The ultimate test of the deal is whether it holds up in coming months, as a new wave of fighting unfolds in Afghanistan, with the ultimate aim of a Taliban offensive to drive out foreign forces and drive out U.S. diplomats. President Donald Trump, who took office on Jan. 20, repeated a few key promises he made on the campaign trail, even if he made few other public declarations about Afghanistan. One prominent promise: to withdraw troops this year or next.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government appeared to welcome the deal, which Mr. Trump called “part of an effort to boost peace and stability in Afghanistan and beyond.” The White House praised the “repeated promise to work towards a negotiated settlement” and the Pentagon said the deal would allow U.S. trainers and Special Operations forces to help train and assist the Afghan military.
Given a push for a new round of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which would be “hostage to the success of negotiations,” said Bilal Saab, director of studies at the Centre for Global Affairs at the University of Ottawa, “what we’re seeing is the American administration moving ahead on its stated goal.”
Yet there is reason to believe that the coming war will be far more lethal than previous ones in Afghanistan, since the Taliban could choose to maintain Afghan fighters, rather than force them to return to their home country.
Laila Bassi, a media analyst and lecturer at Kabul University, pointed out that “for every Taliban fighter that now joins the forces of the government there are four Taliban fighters that are staying back in their homes and plotting and planning attacks against the government.”
Here are four points that emerged from this deal:
First, there is a long-term commitment to Afghanistan: to stick with the central government and to bring peace. Trump, in a statement Thursday night, promised to pursue “a negotiated settlement” to the conflict but not explicitly mentioned a timeline or conditions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday in Kabul that the deal “maintains the commitment of the United States to a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Afghanistan.”