President Donald Trump is dead wrong when he says that the recent peace agreement with the Taliban is a victory for the United States.
The ink on the February 29 agreement wasn’t even dry when Taliban forces resumed attacks on Afghan government troops. Just days after calling the pact a great day for America, Trump conceded that it is highly likely that Taliban insurgents will overrun the Afghan National Security Forces and retake control of the country. Surely, a terrifying thought for many Afghani’s, particularly women, who suffered greatly under Taliban rule.
So, how exactly is this a win for the United States? Aside from enabling President Trump to fulfill a campaign promise to get our troops out of Afghanistan, it’s really hard to see the positives. The original premise of our decision to send troops was to take out Al-Qaeda, remove the Taliban from power, and ensure that Afghanistan was no longer a safe haven from which Al-Qaeda could plan and execute terrorist attacks against the U.S. and its Allies. For the most part, that has been achieved, particularly with the death of Osama Bin-Laden in 2011. That should have prompted the removal of our troops years ago.
The main point of the agreement is that the Taliban will take steps to prevent Al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a place to recruit, train, fundraise or threaten the U.S. and its allies. If they comply with the conditions of the treaty, coalition troops and personnel would be withdrawn by May of 2021.
It does absolutely nothing to prevent the Taliban from attacking and overthrowing the U.S. backed government. It seems obvious that is exactly what they have in mind, one anonymous Taliban leader going so far as to suggest that once the occupiers leave, Afghanistan’s leaders should recognize them and give up the country peacefully, or face the consequences.
Just the fact that our government recognized the Taliban as a legitimate entity is a huge win for them, and contradicts President Trump’s 2018 pledge that we would not negotiate with them. This contradicts a stated policy that dates back to the Nixon administration.
That precedent was set in 1973, when the Palestinian terrorist group Black September took hostages in Saudi Arabia that included two American diplomats.Seeking ransom for the release of the hostages, Nixon decided not to pay it. Hours later, the Americans were killed. President Reagan stated publicly that he would never make concessions to hostages, though he did so secretly on at least one occasion to secure the release of American hostages being held in Lebanon. Dating back to the beginning of the George W. Bush administration, it became an official, though classified directive. In the ensuing years, the U.S. and the United Kingdom became steadfast proponents of the no-concession strategy.
It’s easy to understand the Afghani people’s skepticism over our stated goals of providing them with security, stability, freedom, and prosperity. Nine years of Russian occupation paved the way for the Taliban to take -over in 1996. This led to the imposition of harsh radical-Islamic law.
There was indifference by many locals to U.S. efforts, fearing what would happen to them after we left. It turns out, they were correct to assume that we would eventually bail. Nineteen years is a long time to have your troops involved in a faraway country with no path to victory. There has never been the political will, or public backing, either at home or in Afghanistan for the type of undertaking it would require to achieve a total victory and drive the Taliban completely out of Afghanistan.
So President Trump, what exactly have we won? You didn’t start this war, and Obama didn’t end it when he had a chance to. At the end of the day, what was the point of going into Afghanistan, setting up a government and training a fighting force just to bail out and give the Taliban the opportunity to come right back in?
This is all too reminiscent of Vietnam, where after a 20-year struggle to halt the growth of Communism in Southeast Asia, we withdrew our troops and the communist forces immediately took over the country. After 19 years, the loss of 2,400 American troops, another 20,000 wounded, and over $2 Trillion dollars of U.S. taxpayer dollars spent, the only clear winner here is the Taliban.
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