Originally intended to rid Afghanistan of militancy and terrorism, United States’ longest military nightmare may not end without a peace deal with the Taliban.
Recently, the militant group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that killed at least 10 Afghan civilians, a US service member, and a Romanian soldier. A surge in violence has been constant in the backdrop of the ongoing negotiations and it continues even as the US and Taliban negotiators almost struck a draft framework agreement.
The final round of talks had to be followed by a ‘secret’ meeting between the Taliban head honchos and US President Donald Trump, who once seemed anxious to fulfill his campaign promise by securing the Afghan exit deal before kicking off his reelection bid.
Now both Washington and Kabul seem to be using the surge in violence as an excuse to delay negotiations and want the Taliban to lay down arms. Even as both Trump and Ashraf Ghani would like to tell the world that the talks ended due to the recent attacks or surge in violence, the truth is that the final rounds of talks — and even the rare invitation to meet the president at Camp David, occurred during a period of intensified violence in Afghanistan.
Hence, boycotting the meeting or cancelling the negotiations makes little sense at a time when the two sides were close to announcing a final peace deal. After all, the attacks, as tragic as they are, were never meant to stop before a formal agreement. The recent Trump turnabout shows the president might just have been waiting for an ‘appropriate moment’ to walk away from the talks. Once desperate to leave Afghanistan, Trump also happens to be under pressure from conservatives at home and it seems Trump’s personal and political agenda may now be conflicting with those who can tilt the balance in Washington D.C.
For now, all indications lead to one conclusion: America’s longest and most costly military engagement may not be over anytime soon, not until Washington decides to admit it wasted 18 years fighting a war that was never theirs to win.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2019.