It’s astonishing how little the Trump administration was willing to accept in exchange for an end to the conflict. The agreement didn’t even require the Taliban to commit to a cease fire—all it had to do was promise not to allow Afghan territory to be used as a base for terrorist operations against the U.S. It merits emphasizing the “against the U.S.” part of the equation, because what that would have blared to America’s allies all over the world was that the U.S. is willing to separate its interests from those of Afghans and of countries that have been fighting alongside the U.S. in Afghanistan these 18 years. “America first” really does mean sacrificing the interests of others.
From the Taliban’s perspective, this was a terrific deal—America accepting defeat, striking a bargain with them that excluded the elected government of Afghanistan. The U.S. would have abandoned the prospects for a democratic Afghanistan, as well as progress in education and women’s rights, and consigned the country to Taliban rule, since the reductions in military support would almost certainly have led to that outcome. The Taliban would have had to recognize the Ghani government, but it could have afforded to do that since it would soon, no doubt, have overthrown it.
The president has now declared the negotiations dead. But he seems no less committed to withdrawing U.S. troops, since he subsequently tweeted that the U.S. military should not be “serving as policemen in Afghanistan.”