The secret plan for President Trump to invite Taliban leaders to Washington to sign a peace accord took shape during a meeting in the Situation Room on Aug. 30, The New York Times reports. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Afghanistan negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, backed the underlying peace plan Khalilzad had tentatively cemented with the Taliban after nearly a year of talks; National Security Adviser John Bolton was opposed. Almost nobody else knew about Trump's plan to host the Taliban until he tweeted the summit had been canceled Saturday evening.
In the first few days of September, Trump decided "he would not only bring the Taliban to Washington, but to Camp David, the crown jewel of the American presidency," the Times reports. "The leaders of a rugged militant organization deemed terrorists by the United States would be hosted in the mountain getaway used for presidents, prime ministers, and kings just three days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." Trump also decided to invite Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whose government was not party to the talks. "The usual National Security Council process was dispensed with; only a small circle of advisers was even clued in," the Times adds.
Before the plan fell apart on Thursday night, The Washington Post reports, "Trump was the main person pushing for the Camp David meeting," believing "his personal style can persuade anyone." Ghani agreed to come, and the Taliban did, too, on the condition the deal was signed before the summit. That became a "fundamental dividing point contributing to the collapse of the talks," the Times reports, since "Trump wanted to be the dealmaker who would put the final parts together himself, or at least be perceived to be."
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Trump's disclosure of the failed summit "surprised not only many national security officials across the government but even some of the few who were part of the deliberations," the Times reports, and several officials said "there was no reason for Mr. Trump to reveal what had happened." A senior administration official told the Post that Trump decided to unveil the talks "to control the narrative." Why he felt he had to do that is unclear, but the narrative was not well-received — inviting the Taliban to Camp David the week of 9/11 earned rare bipartisan condemnation.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.