Afghan War: Is the end in sight?
America’s longest war may finally be nearing its end, said Peter Bergen in CNN.com. Negotiations between the Taliban and the U.S. produced “a breakthrough” this week, with the Taliban tentatively agreeing not to host foreign terrorist groups and to initiate talks with the Afghan government, in exchange for a withdrawal of the roughly 14,000 U.S. troops there, perhaps within 18 months. President Trump campaigned on bringing troops home from a war that’s cost the U.S. more than 2,400 lives and $1 trillion since 2001, and if peace talks succeed, “there could be much to celebrate.” Yet the “devil will be in the details if a real peace is to be achieved.” Will the Taliban respect the hard-won right of Afghan women to work and girls to be educated? No matter what’s ultimately agreed to, said Alex Ward in Vox.com, “few if any experts” trust the Taliban to keep their word. The Islamist insurgents view the Kabul government “as an American puppet” and are dead set on regaining the repressive control of the country they had before the U.S. invaded.
“This has the whiff of Vietnam about it,” said Max Boot in The Washington Post. President Nixon tried to spin the 1973 U.S. withdrawal as “peace with honor,” but North Vietnam immediately resumed attacking South Vietnam, and Saigon fell two years later. “Even with U.S. military assistance,” the democratically elected Afghan government and its rag-tag army of about 200,000 troops keep losing ground to the Taliban, with more than 45,000 security personnel killed since 2014. Trump is desperate for a foreign policy “win,” but if the Taliban broke their pledge and retook Kabul, “what would we do about it?”
I also see shades of Vietnam, said Jacob Heilbrunn in NYPost.com. Like that doomed intervention in a distant civil war, the Afghan War “has become unwinnable,” and “no amount of American firepower” will produce a victory. The war is just diverting enormous resources from the more serious threats posed by Russia and China. Withdrawing our troops is politically risk-free for Trump, since no Democrat running for president is going to call for “upping America’s involvement in an intractable civil war.” Frankly, what’s surprising “isn’t that Trump is exiting. It’s that he’s taken this long.” ■