US-Taleban Deal – An Unnecessary Overreach, A Political Minefield or Both?

 

How well is President Trump positioned for the 2020 election? Any one who watched both the adoring rally for President Trump in Cincinnati, OH and the sad Democrat Party debates, would feel fairly comfortable about President Trump’s chances. The Democrat contenders couldn’t hit President Trump with anything real or substantial. All they had was the chorus of “racism”.

So they turned on each other &, amazingly, on President Obama, the most beloved Democrat leader.  The spectacle was so scary to Democrats that a search was launched immediately for a savior. Michelle Obama was the first & most emotional choice but the search did not stop there. We even detected the beginning of a draft Michael Bloomberg movement.   

How could the Democrats hit President Trump? It is widely felt that he has delivered much of what he promised in his 2016 campaign. He has stayed out of foreign policy entanglements & has even been patient with Iran. He defeated ISIS & he has made North Korea’s Kim Jung Un into a less threatening posture.

He has delivered jobs & an almost full-employment economy with rising wages. He has delivered on NAFTA & is now aggressively taking on China, a move that even the most left-wing of Democrat politicians in the Midwest praise & support. This has forced the Democrat contenders into far more extreme left-wing positions, not economic positions, but social, law & order & immigration positions from which Middle America is already recoiling.

He has already won the budget battle with the Democrat leadership in the House and so has the ability to spend money on domestic programs in critical states. Depending on who the Democrat nominee is, President Trump could not just win but win big.

Frankly, this worries us somewhat. Politicians are often tempted  make an extra play with limited upside just to get the odds more decisively in their favor. The classic example was President Nixon authorizing the burglary of DNC Headquarters at Watergate towers in 1972. There was no upside from it, only enormous downside that eventually forced President Nixon to resign.

The other example is the over reach by the Bush Administration in Iraq. The invasion had already been successful. Then the Bush Administration over reached and allowed Paul Bremer to disband the Iraqi army. The desired upside was a democratic nation-build and the resulting downside was disaster. It made Iraq a battle ground both for terrorism and for the ancient Shia-Suni struggle. President Bush did barely won his re-election but his presidency never recovered.

We are getting worried, seriously worried that President Trump is on the verge of making a big foreign policy blunder that could not only create a big issue for Democrats in 2020 but also change the entire ethos of the Trump presidency in his second term. We are worried that President Trump is about to take a sleepy issue that no one cares about and needlessly catapult it into a big test of his presidency.

No one cares about the ongoing US effort in Afghanistan. Yes, the US has 14,000 troops there. But they are no actively fighting, only assisting the “Afghan” army in fighting the Taleban. Everybody understand that is an unsolvable issue and both Democrat & Republican presidents have failed at resolving that mess. Not a single Democrat brought up Afghanistan in the two Democrat debates this week. Even Joe Biden did not bask in President Obama’s decisions in Afghanistan. There is no political gain or play in that miserable mess.

Yet, we find President Trump trying to make a low-reward high risk play in trying to resolve that mess before the 2020 election. To quote Stratfor,

  • “On July 31, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation and the lead negotiator in U.S. talks with the Taliban, tweeted that the United States is ready “to conclude the agreement” provided the Taliban “do their part.”  Just two days earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S President Donald Trump wanted a reduction in U.S. forces from Afghanistan ahead of the 2020 presidential elections.”

Stratfor adds,

It is this pressure from President Trump that makes a US-Taleban deal a high probability outcome. The deal has four main points, according to Stratfor:

  1. a permanent cease-fire that ends the war,
  2. a Taliban pledge to prevent transnational extremist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State’s Khorasan branch from using Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks,
  3. a U.S. timeline to withdraw its troops and
  4. a Taliban commitment to begin dialogue with the NATO-backed central government in Kabul.

Now look at why the Taleban might verbally agree for a “permanent cease-fire”? Stratfor writes,

  • “The Taliban have said they support such a demand, but only if the United States first announces a troop pullout, which would enable the group to claim victory in achieving the paramount aim of the insurgency: withdrawal of the foreign forces who initially toppled the Taliban in 2001, leading them to regroup in Pakistan as an insurgency. “

Imagine the spectacle of bearded Taleban fighters shooting their rifles in the air & celebrating the defeat of the United States just as they celebrated the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1989. Notice the Taleban are not giving up anything – they are not disbanding their fighters, they are not giving up their weapons; all they are doing is making verbal promises while the US is pulling out US troops from Afghanistan. 

And why does anyone think the Taleban will be able to meet its obligations? They are already in an intense war with ISIS in Afghanistan, a war that the Taleban are not winning so far. And the Taleban has factions that will never agree to any deal with the US, certainly not any deal that forces them to tolerate members of the current Afghan government.

So what use are “pledges” & “commitments” of the Taleban without any US ability to punish the Taleban for ignoring them? And how will the US do anything once they announce the timeline for withdrawal?

Can you imagine the utter joy & glee of Democrat contenders & of every single Democrat activist? Won’t they they savage the “art” of this “deal” as a surrender for selfish reasons? This deal will be, probably correctly, be labelled as “running away” and laying waste to 18 years of sacrifice of US soldiers. It will be tantamount to the “emperor has no clothes” declaration, this time from the emperor himself.

In any case, it will breathe life into every anti-Trump effort & create a real issue to beat up on President Trump. Democrats will legitimately be able to ask what has President Trump achieved by coddling Kim Jung Un of North Korea, to raise questions about Iran & Saudi Arabia just to mention a couple.

This may also make it possible for President Obama to jump in publicly to criticize this surrender by President Trump. He has been quiet for months about the vitriol heaped on him by President Trump for the Iran Nuclear Deal. He would tear up this US-Taleban deal in a way no one else can and claim he is doing so in national interest, not for political partisanship. 

On a social front, you can see CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC sending TV crews & women reporters into Afghanistan asking Afghan women activists about Taleban’s practice of closing women’s schools & forcing them to wear veils.

President Bush was damaged beyond repair for turning Iraq into a battle ground for Iran, Saudi Arabia & terrorists. Can you imagine what will happen to Afghanistan? It is surrounded by Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan with its nuclear conflict with India which is just next door. One single terrorist strike by NPak trained terrorists inside India will create a military conflagration that will be blamed on President Trump by both sides.

And President Trump is ready to risk all this blow back during his 2020 election campaign? Talk about a move with enormous downside & almost zero upside.

 

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