US President Donald Trump said on Monday that talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders are off and that he was still considering a US troop drawdown in the country. “They’re dead. They’re dead. As far as I’m concerned, they’re dead,” Trump said of the talks, speaking with reporters as he left the White House for North Carolina. Months of US negotiations with the Taliban militants, who control large parts of Afghanistan, ended on Saturday when Trump abruptly announced he was cancelling secret talks at Camp David with the Taliban and the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani. The talks were aimed at securing an agreement to pull US troops out after nearly 20 years of war. A draft accord agreed last week would have seen about 5,000 American troops withdrawn over coming months in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States or its allies. There have been plenty of so-called bad people brought up to Camp David for meetings. And the alternative was the White House, and you wouldn’t have been happy with that either Donald Trump, US president Despite the Afghan government’s wariness of negotiating with the Taliban, Trump had hoped having both parties at the presidential compound in Maryland could produce an agreement. Trump said he knew the gathering could not take place after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide attack last week that killed an American soldier in the capital Kabul. The end of the talks has fuelled fears of a further increase in violence across Afghanistan. Fighting continued in the region even as talks took place, with the Taliban stepping up attacks in recent weeks. An American general said on Monday the US military is likely to accelerate the pace of its operations in Afghanistan to counter the upsurge. US Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, said during a visit to Afghanistan that the Taliban overplayed its hand in peace negotiations by carrying out a spate of high-profile attacks. The Taliban, which controls more territory than at any time since 2001 when it governed the country, said on Sunday that more American lives would be lost. Afghan government claims ‘hundreds of terrorists’ killed, repels Taliban attack McKenzie declined to comment on the Taliban statement. But he noted that US troops in Afghanistan were hardly “defenceless”. “We’re certainly not going to sit still and let them carry out some self-described race to victory. That’s not going to happen,” McKenzie told a group of reporters travelling with him during a stop at Bagram Airfield in northeastern Afghanistan. Asked whether increasing operations against the Taliban could include air strikes and raids by US and Afghan commandos, McKenzie responded: “I think we’re talking a total spectrum.” “And, again, whatever targets are available, whatever targets can be lawfully and ethically struck, I think we’re going to pursue those targets,” he said. Any increase in US military action would correspond to an acceleration of Taliban attacks, McKenzie said. At least 35 people killed by Taliban bomb in Afghanistan Bringing US troops home from Afghanistan has been one of Trump’s main foreign policy objectives, and the Republican president said his administration was still thinking about a drawdown of the 14,000 US soldiers in the country. “We’d like to get out but we’ll get out at the right time,” he said. Afghan President Ghani, who was sidelined from months of negotiations between US officials and Taliban representatives, had been deeply suspicious of the talks, which sought to agree a timetable for an American withdrawal. On Monday, Ghani made a renewed call for peace but insisted the Taliban must observe a ceasefire, as he sought to regain a hold on the peace process. Meanwhile, Trump defended his decision to offer up the historic Camp David compound to a militant group that harboured 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and is still killing Americans, so close to the 18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. “Camp David’s held meetings with a lot of people that would have been perceived as being pretty tough customers and pretty bad people,” he said. “There have been plenty of so-called bad people brought up to Camp David for meetings. And the alternative was the White House, and you wouldn’t have been happy with that either.” Located in the Catoctin Mountains outside Washington, the Camp David retreat has been used to host foreign dignitaries and was the site of landmark peace efforts, including when President Bill Clinton hosted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.