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Pompeo defends Trump inviting Taliban to Camp David for peace talks

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday responded to backlash over the news that President Trump had invited the Taliban to Camp David for secret Afghanistan peace talks, arguing on ABC News' "This Week": "If you're going to negotiate peace, you often have to deal with some pretty bad actors."

"I know the history, too, at Camp David. Indeed, President Trump reflected on that — we all considered when debating how to try and get to the right ultimate outcome. Well, there have often been discussions about war at Camp David. There have been discussions about peace there as well. There have been some been pretty bad actors travel through that place throughout recorded history. It's an important place. It's a place where we thought we could convince all the leaders of Afghanistan — President Ghani and his team, as well as the Taliban — we could convince them to begin to head in a direction that would create better conditions on the ground in Afghanistan not only for the Afghans, but better security for the American people as well."

Context: Trump tweeted on Saturday night that he had called off the secret meeting after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a bombing in Kabul that killed an American soldier, a Romanian service member and 10 civilians on Thursday.

  • The idea that a militant group the U.S. has been fighting against for years would be invited to the presidential retreat at Camp David — and on the week of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks — sparked anger from both Republicans and Democrats.

What they're saying:

  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.): "Never should leaders of a terrorist organization that hasn’t renounced 9/11 and continues in evil be allowed in our great country. NEVER. Full stop."
  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.): Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3000 Americans on 9/11. No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever. The Taliban still harbors al Qaeda. The President is right to end the talks."
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.): "To me, this is just no way to conduct foreign policy. Yes, we should be negotiating with the Afghan government, and we should be negotiating with the Taliban to try to end the bloodshed in this country, which has been going on for decades. ... This isn’t a game show, these are terrorists."

The big picture: Zalmay Khalilzad, Trump's special envoy for Afghanistan, said last week that the U.S. and the Taliban had struck an "in principle" agreement that would see 5,400 troops leave Afghanistan — the first sign of a breakthrough in peace talks between the 2 sides.

  • Pompeo said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the U.S. is still interested in a peace deal, but that the Taliban must agree to preconditions such as "certain reductions in violence" and breaking with al-Qaeda.
  • The Taliban said Sunday that Trump's decision to abruptly end peace talks will cost more American lives, Reuters reports.