Ahead of a Friday Camp David meeting at which President Trump is expected to discuss the long-awaited way forward in Afghanistan with his team, the Taliban issued an open letter to Trump telling him that if the U.S. military hasn’t won the peace so far “you shall never be able to win it with mercenaries, notorious contractor firms and immoral stooges.”
Erik Prince, the founder of the former Blackwater security firm, has been lobbying heavily for a plan to shift reliance on the Afghanistan fight to private contractors. Prince is Education Secretary Betsy De Vos’ brother.
Friday’s meeting will include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and “several others on the national security team,” Mattis told reporters Thursday.
“We will move this toward a decision,” Mattis said. “As I said, I think it was yesterday publicly we were coming very close to a decision, and I anticipate it in the very near future.”
The Defense Department announced Thursday night that Staff Sgt. Aaron R. Butler, 27, of Monticello, Utah, died Wednesday in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, “of injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations.” Two weeks ago, Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Ind., and Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, N.C., were killed by a Taliban car bomb.
The lengthy Taliban message to Trump, posted on their English-language website, notes, “It is entirely possible that you are being provided rosy pictures about Afghanistan by the stooges you have installed and they are showering you will titles ‘allies of the Afghans’ in their ceremonial addresses but understand that the Afghans possess sound intellect.”
“They judge you by the results of your 16 year presence in Afghanistan and not by the slogans of the lying corrupt rulers under your control,” the terror group continued. “You must realize that these repulsive sellouts neither care about your interests nor that of their own nation, rather the only thing they hold dear is retaining their seat of power and securing their personal interests. They are not solely subservient to you either but will eagerly be the puppet of any foreign backer to retain their illegitimate grip on power. Even in the current government that you have built, they maintain illicit contacts with tens of other foreign powers.”
They told Trump that “your previous officials decided to invade Afghanistan without weighing its consequences,” and added that “American youth are not born to be killed in the deserts and mountains of Afghanistan in order to establish the writ of thieves and corrupt officials and neither would their parents approve of them killing civilians in Afghanistan.”
“Rather you and American officials have the grave responsibility of protecting the lives of American youth which is your indispensable human resource. It seems to be a historical mistake on part of the previous administrations to have dispatched American youth for the slaughter of Afghans however as a responsible American president, you need to study the mistakes of your predecessors and prevent death and injury to American forces in Afghanistan.”
The Taliban, who publicly began reaching out to Trump right after Election Day, encouraged the president not to listen to “a number of warmongering congressmen and generals… you must also not hand over the Afghan issue to warmongering generals but must make a decision where history shall remember you as an advocate of peace.”
“You have understood through your experience in the Middle East that kindling the fire of war is not in the interest of any country around the world,” they added. “Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economical might therefore it would be wise if you adopt the strategy of a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan instead of a troops increase.”
Mattis said this week that NATO, the Afghans and U.S. have confidence in Resolute Support Mission commander Gen. John Nicholson; Trump reportedly said at a recent meeting with the Joint Chiefs that he wanted Nicholson, whom he has never met, replaced because he’s not winning. “The president, again, is looking at all aspects of our effort over there, as he must in his responsibilities as the commander in chief,” Mattis added.
“The president has looked at this and said, nothing has worked in the 16 years that we’ve been in Afghanistan,” State Department press secretary Heather Nauert told reporters Wednesday. “Although we have nearly 10,000 U.S. forces serving there right now, our forces, the Afghan people, have not been forgotten, that is an important issue for us, and that’s why the president has asked for a full review of our Afghan policy.”
“I don’t want to get ahead of the president or where they’re going to come down on that policy, but I know there are a lot of conversations underway,” she said. “They are intense conversations about the right direction that the U.S. believes that it should take going forward in. When we have more on that, I’ll bring it to you.”