As It Happens

Trump cancels peace talks with Taliban, but Afghan analyst says deal is 'not dead'

Donald Trump announces his landmark deal with the Taliban to end the Afghan war is dead. But an Afghan analyst says there is still hope that some deal can be reached in the future.

Despite Trump's claim, Intizar Khadim says peace talks with the Taliban 'will resume again'

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump said peace talks with the Taliban leaders of Afghanistan are 'dead.' (Erin Scott/Reuters)

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Donald Trump's secret peace plan for Afghanistan may be dead on arrival — but Intizar Khadim says it still has life.

After months of negotiation with the Taliban, the U.S. president was planning a triumphant meeting at Camp David to announce the end of the war in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of 14,000 American troops.

But after weariness from the Taliban about the Camp David meeting and a suicide attack that killed an American soldier at least 11 others, the deal fell apart.

Khadim, an analyst and former chief of staff of Afghanistan's local governance directorate, spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about why he remains hopeful that a deal will still be reached. Here is part of their conversation.

Intizar, how are people in Kabul reacting to the news that this secret peace deal was going on and now it's dead?

Well, it's not dead. People in Kabul are having mixed feelings about the current status of peace dialogue between the United States and Taliban leadership.

So the nine months [of] communication between Taliban leadership and the American leadership has been a sign of optimism for the Afghan people.

Members of a Taliban delegation, led by chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, leave after peace talks with Afghan senior politicians in 2019. (Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters)

But the deal was leading to this summit or meeting in Camp David in the United States. This was going on, unbeknownst to many people, until Mr. Trump began to tweet about it. This was going to be the final moment in signing this deal. Does it surprise you that Mr. Trump is saying that that is now dead?

No. I was not taken aback by the cancellation of the deal by the Donald Trump tweet. But when Donald Trump called it dead, still I don't call it. I say it's suspended and it will resume again.

So you think this is a hiccup. This is just something temporarily because of events that came to pass. One of them being this suicide bomb that killed an American serviceman. And Mr. Trump felt he couldn't proceed, given that news. You think this is just a brief interruption in something that's going to continue between Taliban and the United States?

Some analysts in Afghanistan are thinking that Donald Trump is just trying to squeeze Taliban leadership to give incentive to the American side.

And I think that's only a diplomatic negotiation trick.

In this Aug. 27, 2017, photo, a U.S. marine watches Afghan commandos take part in a combat training exercise. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

But it's a reminder to many parties, all parties involved, that the Taliban is volatile, it's violent, it's not entirely controlled by the Taliban negotiators in Doha, and that they have no interest in having any kind of agreement with the government that already exists in Afghanistan.

But let me remind you also, Donald Trump, some weeks ago, called Taliban leadership people who can be reconciled.

Let me remind you, the former senator from California, Jackie Speier, who said the Taliban should be given a bigger power clout because they were leading Afghanistan ... from 1994 to 2001.

And I still remember the White House spokesperson who [said] that the Taliban have been reconcilable and that al-Qaeda and ISIS are not.

So these are the mixed messages still we see.

Either you fight for another five years or ... you reconcile and sit and use logic to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

But how can they negotiate this in good faith and exclude President [Ashraf ] Ghani and the Afghan administration? The Taliban says they will never talk with them. They say that's a stooge government that has no legitimacy. So when you talk about this reconciliation, and all this potential, how can that happen if you're not going to include the government of Afghanistan?

In a war situation, you cannot call your enemy a sweetheart.

But you can call him enemy. You can call him stooge. You can call him puppet.

So it's a type of war of words going on between two sides. So we should not be taking that so seriously.

But we have to come to the mechanism, sit actually at table, share logics, and finally come with the desirable outcome.

I mean it's hard. But it's possible. And we cannot call it insurmountable. It's challenging.

Trump meets with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during the United Nations General Assembly in 2017. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

You know, far more than I do, what it's been like for people in Afghanistan over these decades of war, how much they've suffered from that. At the same time, there are a lot of people in Afghanistan that remember what it was like to have a Taliban government. And surely there are many who do not want to see a return to having Taliban in power. Is that not the case?

On a daily bases, all the Afghans, including me, are just suffering huge. We're paying a big price. 

It is just like an apocalypse. So this is how we suffer based on the ... continuation of war.

Bringing them back to 1990s, and imposing Draconian [laws] on them, I think that would be an illogical move.

Taliban leadership are exposed to the world. They understand that they would like to engage with countries in the region and in the world. They have to share all these managerial challenges with the new generation, which is who we are.

Some people from Taliban and some people from new generation will be sharing and shouldering this big burden and will be carrying Afghanistan forward to ensure Afghanistan is safe, stable and developed.

Written by Chris Harbord and John McGill. Interview produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 


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