Donald Trump was apparently too busy playing golf on Monday to comment on news that the United States and the insurgent Taliban have reached a tentative agreement to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.
The sycophantic deal, which allows Americans to remain in Afghanistan, was revealed by chief U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad with scarcely any input from the weak-kneed, weak-willed “elected” government of President Ashraf Ghani.
Since Ghani took office four years ago, more than 45,000 Afghan security personnel trained by the U.S. and its NATO allies have died fighting the repeatedly “beaten” Taliban. His regime has proved best at being a propaganda prop for U.S. proponents of the war when using peace and freedom as excuses for continuing it.
If history hold true, the so-called peace treaty will provide a pause for the battered Taliban to regroup while the U.S. pulls out most of its combat troops to meet the terms of the lethal agreement — the Vietnam War redux.
When the U.S. is essentially powerless to take the offensive if the Taliban gets restive, it will almost certainly be merely a matter of time before the U.S.-installed and backed government falls to the merciless faithful.
It remains for Trump to decide if he finds the deal acceptable.
Politically and philosophically, the potential deal is a conundrum of the first order. Since his campaign began, Trump has been very vocal about his desire to see the end to the longest war in American history.
Although his motives then were suspect, closing out the war completely now would be viewed as a political clean sweep for Captain Bone Spurs. Instead, his decision to leave about 9,000 Americans in the environs of Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul is counterintuitive to lasting peace. Unless his decision is a clever ploy, Trump has inflicted another cut upon himself in pursuit of his death by a thousand self-inflicted wounds.
His typically uninspired and dangerous decision is tantamount to leaving a stay-behind command of American hostages ripe for picking. In it is seen the hawkish designs of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and chicken hawk National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Philosophically, Trump’s inability to end the war without strings won’t have a huge impact on fence-sitters who see Trump as a pariah with potential. People wishing for peace at any price will feel exalted, and war-machine-loving conservatives will make his victory theirs. Military pragmatists will say peace is never free and soldier on.
However the war ends, the voices of America’s slain are stilled forever without ever learning why.
A strong economy and real peace, no matter however brief, will provide dark shade for Trump’s myriad sins and transgressions, especially if he stalls and does not make any settlement until election time.
Any early resolution prevents Democrats from using the endless war as a grinding tool to rub Republicans the wrong way. Without a decision at all, more Americans will die.
Leaving those 9,000 targets behind, however, is not peace, it is lunacy where the best armies of Europe, Asia and America have been ground down to impotence in the rock and sand of Afghanistan.
Anybody who doubts what could happen if our soldiers are trapped in Kabul need only watch the 1936 film “Charge of the Light Brigade” for answers. The hammy B&W movie melodrama portrays both accurately gruesomely what actually happened to the British soldiers, their families and allies left behind in Afghanistan in the mid-19th Century to preserve the will of the British Empire. Almost nobody survived.
The last battlefield of America’s Global War On Terror has already cost American taxpayers many billions of dollars since 9/11. This year, the U.S. spent $45 billion and has so far forfeited 15 American lives without accomplishing anything.
During the process, the Taliban has driven the pitiful Afghan Army into enclaves in the major cities from where it only ventures forth when American firepower is available. To do anything else is to invite disaster.
Providing combat support and combat troops to shore up the Afghanis’ total lack of offensive spirit has already cost American families the lives of 4,411 loved ones since October 2001.
The deal says the United States will bring home almost 5,000 troops from Afghanistan and close five forward operating bases where most U.S. combat troops and heavy weapons are kept within 135 days of U.S. ratification of the agreement.
“In principle, we have got there,” Khalilzad said in a foreign TV interview. “The document is closed.”
In return for emasculating the palsied defenses of the so-called legitimate government, the U.S. saves enough face to claim it didn’t flee Afghanistan with its tail between its legs. The Taliban leadership, no doubt tongue-in-cheek, promised in return that it would prevent al-Qaeda or Islamic State from using Afghanistan as a base for attacks on the United States and its allies.
Khalilzad said the purpose of the understanding was to “end the war” even without a formal ceasefire agreement, leaving the intricate peace deal to the warring Afghan factions.
He offered no mention of how long it will be before the remaining U.S. troops leave. The Taliban and every form of Afghan government before has demanded the removal of all foreigners before peace was reached.
There are reports of concerns among the Afghan leadership, who know a handy lamp post may be their ride to heaven if the Taliban prevail. It is an almost certainty that the insurgency, with the support of most rural Afghans and true believers, will once again close on Kabul and decimate the opposition.
That is where the U.S. will pay its final installment on a war that could never be won.