- Mark Esper said Trump once declared that he wanted to “meet with the Taliban” in Washington, DC.
- Esper said there was “no way” he could have and sat down with the Taliban “like old friends.”
- He said it would be “terrible” for US defense officials to be “sipping tea with these terrorists.”
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper has revealed that former President Donald Trump had once suggested bringing members of the Taliban to Washington, DC, for a sit-down meeting.
Esper’s tell-all book about his time in the Trump administration, “A Sacred Oath,” was released on Tuesday. In an excerpt published by Politico on Monday, Esper recounted how he and a team of advisers met with Trump on August 30, 2019, to discuss a proposed deal to end the war in Afghanistan.
While discussing the finer points of the deal, which included a plan to reduce US troop numbers in Afghanistan, Esper recalled that Trump “caught everyone by surprise by declaring, ‘I want to meet with the Taliban’ here in Washington.'”
Esper added that he was disgusted by Trump’s apparent preference to meet with the Taliban in DC over interactions with congressional leadership.
“Ever the showman, Trump believed this would bring great focus to the matter at hand and, though this was never said, cast him as an extraordinary diplomat and businessman who could close any deal,” he wrote.
According to Esper, Trump then proposed that the meeting be moved to Camp David.
“I couldn’t believe this was happening. We were actually going to sit down with the Taliban at the president’s historic Maryland retreat, like old friends?” he wrote, adding that there was “no way” he could stomach such a meeting.
“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,” Esper wrote.
“Not only couldn’t I personally do it, it would be terrible for any secretary of Defense or chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to be sipping tea with these terrorists, especially while we still had troops in a combat zone.”
Esper added that he thought holding the meeting would be “breaking faith” with America’s troops, their families, and veterans, especially when the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks was around a week away at that point.
“This idea was terrible in so many ways,” Esper wrote.
Media outlets have been reporting on excerpts from Esper’s book. Among the incidents recollected in the work are Trump’s suggestion to launch missiles into Mexico to “destroy the drug labs” and how he once expressed a desire to “shoot” those protesting the May 2020 killing of George Floyd.
Trump has hit back at Esper’s claims, calling the former defense secretary “weak and totally ineffective.”
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