U.S. President Donald Trump proclaimed talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders dead on Monday. “They’re dead. They’re dead. As far as I’m concerned, they’re dead,” Trump told reporters when asked about the talks as he left the White House for a trip to North Carolina.
The U.S. military is likely to accelerate the pace of its operations in Afghanistan to counter an increase in Taliban attacks, a senior U.S. general said on Monday following Washington's suspension of peace talks with the insurgents.
US Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, said during a visit to Afghanistan that the Taliban overplayed its hand in peace negotiations by carrying out a spate of high-profile attacks, including one that killed a US soldier last week.
The Taliban, which controls more territory than at any time since 2001 when it governed the country, said on Sunday that more American lives would be lost.
"We're certainly not going to sit still and let them carry out some self-described race to victory. That's not going to happen," McKenzie told a group of reporters traveling with him during a stop at Bagram Airfield in northeastern Afghanistan.
Air strikes by U.S-led international forces and Afghanistan’s small air force already are at a high level - a Sept. 3 United Nations report said there had been 506 between May 10 and Aug. 8, a 57 percent increase from the same period in 2018.
Asked whether increasing operations against the Taliban could include air strikes and raids by US and Afghan commandos, McKenzie responded: "I think we're talking a total spectrum."
Trump had hoped to cap months of U.S. negotiations with the Taliban militants, who control large parts of Afghanistan, with a secret meeting at Camp David that would include Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and was aimed at securing an agreement to pull U.S. troops out of America’s longest war of 18 years.
Despite the Afghan government’s wariness of negotiating with the Taliban, Trump had hoped having both parties at the presidential retreat could produce a deal.
A draft accord agreed last week would have seen about 5,000 American troops withdrawn over coming months in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States or its allies.
Bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan has been one of Trump’s main foreign policy objectives, and the Republican president said his administration was still thinking about a drawdown of the 14,000 U.S. soldiers in the country.
“We’d like to get out but we’ll get out at the right time,” he said.
The halt to the negotiations has led to fears of even more violence across Afghanistan, with heightened security warnings in the capital Kabul and other centers ahead of a presidential election scheduled for Sept. 28.
The Taliban said on Sunday that more American lives would be lost as a result of Trump’s decision to cancel talks.