An Afghan Balancing Act: Ending America’s Longest War vs. Guaranteeing Safety

August 30, 2019 by HJ Mai
Prepare the Gun Photo by Sgt. Jordan Trent 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team

The longest war in the history of the United States could soon come to an end after reports that the peace negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban have hit the final stretch. 

But concerns about the Taliban’s ability to guarantee safety and prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists could potentially compromise the ongoing peace talks.

Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s political representative in Qatar, said on Wednesday that both sides are in the process of finalizing the peace agreement during the ninth rounds of negotiations. 

“We have reached the last point of the agreement,” Shaheen told Al Jazeera. “The final point is the implementation and the mechanism of the deal which is being discussed.”

A peace deal would end America’s 18-year engagement in the country that began shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks. Under the expected terms of the agreement, the U.S. and other foreign forces would gradually withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban’s assurance that the country would not be used as a launchpad for future global terrorist attacks.

Senior U.S. military officials and President Donald Trump, however, have voiced their concerns about a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“You have to keep a presence,” Trump said in a radio interview with Fox News on Thursday. “We are reducing that presence very substantially, [but] we are going to always have a presence.”

The president said he plans to reduce the number of U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan from about 14,000 to 8,600, and then “we’ll make a determination from there.” 

Thomas Barfield, professor of anthropology at Boston University and an Afghanistan expert, said the president’s comments could throw a wrench into the ongoing peace negotiations, which are led by U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.

“I imagine [Trump’s] guys in Doha are now having a big problem,” Barfield told The Well News. Keeping U.S. troops in the country indefinitely is “the reverse of what the Taliban are demanding,” he said. “I could easily see them walking.” 

While Trump’s comments may have compromised the negotiations in Qatar, Barfield understands the president’s unwillingness to commit to a complete withdrawal, given the potential ramifications. 

“I don’t think the Taliban have the capacity” to guarantee that Afghanistan won’t harbor terrorist networks in the future, Barfield said. “They haven’t been able to get rid of parts of the Islamic State Khorasan that have shown up in eastern Afghanistan.”

The rise of the Islamic State terror group in Syria and Iraq following the withdrawal of U.S. troops is another cautionary tale that might prolong any Afghan peace negotiations and prevent a military drawdown. 

“[President] Obama was going to bring the troops [in Afghanistan] down to zero in 2014,” Barfield said. “It was just going to be an embassy guard that was his plan. But then when you saw what happened in Iraq and Syria, suddenly they backed off on that.”

The issue of whether the U.S. needs to keep a military presence in the region is also a politically charged topic, especially going into the 2020 presidential election. 

“If I was an American politician, particularly going into an election, I would ask myself: do I really want to announce that I’ve won a war and then six months down have to explain why I’m going back,” Barfield said. 

While the U.S. is keen on getting out of Afghanistan, history shows the potential dangers of a complete U.S. withdrawal are plentiful. An American presence in the region seems to be almost unavoidable. 

Without knowing the details of a potential peace agreement, it’s hard to speculate on the future of the U.S.-Afghan relationship, Barfied said. However, he went on to suggest that it will be the ongoing financial and military support  the U.S. and NATO give the Afghan government, rather than a set number troops on the ground, that will ensure its future stability.

Foreign Affairs

Blast in Lebanon’s Port Capped Deadly Game of Pass the Buck
Foreign Affairs
Blast in Lebanon’s Port Capped Deadly Game of Pass the Buck

The nearly 3,000 tons of highly flammable ammonium nitrate that caused last week’s disastrous explosion in Lebanon didn’t languish forgotten in the years after an alarm was first raised. A warning was sent to the Public Works Ministry the very day the Port of Beirut blew... Read More

Assessing U.S. Canadian Border Policy’s Future Effects
Foreign Affairs
Assessing U.S. Canadian Border Policy’s Future Effects
August 7, 2020
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON - Canada is not usually at the center of debate on U.S. immigration, but policy changes due to COVID-19 have atypically limited travel to Canada and affected the United States’ and Canada’s control of the movement of people and goods across their shared border in... Read More

Massive Beirut Blast Kills More Than 60, Injures Thousands
In The News
Massive Beirut Blast Kills More Than 60, Injures Thousands

BEIRUT (AP) — A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, flattening much of the port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. More than 60 people were killed and more than 3,000 injured, with bodies buried in the rubble,... Read More

UK’s Truss in Washington to Press for Post-Brexit Trade Deal
Trade
UK’s Truss in Washington to Press for Post-Brexit Trade Deal

U.K. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will meet with her U.S. counterpart Robert Lighthizer in Washington on Monday as part of the third round of talks to reach a trade deal between the two countries. Prime Minister Boris Johnson put an agreement with the U.S. at... Read More

Trump Says He Never Raised Taliban Bounties in Talks With Putin
Geopolitics
Trump Says He Never Raised Taliban Bounties in Talks With Putin

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he hasn’t discussed reports that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite having numerous phone calls as recently as last week. “I have never discussed it with him,” Trump... Read More

Permanent Closings Possible as UK Arts Sector Faces Ongoing Crisis
Arts
Permanent Closings Possible as UK Arts Sector Faces Ongoing Crisis
July 28, 2020
by Sara Wilkerson

As the United Kingdom sets out its plan of guiding and supporting its arts industry amid the pandemic, the sector remains in a state of crisis as freelancers in the British theatre sector consider leaving the profession and theatres face the threat of permanent closures.  According... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top