WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that his forces have already started hitting Taliban “harder than ever before” after the cancellation of the peace talks that came tantalizingly close to a deal.

While addressing a memorial ceremony at the Pentagon for the victims of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the US leader blamed the Taliban for the failure of the almost year-long peace talks in Doha, Qatar.

“They thought they would use this attack to show strength, but actually what they showed is unrelenting weakness,” he said.

In a series of tweets posted during the weekend, President Trump announced that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior Taliban leaders were coming to the Camp David presidential retreat on Sunday to finalise the deal. But last Thursday’s Taliban attack in Kabul, which killed 12 people including an American soldier, compelled him to call off the talks, he added.

“The last four days, we have hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before and that will continue,” Mr Trump said in his 9/11 speech. Mr Trump did not say if this was a ground or air offensive but did say that he ordered the strikes after cancelling the talks.

Responding to a Taliban threat that walking out of the peace talks would hurt the United States, the president warned the militants against ever carrying out an attack in the US again.

“If for any reason, they come back to our country, we will go wherever they are, and use power, the likes of which the United States has never used before,” he said.

“I’m not even talking about nuclear power. They will never have seen anything like what will happen to them,” he added.

The president has drawn criticism in recent days for initially inviting the Taliban to Camp David near the anniversary of the 2001 attacks. But his decision to end the talks has generally been welcomed in the United States, encouraging Mr Trump to take a harder stance against the Taliban.

At a White House news briefing on Monday, the US president said that talks aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan but were dead now. “As far as I’m concerned, they are dead,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2019