The Taliban on Tuesday pledged to continue fighting against United States forces in Afghanistan after President Donald Trump said peace talks with the armed group were “dead”.
In a statement to Al Jazeera, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Washington would regret turning its back on talks spearheaded by high-level officials from both sides. “We had two ways to end occupation in Afghanistan, one was jihad and fighting, the other was talks and negotiations,” Mujahid said.
“If Trump wants to stop talks, we will take the first way and they will soon regret it,” he said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has been sidelined from the talks, renewed his call for peace and demanded that the Taliban should agree to a ceasefire amid rising civilian casualties.
On Monday, Trump told reporters: “They’re dead. They’re dead,” referring to negotiations with the armed group, adding that he was still thinking about troop withdrawal in the country.
Two days prior, he abruptly announced he was cancelling secret meetings at Camp David with the Taliban and the Afghan president, ending months of US negotiations with Taliban leaders – who control large parts of the country.
Ending 18-year-old war
The talks were aimed at securing a peace deal to end 18 years of war.
The developments came after US and Taliban officials last week agreed on a draft deal that could have led to a withdrawal of troops from the US’s longest war.
In announcing the cancellation of Sunday’s planned meetings, Trump cited a Taliban attack in Kabul last week in which 12 people, including a US soldier, were killed.
It was unclear whether the talks were cancelled indefinitely or only suspended for the time being.
But Trump told reporters on Monday, “as far as I’m concerned, they’re dead”.
In the wake of Trump’s decision to scrap talks on Saturday, the Taliban said that the cancellation of the talks would “lead to more losses for the US, “harm [its] credibility” and “show their anti-peace stance in [a] more clear way”.
Trump denies report of turmoil
Earlier on Monday, Trump denied reports that Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Adviser John Bolton strongly opposed his initial decision to hold meetings with Taliban leaders at Camp David, Maryland.
“The Story is False!” Trump tweeted.
“I always think it is good to meet and talk, but in this case, I decided to,” he said.
Many in Washington, DC, were shocked and some were angry that the Taliban visit would have occurred around the time of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.
There was also widespread concern over the characteristically unpredictable manner of Trump’s negotiating style.
But Trump denied any discord within his administration and accused the media of liking “to create the look of turmoil in the White House”.
He also claimed without evidence that the US has been “hitting our Enemy hard than at any time in the last 10 years!”
Bringing US troops home from Afghanistan has been one of Trump’s main foreign policy objectives.
On Monday, Trump said his administration was still thinking about a withdrawal of the 14,000 US soldiers in the country.
“We’d like to get out but we’ll get out at the right time,” he said.