A story you could have easily missed is that the Taliban and the United States have agreed on a framework for peace in Afghanistan.
Citizen, candidate, and President Trump has said on numerous occasions that the war in Afghanistan is a waste with no possible gain for the United States. In August of 2017, President Trump, after a highly contentious series of meetings, agreed to send to an additional 4,000 troops to the region bringing total troop strength to 12,400.
It’s interesting that the reporting at the time focused entirely on President Trump’s “flip-flop” and not on the strategy behind the additional troops. It was assumed by many that this was just a cave. As Ann Coulter said:
It doesn't matter who you vote for. The military-industrial complex wins. Only difference: GOP presidents pronounce "Pakistan" correctly.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 22, 2017
If you recall, Steve Bannon resigned over President Trump’s decision.
So here we are about a year and a half down the road and we’re possibly nearing a negotiated peace for a war that’s lasted 18 years and has cost over a trillion dollars. Did this just happen by accident? I don’t think so!
Two things seemed to be clear in August of 2017:
- There was no military or clandestine (aka CIA) strategy that would win the war in Afghanistan where win = the defeat of the Taliban.
- President Obama had let the situation in Afghanistan become what was described as a “deteriorating security situation.” I take that to mean we were getting our butts kicked.
With the benefit of hindsight, it now seems clear that President Trump realized that the butt kicking had to stop but we needed to be out of there as quickly as possible. We used to refer to this as “nuanced” but I think that word is out of favor these days.
Perhaps President Trump has found exactly the right person to negotiate the deal. His name is Zalmay Khalilzad and he was appointed special adviser to Afghanistan in September 2018. At the time Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann said:
He’s a great deal-maker, but I don’t know if there’s a deal to be made.
Can’t you almost hear President Trump saying “there’s always a deal to be made!”
I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say that ending the war in Afghanistan might just have the support from both Republicans and Democrats. A survey in October 2018 indicated that
Fifty-seven percent of Americans, including 69 percent of military veterans, said they would support a decision by the president to remove all troops from Afghanistan.
As to the deal itself, as far as I can tell it’s “we leave and they promise to play nice.” Realistically, we get nothing for our efforts in Afghanistan which was the only possible outcome when G.W. ordered troops to Afghanistan in 2001. Perhaps we did some good in reducing terrorism in the region but there’s probably no way to know.
In any instance, the continuing war provides absolutely no benefit to the United States. We’re currently spending $45B per year in Afghanistan. What might we do with those funds to help Make America Great Again? I can think of one or two things!