The Trump administration has recently been touting a supposed peace deal with the Taliban, just months after negotiations temporarily fell apart after Trump got outed for plotting to invite the group to Camp David for negotiations coinciding with the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The problem with the touted new deal is that, as conservative columnist Max Boot points out in The Washington Post, it’s not really a peace deal at all. Instead, the deal constitutes “an agreement to try to reach an agreement,” Boot notes. The deal does not include any “agreement on a permanent cease-fire, much less a resolution of all the issues that divide the democratically elected Afghan government from the Taliban,” he adds.
Future talks for an actual lasting cease-fire agreement are already scheduled to take place in Oslo, but the pre-conditions that have already been agreed to for the time being include a U.S. troop withdrawal from the country within 14 months. As the situation stands at present, Boot suggests that what he terms an “ugly” scenario for the near future seems most likely in Afghanistan. In short, considering the U.S. has presently dropped their demand for a unified Afghan negotiating team including both the Taliban and other Afghan leaders, there’s a chance for — as the columnist explains — the Taliban to simply fill any power gaps left in the country after a U.S. withdrawal.
On paper, U.S. withdrawal is contingent upon the Taliban complying with the terms of cease-fire accords, but what actually happens remains to be seen. Boot writes, in reference to the Taliban:
‘The odds are they will be as brutal as ever — though they have promised to be more progressive in the future… The ultimate outcome depends on how long U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. The Taliban are undefeated and have shown no willingness to lay down their arms… What matters is what President Trump says… Trump is plainly itching to leave, and could easily decide to pull out whether the Taliban are complying or not just so he will have something to brag about with voters.’
The situation could parallel what took place in Syria, where Trump abruptly announced plans for a withdrawal from the coalition with local Kurdish forces that had banded together to fight ISIS.
In Afghanistan too, part of the already agreed to conditions include the Taliban’s cooperation in the fight against ISIS — but Trump has already proven that he doesn’t particularly care for carrying on that fight on the other side of the globe. Thus, not only is the supposed peace deal not really a peace deal — it’s just an agreement to hopefully make an agreement in the future — the person in charge of carrying it out (Trump) doesn’t seem keen on actually enacting some kind of lasting change.
What would he resort to if he made more of a mess of the situation? We almost found out when Iran attacked U.S. military bases in retaliation for Trump’s abruptly ordered assassination of their top General Qassem Soleimani.
However, after the strikes, he dismissed soldiers’ traumatic brain injuries as mere headaches and withdrew from his penchant for escalation for the time being.