Donald Trump made an unannounced Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan last week at a time when the process to impeach him is gaining steam at home. And knowing Mr. Trump’s pattern of ruling by distraction, it is fair to say he needed to create one, and so he did by the announcements he made during that visit.
In what appeared to be a bolt out of the blue, the embattled president declared the United States was once again meeting with the Taliban to discuss a peace deal, but that it has to be a cease-fire. Not too long ago, the mercurial leader of the free world abruptly axed the very same possibility of peace with the Taliban.
Trump’s decision to once again shift the goal post on the peace talks, his support for Ashraf Ghani’s vulnerable presidency and his plan to end what he has repeatedly called America’s unending war has no clarity. For now, the statement aligns with President Ghani’s stance, who tried to convince the Trump administration not to give away an American troop withdrawal without a cease-fire because that would leave his government even more exposed to the possibility of losing whatever limited control it has over the country. But at a time when the country seems divided between Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the statement on the peace process will only complicate matters further.
On the other hand, Mr. Trump may have left his diplomats scrambling. They, of all the players, have a tougher role than anyone else in this entire equation. Perhaps in the days and weeks ahead, America’s top diplomats will have to clarify Washington’s position on the talks with Taliban and peace in Afghanistan because the president, in true Trump fashion has only created confusion, like he always does. And with two key impeachment deadlines looming at home, a little confusion on the international front might just be helpful for Mr. Trump or at least that is how he would like to think.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2019.