So it looks like we’re actually going to do this thing… maybe. After months of negotiations that proceeded in fits and starts, we’ve signed a peace deal with the Taliban aimed at getting us out of that country sometime next year. But there are some caveats included in the agreement that could see the whole thing blow up in our faces before we ever make it out.
The United States is set to sign a peace deal Saturday with the Taliban, its adversary in Afghanistan’s 18-year war. The deal marks a major turning point in a conflict marred by years of both military and diplomatic stalemate.
One provision of the agreement is the full withdrawal of American troops that is “heavily conditions based,” according to two U.S. officials who have been briefed on the deal. The officials declined to elaborate on what exactly those conditions are. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the deal publicly.
This deal, such as it is, would play out in several stages and is contingent upon a number of milestones that frankly look nearly impossible to meet. We’re supposed to begin an almost immediate troop reduction of roughly 3,500 troops. But even under the best of circumstances, we wouldn’t be out of the country entirely for fourteen months.
The full withdrawal demands that the Taliban “not harbor terrorist groups intent on attacking the west.” Is it just me, or weren’t we thinking of the Taliban themselves as a terrorist group intent on attacking the west? The deal also requires the current, American-backed government in Afghanistan to begin talks with the Taliban (and vice versa) but that’s not starting out well either. A group from the Afghanistan government attempted to meet with Taliban leaders yesterday, but the Taliban refused the meeting.
The Taliban is also demanding the release of 5,000 prisoners in exchange for 1,000 captive members of the Afghanistan security forces before they negotiate. The government wants some sort of agreement in place before they start cutting all of those terrorists loose.
This is something I was venting my frustrations about on Twitter yesterday. While I would be very pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong, I can’t believe that the promises of the Taliban are worth anything. Also, even if they were being sincere, they don’t control all of the fighters in their country, so their ability to maintain a ceasefire is dubious at best.
I realize I’ve preached this line to all of you in the past, but I’ve not seen anything to sway my opinion much. The Taliban is just waiting for us to leave. If they have to wait another 14 months or another 14 years, they will. They’re very good at waiting for invading armies to grow frustrated and go home. They’ve been doing it forever. And as soon as we’re gone, they will tear now the new government and return to being a primitive, seventh century nation just as they’ve always been. At this point, we should probably just face up to that reality, use this deal as a ticket to pull our troops out and leave them to their own devices.