The U.S. and the Taliban Are Near a Deal. Here’s What It Could Look Like.

Details of how American troops would withdraw and how a cease-fire would be shaped are among the most crucial issues in the talks’ final stages.

Comments: 50

  1. A bunch of religious fanatics appear on the verge of defeating the greatest military power in the world. Trump will most certainly spin this as a win and his base will go along with it.

  2. The Taliban's leader, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, just has to send Trump a Kim-styled “love letter” and Trump would declare victory.

  3. @RD If indeed your 'greatest power' is beaten, then it clearly is not the greatest power, eh?

  4. It is very unlikely there will be sustained peace in Afghanistan in the short to medium term. But that has been the case there for most of its existence and the US should still leave. We have wasted enough American resources and lives in their endless civil war. The original mission, the reason we at least publicly went there, was completed years ago. And it was completed in a completely different country. There is no reason besides enriching weapons contractors and giving combat experience to our troops to still be there. Those are not nearly good enough reason. END IT YESTERDAY. I despise Trump, but he can get this one right and I will give him credit for it. Not enough to vote for him, but it would be proof that not every single thing he does is wrong.

  5. Any agreement with the Taliban will be as worthless as the paper it is printed on. Does any thinking person believe that these psychopathic killers will keep their word. They will stop at nothing to create their vision of the world and the world knows what that vision is. As soon as the U.S. leaves the terrorizing of the Afghan citizens will begin anew with women suffering the most. Many people in the Middle East have suffered and died because of the Bush/Cheney military stupidity and many more will join them

  6. @Bruce Northwood. I am glad you added the bit about the Bush/Cheney military stupidity. Otherwise, it might be difficult to know which side you were referring to as “psychopathic” in its vision of the world. The occupation of Afghanistan was a project of the United States and its allies, and they must pay the price. As hard as it will be for Americans to extricate themselves, they must do it to avoid prolonging the agony they have inflicted on the Afghan population

  7. Are you forgetting the role that Afghanistan played in nurturing the evil behind 9/11? Must everything be the fault of the US?

  8. @garibaldi Ah yes, the “agony” the US has inflicted on the Afghan population. It’s far outweighed by the benefits that Afghans have experienced. Since the US intervention, access to healthcare has skyrocketed. Child mortality has been halved. School enrollment has dramatically expanded (especially for girls, who received essentially no schooling beforehand). The economy has more than doubled in size. Infrastructure has been rebuilt. Draconian theocratic law has been repealed. Oh, and according to the UN, the vast majority of civilian casualties have been caused by the Taliban and other insurgents. Why do you’ve ignore all these facts? They’re not hard to find. Have you not done the research?

  9. This proves what goes around comes around. In 1990 Soviet Russian had to leave Afganistan as a defeated force. And In 2019 the United States Army will be withdrawing from Afganistan basis of negotiation with their enemy Taliban. Afganistan has proved to be the graveyard of the foreign forces since British rule. British achieved their peace with the Afganistan by drawing a Durand line between British India and Afganistan. The only regret is about 1 Trillion of Dollar worth American Tax Payers money went down the drain.

  10. Looking at the photo that accompanies this article, I see American soldiers still wearing the German helmet design. Seems un-American and wrong. You know?

  11. @Alex Cody Its a better helmet which protects more of the person who wears it.

  12. @Alex Cody. We use the design because it is better than the old steel pot that offered no ear protection. This is just one of the many pieces of military equipment the US military has copied.

  13. And what about women and girls? Have we been setting them up for serious damage?

  14. @Ramon.Reiser Our government doesn't care about women. It was always propaganda about how we were partly in there to protect women's rights. After all, the Russians improved women's situations during their occupation, and we financed the mujaheddin (including Osama bin Laden) to drive the Russians out.

  15. @Martha Shelley The Russians didn’t really improve women’s situation. They devastated the country and created a massive refugee crisis. Whatever reforms they implemented were restricted to urban cities. In contrast, refugees actually returned en masse after the US intervention. I don’t understand the logic of “the US government doesn’t really care about Afghan women, so we can treat the argument as irrelevant”. So? Millions of Afghans, both men but especially women, will suffer or even be massacred if the Taliban fulfill their vision for the country. Posturing doesn’t help those women.

  16. " they will struggle to re-mobilize their guerrilla forces and lose the only leverage they have, which is violence." Taliban's currency is violence- no distinction of friend and foe as a target. They are more obscurantist than the Saudis. With Taliban in control, Afghanistan will receive no international aid and will be dependent on bankrupt Pakistan for help. The Taliban terrorists will be on Pakistan's payroll and will be used against India and Iran.

  17. It ends the way I thought it would back when this started. There will be drawn out negotiations with endless small squabbles until the US declares victory by waving around a “peace agreement”. Then as the last American heads out the door, the Taliban resumes where it left off. Then there will come the refugees.

