Earlier today we discussed the unraveling situation between the United States and Iran in terms of what plan (if any) Joe Biden has to deal with them. But that’s not the only pot currently set to boil over on the international stove. President Trump has been moving steadily toward a United States exit from the war in Afghanistan for some time now. Most of those hopes hinge upon ongoing peace talks between the “official” US-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban. To say it hasn’t been going well would be a massive understatement. I can’t recall off the top of my head the last time I heard Biden even mention Afghanistan, beyond saying that he favored a “limited” withdrawal of our troops, with a smaller, intelligence gathering force left behind to keep an eye on things.

The next round of talks between the government and the Taliban are slated to begin today, but nobody seems to be holding out much hope. And as for Biden’s small force being left behind, the Taliban is saying that’s a non-starter. (Boston Globe)

Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan government advisor, said the government and the Taliban are “two warring minorities,” with the Afghan people caught in between — “one says they represent the republic, the other says we want to end foreign occupation and corruption. But the war is (only) about power.”

The stop-and-go talks come amid growing doubt over a U.S.-Taliban peace deal brokered by outgoing President Donald Trump. An accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops ordered by Trump means just 2,500 American soldiers will still be in Afghanistan when President-elect Joe Biden takes office this month.

Biden has advocated keeping a small intelligence-based presence in Afghanistan, but Taliban leaders have flatly rejected any foreign troops. Officials familiar with the U.S.-Taliban peace deal say there is no wiggle room that would allow even a small number of foreign troops to remain.

It sounds as if the peace talks really aren’t going anywhere because both sides are waiting to see whether Joe Biden will honor the deal brokered by the Trump administration. If Biden turns around and says no to that plan, such as it is, they’ll basically be back to square one over there. If Biden agrees to honor the deal, that still doesn’t mean that there’s anything remotely close to a resolution on the horizon.

Spokespeople for the Taliban have repeatedly said no to the idea of any foreign troops being left in the country in the long term. They currently control more than half of the nation and they regularly launch attacks on both allied and Afghan government forces in the other half, so ignoring them isn’t an option. Every attempt at a ceasefire has failed in a matter of days if not hours. Even if the Taliban leaders who come to the table promise a ceasefire, they don’t have the level of command and control required to make all of their supporters around the country honor it.

As to the “transitional” government question, I haven’t heard from many analysts with experience on this topic who hold out much hope. Once the last of the allied troops are gone, the government we helped establish there is going to essentially be on a death-watch. The Taliban will find a way to eliminate and replace them. It may take a month or it may take a year or more. That doesn’t matter. The Taliban are only the latest face of the hard-line Islamic militants who have been controlling that country for all of living memory and beyond. They’re used to playing the long game and they always outlast the invaders in the end.

Joe Biden asked for the job of being the new Commander in Chief and now he’s poised to take it. So that means the end of the Afghanistan war – whatever that looks like – is going to land on his plate. If the talks fail and he decides not to pull out anyway, he’ll be continuing a war that Americans have long since gone sour on. If he does finish pulling out and things proceed as expected, he’ll be the one in charge for our “last helicopter out of Saigon” moment there, except it will be in Kabul. And assuming we haven’t gotten all of the Afghani translators and fighters and others who helped us out of the country first, the slaughter will almost certainly begin.

But hey… at least we got bin Laden, right? That was the original point of all this anyway. And yet, when Afghanistan sinks back into the same Islamic extremist craphole it was when we arrived, I doubt many of us will look back and find the total cost to have been worth it.