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It’s over. Dealmaker Donald says he’s ended America’s long nightmare in Afghanistan, finally halting 18-plus years of grinding war–the longest in US history. After more than 2,400 Americans killed (and another 20,000 wounded), more than 100,000 Afghans killed (and countless more maimed), and roughly $2 trillion wasted, Trump is crowing that he’s negotiated an end to that expensive and pointless military adventure.
Only … he hasn’t. His flimsy, four-page document, signed with a group of Taliban officials on February 29, is not an end to hostilities and does not require disarmament or even a cease-fire. It’s just a cynical, face-saving device so Trump can withdraw a few troops, then claim in his re-election campaign that he’s fulfilling his 2016 promise to “end endless wars.” This so-called Afghan peace accord merely asks Taliban warlords to agree to–get this–a 7-day “reduction in violence.” There’s not even a clear statement on what constitutes a reduction or violence, much less defined steps to real peace.
The deal is so weak that Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, mustered only a jumble of weasel words to describe it: “We are now on the cusp of having an opportunity which may not succeed.” Taliban leaders were far less wishy-washy. Just before signing, they boldly staged a victory parade and hailed the event as “a day of pride” for their win over “invader Americans.” Some US military leaders privately doubt the deal will survive until our November election. And even as it was being signed, Pentagon chief Mark Esper emphasized that the US “would not hesitate to nullify the agreement” and resume the war if the regional warlords act up.
Oops … some already have. The 7-day hiatus in hostilities promised by Trump’s peace ploy was violated after just three days! On March 3, the Taliban mounted 43 attacks on security checkpoints run by the US-backed Afghan military, killing at least 25 of our allied soldiers. The next day our own drones attacked the Taliban fighters. Embarrassingly, this sudden re-eruption came only a few hours after Trump bragged of a phone call with the Taliban’s chief peace negotiator, who had assured him they “don’t want violence.” Our wheeler-dealer-in-chief called it “a very good talk.”
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Far from facilitating withdrawal, Trump’s presidential PR job of an agreement creates conditions for more US involvement. The concession to release 5,000 Taliban fighters from Afghan prisons summarily reverses military gains that Americans and allies died to make. Moreover, the deal extends US entanglement by specifically committing our troops and taxpayers to keep backing and financing the weak Afghan military indefinitely–while also pledging to continue paying for and propping up this wobbly nation’s corrupt, deeply divided, and hopelessly incompetent government.
So, as usual in a Trump deal, this one is all about him. and far from extricating the us, it provides an escape clause written for his own political advantage.