Julián Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who is running for president as a Democrat in 2020, told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that he felt President Donald Trump's supposed peace talk attempts with the Taliban were "bizarre."
"This is another bizarre episode, Jake, for two reasons," Castro explained to CNN anchor Jake Tapper. "First of all, I think like most Americans I don't know what to believe anymore that comes out of the mouth or the tweet of this president. Folks will remember that just a few days ago he said he had been in touch with China, apparently in order to try to calm the markets, and staff later said that that wasn't the case. So the way he tweeted this out... I'm still looking for confirmation that an actual, physical trip to Camp David was planned."
Castro added that "if it was, if it had been planned, that's bizarre as well. Because even though I do support a negotiated political settlement there that will increase stability and make sure that Afghanistan is not used as a base for terrorist operations, it is very odd to invite a terrorist organization like that to Camp David. That's not in keeping with the way the United States negotiates."
On Saturday Trump posted a trio of tweets on his Twitter account detailing what he claimed had been an effort to bring about negotiations between the Taliban and the official Afghanistan government at Camp David and why they had ultimately failed.
"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. They were coming to the United States tonight. 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." Trump tweeted.
He added, "What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, 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?"
The United States and Taliban had engaged in nine rounds of talks over a period of nearly a year in order to smooth out most of the differences between the two countries, according to The New York Times. This resulted in a deal that would have established a 16-month timeline for the gradual withdrawal of America's 14,000 remaining troops in the country and required the Taliban to provide counterterrorism assurances that would presumably protect Americans on United States soil. The Afghan government objected to this agreement on the grounds that America had negotiated for the release of thousands of Taliban prisoners in Afghan prisons even though the Taliban refused to reciprocate with a wide-scale ceasefire.
That deal, criticized by Afghan officials for lacking measures that would ensure stability, would include a timeline of about 16 months for a gradual withdrawal of the remaining 14,000 American troops, with about 5,000 of them leaving in 135 days after its signing. In return, the Taliban would provide counterterrorism assurances to ease American fears of repeat of attacks on home soil — such as the attacks by Al Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001, that precipitated the war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile the Taliban refused to meet with the Afghan government at Camp David on the grounds that doing so would have been political suicide, since they view the administration of Ashraf Ghani as a "stooge government."