Opinion: There will be no peace with the Taliban  


President Donald Trump talks to media before boarding Maine One at the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 30, en route to Camp David in Maryland.  Photo by Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

President Donald Trump talks to media before boarding Maine One at the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 30, en route to Camp David in Maryland. Photo by Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Last week, despite forceful opposition from his advisors, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, President Trump planned to meet with Taliban leaders on U.S. soil at Camp David. According to USA Today, “Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani were preparing to travel to the United States this weekend, presumably to finalize an agreement that has been in the works for months to reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan.” The meeting, which would have taken place on Sunday, was abruptly canceled, however, when terrorists demonstrated again why we don’t reason with them.  

In an effort to improve their negotiating position, the group claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing last Thursday in Kabul that left 12 dead including United States Sgt. 1st Class Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz. Barreto, a 34-year-old Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal recipient, is the sixteenth U.S. service member to be killed in Afghanistan this year.   

In response to the attack, President Trump tweeted, “Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders and, separately, the President of Afghanistan, were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday…Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers, and 11 other people. I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations. What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position?” 

It is almost humanly impossible to describe how asinine this tweet is.  

First, nothing spells secret like tweeting about it to 64 million people. Secondly, the president’s inability to understand how the Taliban, a terrorist group which harbored and supported the man responsible for murdering nearly three thousand Americans on this day 18 years ago, would kill innocent people in order to gain negotiating leverage is as idiotic as his willingness to come to the table with them in the first place.  

We don’t negotiate with terrorists.

Resolute Support (RS) forces remove a destroyed vehicle after a car bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. The Afghan government says at least 10 civilians are dead and another 42 wounded after a Taliban suicide car bombing rocked the Afghan capital near a neighborhood housing the U.S. Embassy and the NATO Resolute Support mission.

Photo by Rahmut Gul/Associated Press

We don’t negotiate with terrorists.  

The Taliban responsible for this attack are not human. They’re evil. We don’t host them on U.S. soil to have peace talks. We kill them.  

The president continued: “They didn’t [strengthen their bargaining position], they only made it worse! If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway. How many more decades are they willing to fight?” Obviously the Taliban are incapable of negotiating a meaningful resolution. Perhaps that’s why we’ve been at war with them for the past two decades.  

President Trump has been incredibly strong on foreign policy. He abandoned the Iran nuclear deal; threatened a possible “military option” against the murderous Maduro regime in Venezuela; recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; and decimated ISIS numbers in Iraq and Syria. But this — negotiating peace with the Taliban — is a far cry from the hard-nosed candidate Trump who promised to “get-tough” with suspected terrorists, openly advocating a resumption of waterboarding and “much worse.” Maybe this is all part of his “old enemies become friends” diplomacy initiative, but hosting murderers at the sacred Camp David — where President Bush planned our response to 9/11 — does not constitute “much worse,” and terrorists will never be our friends.  

One of Trump’s greatest appeals to voters in 2016 was his “tough guy” attitude toward foreign relations — his seeming willingness to make and defend the necessary difficult decisions against harsh opposition and in spite of political risk. Candidate Trump wanted to torture terrorists. President Trump wants to have tea with them while our soldiers are dying overseas in bombings to fight them.  

After the towers fell, Bush stood before Congress and told the world: “You are either with us, or with the terrorists.” Trump needs to be with us moving forward. The United States does not make peace with terrorists. We kill them. Let Sept. 11, 2001 be a reminder of that. The next time terrorists show up on U.S. soil, they don’t go back home.   

 Kevin Catapano is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at kevin.catapano@uconn.edu.

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