Mark Esper: Trump's plan to meet with Taliban was 'terrible in so many ways' -- and every official knew it
Donald Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper reveals in his new book that former President Donald Trump was insistent about trying to meet directly with the Taliban at Camp David, despite resistance from every major national security official.

In a new book excerpt published by Politico, Esper details how Trump, back in 2019, thought bringing Taliban leadership to Camp David to close out a deal to end the war in Afghanistan would have made him seem like "an extraordinary diplomat and businessman who could close any deal."

However, Esper thought that the optics of an American president glad-handing with Islamist radicals who had killed American soldiers would be horrific.

"I couldn’t believe this was happening," Esper writes. "We were actually going to sit down with the Taliban at the president’s historic Maryland retreat, like old friends?... The Taliban had killed and wounded more than 20,000 U.S. service members in Afghanistan since 2001, and that’s just counting the physical wounds of war."

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To put a point on it, Esper also added that "this idea was terrible in so many ways," and he says it was opposed by not only himself, but also Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton.

That said, Trump finally saw the light on how bad such a move would have been after a car bomb apparently planted by the Taliban killed a dozen people in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul.

This prompted Trump to abruptly cancel the Camp David meeting.

"With that, not only was Camp David off but so too were the talks," writes Esper. "It also relieved me of a difficult, early decision about what I’d do if faced with the order to join him and the Taliban at Camp David. But there would be other such days. Many others."