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U.S. President Donald Trump Refuses To Listen To Key Evidence In Khashoggi Murder Case

In the phone call, Khalid told Khashoggi that it would be safe for him to go the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents for his marriage.

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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. VOA
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U.S. President Donald Trump says he has been fully briefed on an audio recording of the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul last month, but has no intention of listening to it because of the violence it depicts.

“It’s a suffering tape. It’s a terrible tape,” Trump told Fox News Sunday in a White House interview that was taped Friday.

“It’s very violent, very vicious and terrible,” Trump said.

Trump said Saturday the U.S. government would release its findings on the October 2 killing of Khashoggi on Tuesday. The State Department says no final conclusions have been reached, although some U.S. news accounts have reported that the Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Riyadh’s de facto leader, ordered the killing.

Asked in the Fox interview if the crown prince lied to him about his involvement, Trump replied, “I don’t know. Who can really know? But I can say this, he’s got many people… that say he had no knowledge.”

Trump added, “He told me that he had nothing to do with it. He told me that, I would say, maybe five times at different points, as recently as a few days ago.”

Saudi Arabia has filed charges against 11 operatives accused of involvement in Khashoggi’s killing and said it will seek the death penalty against five of them.

Trump conceded that people close to the prince “were probably involved.” But he said, “I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.”

Fox interviewer Chris Wallace asked Trump whether he would go along with moves in Congress to cut off U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen or halt arms sales to Riyadh, but Trump said it depends.

“I want to see Yemen end,” he said. “It takes two to tango and Iran has to end also. I want Saudi to stop but I want Iran to stop also.”

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump answers questions from members of the media as he leaves the White House, Nov. 17, 2018, in Washington. VOA

Trump was briefed Saturday on the U.S. investigation of the killing of Khashoggi by telephone by CIA Director Gina Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while the president was aboard Air Force One en route to California to inspect the devastation from wildfires in the western state.

The State Department said the U.S. government “is determined to hold all those responsible for the killing… accountable” but that “numerous unanswered questions” remain.

The assessment by the CIA, first reported Friday by The Washington Post, contradicts that of Saudi Arabia, whose top prosecutor one day earlier exonerated the crown prince in the killing of Khashoggi.

U.S. officials say the CIA concluded that 15 Saudi agents flew in a Saudi government aircraft to Istanbul and assassinated Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate.

Khashoggi, who wrote opinion columns for the Post and was a critic of the Saudi crown prince, was killed at the Saudi consulate while he was trying to get documents for his planned marriage to a Turkish woman.

jamal Khashoggi, trump
This image taken from CCTV video obtained by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and made available on Oct. 9, 2018 claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. VOA

The Post said the CIA based its conclusion on multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, who is also the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi.

In the phone call, Khalid told Khashoggi that it would be safe for him to go the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents for his marriage. The paper said it was not known whether or not Khalid knew Khashoggi would be killed.

Also Read: The Truth About the Killing of Khashoggi Will Be Revealed By The Turkish President

Khalid denied in a tweet on Friday that he had spoken with Khashoggi.

“The last contact I had with Mr. Khashoggi was via text on Oct. 26, 2017. I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the U.S. government to release any information regarding this claim,” he said. (VOA)

 

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U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan

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Imran Khan, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Pakistan"s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China, VOA

The United States said Saturday it welcomes actions Pakistan is taking to promote a negotiated solution to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The acknowledgement came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his country has arranged another round of Washington’s peace talks with the Afghan Taliban scheduled for Monday.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” a U.S. embassy spokesperson in Kabul told VOA.

US negotiator

U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, the spokesperson added.

Neither Khan nor the U.S. spokesperson have disclosed the possible venue for the upcoming meeting with Taliban officials.

Some Afghan sources say Monday’s meeting will take place in Islamabad, but no official confirmation is available.

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U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

Khalilzad, who is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks, is to lead the U.S. delegation in talks with insurgent representatives. This will not be the first time Khalilzad has met with the Taliban.

Since taking office in September, the special U.S. envoy has held two publicly known rounds of preliminary discussions with insurgent negotiators in Qatar, where the Taliban runs its so-called political office. The talks have been for the sake of talks, according to insurgent and other sources aware of the meetings.

Trump’s letter to Khan

U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month wrote a formal letter to Khan asking for his help to bring the Taliban to the table for negotiations. A day later, Khalilzad visited Islamabad where he met with Khan and his military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, to follow-up on Trump’s request, Pakistani officials say.

Speaking in northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday, Khan said the U.S. has changed its tune by requesting help instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. officials have previously insisted.

“By the grace of Allah, the dialogue is now happening inshallah [God willing] on the 17th [Khan did not mention the month] and Pakistan has facilitated the talks between America and the Taliban,” Khan said. He did not share further details.

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Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

Khan recounted Friday that critics used to mock him as “Taliban Khan” for saying the Afghan war could not be ended without political negotiations but now all key stakeholders are jointly working to pursue a political settlement to end the violence in Afghanistan.

“If peace were achieved, God willing, Peshawar will change and become a hub of commerce and tourism, as things around the 2,500 years old living city are likely to change,” Khan said Friday.

Ambassador Khalilzad is 13 days into an 18-day visit to the region. He has traveled to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium and plans to visit the U.A.E. and Qatar.

Withdrawal an issue

Pakistani officials privy to the U.S. interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Also Read: What to Make of Taliban’s Continued Rare Silence on Ghani’s Peace Offer? 

U.S. officials have long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces. (VOA)