What would you think about an American president who invited the murderous Taliban to Camp David just days before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attack that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people in New York City, and beyond? Would you think that president had terrible judgment, or would you think he might be slightly deranged?
Well, think about my questions because that’s exactly what President Trump did earlier this month before he abruptly cancelled his invitation to the Taliban after they killed yet another American, the latest victim in a seemingly endless war in Afghanistan that has killed more than 2,400 American soldiers since it began when bloodthirsty Islamic terrorists bombed the World Trade Towers in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. What was our president thinking — if he was thinking at all — when he issued that invitation?
Pleased with himself, as usual, the president tweeted that “Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the major Taliban leaders ... were going to secretly meet with me at Camp David on Sunday.” This announcement caught almost everyone by surprise, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who objected to the secret meeting. So Trump fired Bolton on Tuesday and another top adviser on defense and national security issues left the White House unceremoniously, following highly respected Gens. James Mattis and John Kelly, among others, out the door. Which leads to a question: Does the president know what he’s doing on these life-and-death issues for our country?
We have to wonder when Trump admires and praises brutal dictators like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un (who wrote a “nice” letter) and refuses to follow the advice of very experienced defense and national security experts. Who would you trust to have his finger on the nuclear trigger, Trump or Mattis?
Although Tom Rogan of the Washington Examiner thought the Taliban invitation was a good idea, many of the president’s fellow Republicans disagreed.
“Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after Al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3,000 Americans on 9/ll,” said Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican and the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. “No member of the Taliban should set foot there (at Camp David). Ever.” Amen!
“I thought nothing the president did could surprise me,” said Ambassador Ryan Crocker, one of America’s most senior career diplomats who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. “He (Trump) surprised me. To say the least, it is a stunning lack of understanding and judgment on his part...”
I felt sorry for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was dispatched to last Sunday’s political talk shows to explain the president’s “thinking.” Pompeo said a Taliban car bomb attack that killed an American serviceman and 11 other people prompted Trump’s decision to withdraw the Camp David invitation.
“It made no sense for the Taliban to be rewarded for that kind of bad behavior.” Good thinking, Mike.
Pompeo said negotiations with the Taliban, which excluded the Afghan government, had made “real progress.” During the First Gulf War I served on a public diplomacy task force with U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, a very experienced Afghan-American diplomat. I have a lot of respect for Khalilzad and don’t think it was his idea to invite the Taliban to Camp David. Trump owns that cockamamie idea as other members of his administration try to cover for him.
I think the moral of this story is not to negotiate with or reward people while they’re killing Americans. Or am I being too tough on the Taliban?
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.