Even opposition from his own national security team, including Vice President Mike Pence, could not prevent Trump from moving forward with his plan to host Taliban leaders in the rural presidential run.
Trump ended up missing the event after a Taliban car bomb killed an American soldier and 11 others last week. But that decision came after a heated debate in the administration over the place of the summit – growing bigger, more substantive differences over the wisdom of negotiating with the Taliban in general.
Negotiations have dug Trump's hawkish national security adviser John Bolton against the nation's top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose agency has been negotiating with the Taliban for the past 1
The coloring of the debate has long been Trump's stated desire to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan after nearly two decades of war. The president insisted on fulfilling his promise to bring more US troops back home, but like his predecessors, he found several easy solutions to ending the war.
Trump disputes, reporting that he canceled Pence and "various advisers" at the Camp David meeting.
"I always think it's good to meet and talk, but in this case I decided not to," the president tweeted on Monday.
It was the Friday before Labor Day when Trump convened a meeting in the Council Hall with his closest national security advisers to discuss the state of peace talks with the Taliban. He was supposed to leave the next day to travel to Poland, but he had been missing the night before to stay back and watch the approaching hurricane.
Pence, who Trump sent to Poland in his place, was not physically present but was in contact with the president on the matter. Bolton wasn't there either – he stayed in Europe after the G7 summit in France and had a teleconference.
Bolton and his National Security Council staff have long been distrustful of US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who they believe had too much authority in the leadership of the talks and gave too much effect to Taliban leaders . The national security adviser, who has been sidelined by discussions in Afghanistan, has criticized the president directly.
Halilzad was also viewed by some members of Trump's national security team as an extension of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – and hostilities between Bolton and Pompeo have emerged in recent weeks.
Even with skepticism, Pompeo and Halilzad remain focused on securing a peace deal that will reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan from approximately 14,000 to 8,000, aligning with the president's own stated goal of withdrawal. Trump was briefed on the deal in a meeting with his national security team in Bedminster, New Jersey, at a golf course last month.
Along with other advisers who were sharply critical of the emerging Taliban deal, including Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, Bolton believed that Trump would remain amenable to change if additional information was presented in a specific way , said a source familiar with the situation.