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After Trump cancels secret Taliban talks, what’s next for peace in Afghanistan?

Over the weekend, President Trump announced he was canceling a planned meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David. On Monday, he said the months-long peace talks his team has been conducting with the extremist group are over. The negotiations had been marred by controversy, with critics objecting to the lack of participation by the Afghan government. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The fallout continued today from the collapse of the White House plan to invite the leaders of the Taliban and president of Afghanistan to Camp David.

    President Trump's twin surprise, that he had invited the Taliban to the U.S., but then was canceling the talks, echoed in Washington and in Kabul.

    And that's where special correspondent Jane Ferguson is tonight.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Leaving the White House today, President Trump had ominous words about the Taliban peace talks.

  • President Donald Trump:

    They're dead. They're dead. As far as I'm concerned, they're dead.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    He spoke after canceling separate meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Taliban leaders planned for this weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat.

    Lawmakers of both parties blasted the president for even inviting the Taliban to Camp David days before the 18th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.

    Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey:

  • Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.:

    I think it was ill-conceived in the first place. It's another example of the Trump administration's foreign policy, which is a high-wire act.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House tweeted; "No member of the Taliban should set foot there ever."

    The meeting would have come after nearly a year of talks. U.S. officials, led by Afghan native and former Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Taliban had closed in on a peace deal to end the 18-year American war in Afghanistan.

    As part of that tentative deal, the U.S. would remove 5,000 troops in return for a Taliban pledge to reduce violence and prevent the terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaida from operating in the country. There would also be follow-on talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.

    Then, in three tweets Saturday night, President Trump announced the Camp David talks with the Taliban, and said he had canceled the meeting and called off peace negotiations. He blamed a Taliban attack last Thursday that killed a U.S. soldier, an attack he said proved the Taliban were negotiating in bad faith.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday defended the president.

  • Mike Pompeo:

    When the Taliban tried to gain negotiating advantage by conducting terror attacks inside of the country, President Trump made the right decision to say, that's not going to work.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    In Kabul, Afghan presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi welcomed the breakdown of the deal. The Afghan government says it has been shut out of the talks completely, and their criticism of the proposed deal had strained relations with the Trump administration.

  • Sediq Seddiqi:

    We strongly believe that that shift in policy is a reflection of the concerns that we have raised towards that peace deal, and there is a true and genuine understanding in the White House of any consequences of any bad peace deal or peace process.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Mr. Trump announced from the start of negotiations that he was determined to pull the troops out entirely.

  • Hamdullah Mohib:

    I would have done the negotiations differently.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Dr. Hamdullah Mohib is President Ashraf Ghani's national security adviser.

  • Hamdullah Mohib:

    Showing your card right at the outset doesn't make for good negotiations. And I think perhaps that's why their position has hardened over the last nine months, since these negotiations have been going on.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    The violence across Afghanistan in recent weeks has been staggering, as both sides have pressured each other in the negotiations.

    The Taliban has killed dozens of Afghan civilians here in Kabul in suicide attacks and launched offensives on provincial capitals, as well as killing four U.S. soldiers in the last two weeks. In turn, Afghan and American forces have been pounding the Taliban with special forces raids and airstrikes.

    If there is no deal, and the Taliban continue to refuse to talk to the Kabul government, then the bloodshed in Afghanistan will continue.

    But the Taliban have still said that they won't recognize your government. If they won't sit down with you, is there a plan, other than more war?

  • Sediq Seddiqi:

    If they do not accept that, and they are still a major threat to the security of us and partners, so they will face the consequences. And we have the will.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    The Taliban have reacted angrily, releasing a statement saying: "This will harm America more than anyone else."

    It's not clear if this deal is completely off the table or the current collapse of the talks can be repaired. No deal at all comes with one certainty: that the U.S.' longest war will get longer.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jane Ferguson in Kabul, Afghanistan.

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