by lawmakers. Democrats and Republicans in Congress denounced the plan, particularly in light of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
"As we head into the anniversary of 9/11, I do not ever want to see those terrorists step foot in United States soil. Period," Republican Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida, a former US Army special forces soldier, said on Sunday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared on several television networks on Sunday to defend the plan and explain the rationale for the criticized trip.
"In the end, if you're going to negotiate peace, you often have to deal with some pretty bad actors," Pompeo said on ABC News's "This Week."
"And I know the history, too, at Camp David. Indeed, President Trump reflected on that, we all considered as we were debating how to try and get to the right ultimate outcome."
"It was a place where we thought we could convince all the leaders of Afghanistan, President Ghani and his team, as well as the Taliban, we could convince them to begin to head in the direction that would create better conditions," Pompeo added. "It's why the president was willing to go down that direction."