Fragile Afghanistan Truce Could Lead to End of the War
With all the political goings-on, the 24-hour media just doesn't have time to cover the important stuff. You know, like war and peace.
For 18 years America has spent blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Historians and partisans will debate whether it was worth it or not, but the fact is, if the current truce in Afghanistan that's been underway since Friday lasts the week, a peace deal will be signed on Saturday.
The non-coverage suits the president just fine. The U.S. isn't exactly leaving with our tail between our legs, but we're not marching out with bands playing and flower-throwing Afghan citizens wishing us well. It's going to be very low-key.
What passes for a government in Afghanistan doesn't have much of a say in the American withdrawal. As far as the Taliban, they've made no promises about not trying to overthrow the current president, Ashraf Ghani.
Even with the peace deal, it will be months of negotiations before troops begin to come home -- and that's if the truce holds, which is a very iffy proposition.
“The reason this is a challenge is this is a very decentralized insurgency,” said Seth Jones, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an Afghanistan expert. “There are going to be a lot of opportunities for any militia commander, element of the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other local forces who don't want to see a deal, to conduct violence.”
The Haqqani network is an insurgent group linked to the Taliban.
According to one defense official, any attack will be reviewed on a “case-by-case” basis. And much will depend on how well U.S. military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan can quickly determine two things: Who was responsible for the attack, and can any of the blame be traced back to the Taliban, particularly the group's leaders who have been participating in the negotiations.
If the truce holds, the Afghan government and the Taliban will begin talks. Meanwhile, NATO forces will stay in place and U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad will continue his shuttle diplomacy from Kabul to Taliban headquarters in Qatar. It's likely to be a long process with many stops and starts.
But the key requirement for the United States to leave appears within reach for the first time. The number one issue is preventing the Taliban from inviting foreign terrorist groups into their country to use Afghanistan as a base of operations for threatening America or others. The rest is just window dressing and face-saving.
We are leaving Afghanistan in an unsatisfactory manner. But we certainly have nothing to be ashamed of. We fought long, we fought hard, and we fought honorably. That we're going to come up short is not the fault of those who served.