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Peace talks with Taliban ‘absolutely’ off the table ‘for the time being’ after U.S. soldier killed, Pompeo says

2019-09-08

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, shown at the 101st National Convention of The American Legion last month, said peace talks with the Taliban are off. (Michael Conroy / AP)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States has at least temporarily called off peace talks with the Taliban after an attack that killed a U.S. soldier.

Hours after President Trump tweeted that previously unannounced meetings with Taliban leaders and the Afghan president at Camp David had been canceled, Pompeo said on NBC that talks were off the table “for the time being.”

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“We’ve been working on this problem set for a number of months now and frankly had made real progress with the Government of National Unity, President Ghani as well as the Taliban,' he said on “Meet the Press.” "Our negotiations have been aimed at achieving each of those objectives while reducing violence and getting the Afghans for the first time – and, Chuck, as you well know over 15 years, to actually sit at the table and talk about the path forward in a more peaceful way.”

Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, a 34-year-old paratrooper, was killed Thursday in a car bomb in Kabul that Trump said the Taliban took credit for to build “lase leverage.”

An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Sgt. 1st Class Elis Barreto Ortiz, 34,, past Pompeo Saturday.
An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Sgt. 1st Class Elis Barreto Ortiz, 34,, past Pompeo Saturday. (Cliff Owen / AP)

“I was, I was just a few hours ago out at Dover Airforce Base meeting with the family of the lost soldier, Sgt. First class Barreto,” Pompeo said. “I met his lovely wife and two boys, 11 and four. It’s precisely those moments that make you recognize so clearly we have an obligation to reduce risk. At the same time we can never permit terror to strike again from Afghanistan here into the United States.”

The talks were supposed to be working toward more secure peace between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Last month, Trump said he is still planning to withdraw thousands of American troops from Afghanistan, but leave about 8,600; it’s unclear if the called-off peace talks will affect this plan.

Pompeo said on NBC that “over a thousand Taliban” have been killed in the last 10 days.

“We had a commitment from the Taliban to make a formal public announcement that they would break with Al Qaeda,” he said Sunday. “We were making progress along the way. President Trump was supportive of those efforts. But make no mistake, Chuck. We’re not going to withdraw our forces without making sure we achieve President Trump’s twin objectives. Any reduction in our forces will be based on actual conditions. Not commitments, but actual conditions on the ground.”

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