After 9/11, the United States had nearly international support as it invaded Afghanistan to find Al Qaeda and drive out the Taliban government who had been harboring them and supporting them. Successful on its face, too many members of both groups managed to escape across the mountains into the border regions of Pakistan. A nation who is a sometimes ally but traditionally has found it useful to be friendly with the Taliban even when it caused friction and terrorism within Pakistan.
This general idea for this post has been in my mental inbox since President Donald Trump started to negotiate with the Taliban last spring…part of his campaign promise to get out us out of forever wars. And my interest was renewed when it was announced that we had reached our negotiated drawn down troop level of 8,600, more recently.
Now this next part of the history is the fault of all three presidents since 2001. After that heady era of defeating the Taliban, American eyes and interests wandered off to other conflicts and hot spots. And the Taliban has quietly and efficiently returned to Afghanistan and methodically reclaimed control of region after region. This despite continued American military presence and billions of dollars in aid and training provided to the Afghan forces year after year after year since 2002.
But President Trump’s deal with the Taliban essentially cedes Afghanistan to their control once again in that familiar way he abandoned the Kurds in Syria. And here in Afghanistan, entirely ignoring the official Afghan government, the United States signed a one on one deal with the Taliban.
The deal essentially guaranteed the US troop withdrawal after the reduction of Taliban hostilities against our troops, and the release of Taliban prisoners…prisoners not under the control of US forces…but the Afghan government. So prisoners we had no right to pledge. Well the Taliban reduced attacks on US and allied forces for the most part and we have now withdrawn the required number of troops.
The premise of the prisoner release was as a preamble for Taliban and Afghan government authorities. And after a lot of pressure from American interests that is underway…but this original agreement never included Afghan input and was a wholesale abandonment of their interests. Something we’ve seen in Trump regime negotiations again and again.
“We have met our part of the agreement,” said Gen. Frank McKenzie, who leads U.S. Central Command. “We’ve agreed to go to mid-8,000 range within 135 days. We’re at that number now.”
General McKenzie, who was speaking in a video conference organized by the Aspen Strategy Group, suggested that completing a full withdrawal in 14 months, as the deal calls for, would depend in part on the Taliban. He said they should demonstrate that they had severed ties with Al Qaeda and engage with the Afghan government by reducing violence and starting direct talks on power-sharing.
But General McKenzie said that “military input is only one of the inputs that’s going to be considered.” Ultimately, how to move ahead with the troop withdrawal — whether to stick to the current schedule, slow it down or accelerate it — will depend on what President Trump decides.
Mr. Trump, facing an election in November, has made no secret of his desire to bring troops home. But commanders in his military worry that a premature withdrawal could lead to collapse and anarchy in Afghanistan, which could again result in safe havens for terror groups — the kind that Al Qaeda exploited to attack the United States in 2001.
Now, one of the key points of the original agreement was a reduction in hostilities against US forces by the Taliban. There were NO actionable provisions made for reducing attacks on Afghan military or police and Taliban attacks against those organizations seems to have actually increased. And now that they have begun talks with the Afghan government they may actually be trying to use those attacks as leverage as opposed to offering a cease fire instead.
Afghan and American officials say the war has entered a complicated period of uncertainty, with an emboldened insurgency aided by regional powers exerting pressure on a struggling government by cranking up bloody attacks often without claiming them.
The Taliban agreed not to attack American targets, but refused a cease-fire with Afghan government forces, leaving that to direct negotiations between the Afghan sides.
The Afghan National Security Council said June had the deadliest week of the war, with 291 Afghan soldiers killed in Taliban attacks in one week. Javid Faisal, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the Taliban attacks in the past three months rose nearly 40 percent compared with the same period last year.
“We have had deep concern since the agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban was signed,” said Haidar Afzaly, the head of the Afghan Parliament’s Defense Committee. “The only group that has benefited from that is the Taliban, who are seeing their prisoners released.”
So once more President Trump is abandoning an American ally in a particularly cruel manner. Once the US completes its final draw down, how long before the Taliban consolidates power and retakes the entire nation?
Is this how we really want to end this? And can we, as a nation, survive in the world community for another four years under the Trump regime?