Foreign Policy

U.S. Troops Ordered to Withdraw, Taliban Resume Operations

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

The Taliban and the Trump regime recently agreed to a "peace deal" that will see American troops withdraw from Afghanistan if the Taliban cease their attacks on foreign forces, but that does not mean they will stop attacking Afghanistan's legitimate government.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said today that American forces have been given the order to begin withdrawing.

“We are going to show good faith and begin withdrawing our troops,” Esper said.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there is no expectation that violence in Afghanistan will “go to zero” quickly, following the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement announced on Saturday.

Esper said the U.S. expects violence will “taper off,” leading to a start by March 10 of peace negotiations among Afghan groups, including the Taliban.

Speaking of violence, the Taliban told the French press this morning that they will break the partial truce that held in place while peace talks continued and resume their offensive operations against Afghanistan's government.

The declaration comes only a day after President Ashraf Ghani said he would continue the partial truce at least until talks between Afghan officials and the Taliban kick-off, supposedly on March 10.

It ran for one week ahead of the signing of the historic accord in Doha on Saturday, and continued over the weekend.

"The reduction in violence... has ended now and our operations will continue as normal," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP.

It may be technically true that Trump's "peace deal" with the Taliban hasn't been broken less than two days after it was signed since the deal only stipulates that the Taliban do not attack foreign forces, but I would say it's dead in spirit.

I don't think you have to be clairvoyant to see that Afghanistan's government will collapse as soon as we leave and that's why the Taliban agreed to a deal in the first place. They know.

But is it our responsibility to remain there forever? I don't know the answer to that question and I don't believe there are any easy answers in a region that has vexed American foreign policy since before I was even born.

It's wild to think that the children of those first deployed to Afghanistan in 2001 are old enough to be serving in Afghanistan themselves. Kids who weren't even born yet in 2001 have served there. We've spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a failed, multi-generation endeavor.

Completely withdrawing and leaving Afghanistan to their own devices may be the least bad option in a field of other unacceptable options, but the Afghanistan question probably won't end with Trump's latest "deal." The next president will undoubtedly have hard questions to answer regarding American foreign policy toward Afghanistan once the Taliban resume control and there won't be any good or easy answers for them, either.

  • muselet

    I’m ambivalent about this. On the one hand, the US has needed to get out of Afghanistan for … lessee, twenty minus one, carry the nought … roughly seventeen years. On the other hand, leaving the country to the tender mercies of the Taliban is stomach-churning.

    Ultimately, though, I have to (mostly) agree with Kevin Drum:

    The Taliban is a thuggish, murderous, theocratic gang that the world would be better off without. Unfortunately, after 19 years, we still have no good way of eliminating them, and it’s long past time for someone to face this reality and leave. In the same way that only Nixon can go to China, perhaps only Trump could leave Afghanistan. This doesn’t make me like Trump any better, but at least there’s a small silver lining to his presidency.

    For the record, I disagree with the “silver lining” bit. Donald Trump is doing the right thing for almost exactly the wrong reasons. The lining isn’t silver.


    • JMAshby

      My interpretation is that Trump is getting out of Afghanistan because it’s full of difficult questions and he hates difficult questions. That’s it.

      • muselet

        I can’t disagree. Certainly there’s no strategy involved in the decision. Donald Trump doesn’t do strategy.

        Trump, though, can get away with pulling the US out of Afghanistan, something no other president could do, because of the slavish cult of personality the Rs have built around him.

        If a D—or, for that matter, a sane R (a rare beast indeed)—so much as suggested quietly, in a reflective moment among friends, the US should probably consider pulling out of the country at some point in the indefinite future, the Right would would have gone absolutely bonkers. However, let Trump precipitately make a meaningless agreement with a band of bloodthirsty fanatics and order a withdrawal because he needs a new thing to crow about at his Nuremberg rallies (doing the right thing, as I said earlier, for almost exactly the wrong reason), and … nothing.

        Fair play to him, Trump did what needed to be done: Afghanistan had long since become a case study in the sunk-cost fallacy. It pains me to give him credit for accidentally doing the right thing for once in his life, but I suppose I must.

        (I just realized that it’s the contrast between Trump’s encouraging his followers to see every Muslim in the world as a potential terrorist and his administration’s clueless negotiation with actual Islamist terrorists that makes me most uncomfortable. It’s hard to decide if this is hypocrisy or mass stupidity, and of course the answer is both.)


    • Draxiar

      I have a niece that was there for 10 months. Years later she still can’t talk too deeply about it. One of the things she has told me is that The Taliban are waiting for us to leave. Staying is an impossible situation and leaving means they will return. There is no good way out of it other than not going in the first place.

  • 1933john

    So, it”s back to 2001 minus Osama.