[Bolton} spent much of the last week waging a last-minute battle to prevent Mr. Trump from signing off on a peace agreement with the Taliban militant organization, which he viewed as anathema — a deal that the president was preparing to finalize by inviting the Taliban leaders to Camp David.
Mr. Bolton urged Mr. Trump to reject the agreement, arguing that the president could still withdraw troops from Afghanistan to fulfill his campaign promise without getting in bed with an organization responsible for killing thousands of Americans over the last 18 years. (NYT)
Washington Post on the 8th:
Competing versions of what led to the cancellation of the meeting and, at least temporarily, any further U.S.-Taliban negotiations, exposed internal administration tensions that have flared as a deal seemed near in recent weeks.
Those tensions have pitted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, said a week ago that agreement “in principle” had been reached after 10 months of talks with the militants, and Trump national security adviser John Bolton, who opposed the talks.
Khalilzad is an old Bush nation building lackey. He shouldn’t be in this administration.
“I hope not,” Pompeo said in response to questions about whether the initial drawdown of at least 5,000 troops — more than a third of the total currently in Afghanistan — planned for early next year would be delayed, along with a subsequent full withdrawal tentatively planned to take place by the end of 2020. In exchange, the Taliban was to pledge to cut ties with al-Qaeda and support counterterrorism efforts.
But “any reduction in our forces will be based on actual conditions” on the ground, Pompeo said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” one of five Sunday television interviews he gave after Trump’s surprise announcement, made late Saturday on Twitter, about the planned Sunday meeting at Camp David.
Clearly the Taliban at Camp David was a bridge too far.
Trump was the main person pushing for the Camp David meeting, according to a senior administration official who, like others who discussed the sensitive issue, spoke only on the condition of anonymity. Comparing the initiative to Trump’s personal meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and his stated desire to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, this official said Trump thinks his personal style can persuade anyone, and that he has seen the possibility of a substantial Afghan withdrawal as a major plus for his reelection campaign.
While many in the administration have questioned the Taliban talks, Pompeo and Bolton have been at loggerheads over this issue and others, with Bolton, a well-known hawk, charging that Pompeo was trying to “box him out” of decision-making on Afghanistan.
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