The U.S. has persuasive intel the Taliban do not intend to abide by terms of peace deal, undercutting what has been days of hopeful talk by President Donald Trump and his top aides.
“They have no intention of abiding by their agreement,” said one official briefed on the intelligence.
The intelligence described by the American officials is consistent with what Taliban sources have been saying in Pakistan. Those Taliban representatives say the group views the peace process as a way of securing the withdrawal of American “occupiers,” after which it will attack the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen tweeted, “We categorically reject allegations by U.S. intel officials to NBC News that the (Taliban) has no intention of abiding by the agreement. The…implementation process is going good so far and such comments by U.S officials cannot be justified.”
One Taliban member, who was not given permission to speak to the media said: “‘We will ask the Afghan leadership and other political factions that since the U.S. has accepted us and recognized our position, it is time for you to accept us and give us the country peacefully.”
The peace agreement was signed last week with an American pledge to withdraw all troops in 14 months and the Taliban promising to stop harboring terrorists and to enter into peace talks with an Afghan government-led delegation.
A former U.S. official directly familiar with planning acknowledged that the administration understands the risks of a “Vietnam War” style ending to the war in Afghanistan, in which the Taliban renege on the deal and overrun the country. But no one is saying that publicly.
Asked about the prospects for peace Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “We still have confidence the Taliban leadership is working to deliver on its commitments,” despite their fighters having carried out more than 70 attacks on Afghan government forces since the agreement was signed Feb. 29.
He added that that pact will not go forward if Taliban leaders break their promises, and he called for a reduction in violence without explicitly condemning the group.
“We know that the road ahead will be difficult,” Pompeo said. “We expected it. We were right.”
“The upsurge in violence in parts of Afghanistan over the last couple days is unacceptable. In no uncertain terms, violence must be reduced immediately for the peace process to move forward.”
Defense and intelligence officials said they believe President Trump is determined to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan regardless of what the Taliban do and has said, “Countries need to take care of themselves.”