  18. The Afghanistan War reminds me of our long involvement in Vietnam. I wouldn't be surprised if the outcome turns out to be similar. I wouldn't be surprised if a watered down Islamist/Taliban-lite coalition wins federal elections while more insurgent factions continue to attack Pakistan and foreigners. Meanwhile, Afghans will buy American goods and export their Lithium to the West for the use in our consumer electronics. Unlike our involvement in Vietnam, the initial invasion of Afghanistan was easily justified both politically and morally. Yet, similar to almost every other conflict the US has been involved in, we quickly lost sight of why we were there. Countless dollars spent and blood spilled, likely for next to nothing.

  19. .. either that or it could become an authoritarian theocratic narco-state.

  20. @Mike - Should had been a war of retribution "period". No need to win hearts and minds. A simple crush and go home operation would have served US interests and satisfied American's demand for vengeance. Why split off to Iraq when American's wanted Afghan blood?

  21. One sure thing. Service men and women who land safely in the U.S. will not be lost to a war which was not declared by Congress, and never had clearly defined objectives.

  22. This did not start in 2001 - it started when America actually created the mujaheddin to fight against the Soviets in the '70s. These "freedom fighters" were mostly Islamic fanatics who later morphed into the Taliban and Al Qaeda - of which a certain Osama Bin Laden was the most prominent leader. Now with this final capitulation to the Taliban the battered Afghan people can say goodbye to any form of human rights, women's rights, female education, literacy, music, art, science, technology, freedom of information, freedom to be whoever you want to be, freedom in general. Let's step back and think about it: was it worth it? It would have been far better to leave the Soviet system in place - at least initially they had moved in with good intentions and had built roads, schools, infrastructure, they had liberated women and kick-started a form of free society that Afghanistan has never seen since. But it was the hated Soviets, so we had to intervene, we had to make a mess of the whole thing, and since 2001 we have only made things worse. Well done America. We have now ensured that the Afghan people (and especially women) will remain chained in an obscurantist version of the Middle Ages for decades to come.

  23. Then why should we have resisted the Soviets anywhere? Vietnam and Afghan didn’t work out well? What about Germany, Nicaragua, Turkey, South Korea’s, the Middle East. Maybe we should have let all those go as well? Right.

  24. @Andy I’m sorry, but your history is heavily flawed. I believe you need to do much more research. First of all, the mujahideen were not “created” by the United States. The movement was an indigenous Afghan reaction to the cruelty and totalitarianism of the Soviet puppet regime. It was a regime that would make North Korea blush, not “a form of free society”. Afghans reacted accordingly. Massive domestic rebellions are not created out of thin air by foreign powers. Second, the mujahideen were not a direct predecessor to the Taliban or to al-Qaeda. This is a popular idea, but it stems from Westerner’s inability to distinguish between different Afghan militants. The Taliban was formed by Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, who were radicalized in Pakistani religious schools. They returned to Afghanistan after the Soviets had already been defeated, and successfully attempted to overthrow the coalition of Mujahideen warlords running the country. Osama bin-Laden was an incredibly minor figure in the Soviet War in Afghanistan. Americans who worked on arming the mujahideen have stated that they never even heard of him during the war. Bin-Laden stated likewise, saying he never got any help from America for his operations in Afghanistan. Bin-Laden did make alliances with some US-backed mujahideen, but during the war itself he and his forces were quite tiny and strategically insignificant.

  25. I doubt peace will last in Afghanistan, which consistently seems to sprout zealots who interpret their holy scriptures to mean that they should rid the world of infidels, or, wait, is that the U.S. that I'm talking about?

  26. This is a bad idea -- better we remain to prevent the Taliban's forcible return to power. The Taliban euphemistically refer to the car-bombing of civilians as "leverage"! This was what was to be feared from Trump -- that he'd pull an 'Obama' by ending the occupation precipitously. <> The Taliban are savages, and not even barbarians. We are about to commit a supreme betrayal of the Afghan people. I am dead-set against an American withdrawal from Afghanistan for at least another dozen years.

  27. @Keith Fenton - What is the critical US foreign policy objective, other than to say we won, that could reasonably require a dozen more years of occupation?

  28. "The announcement of a timetable for troop withdrawal would unlock what analysts and officials believe could be the most difficult part of the peace process yet: the opening of talks between the Taliban and other Afghans, including the country’s government, over the political future of the country and how power will be shared." The fact that the Afghan government has not been a part of these discussions is ABSURD. And what about the supposed WE DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS!! line the U.S. has been espousing. How many car bombs does the Taliban have to set off before they are called what they are: religious fanatics who will use any terrible means to achieve their ends. If the U.S. withdraws now it will not only be one of history's worst defeats it will be one of the worst disgraces in our country's history. There must be a better solution.

  29. @Jemenfou They used to be referred as "religious fanatics". We had several books and personal stories promoted widely in the media when we started this war. But then it become clear there was no way to eliminate them, and so they became "something we need to live with". And it would be very hard to sell the voters a "deal" with the Taliban and keep calling them what they are, terrorists. So my hope is that at least a few dozen voters learn anything from repeating history.

  30. According to the Pentagon, the U.S. is spending $45 billion per year in Afghanistan. $45 billion. And we're still losing soldiers there. It's time to come home.

  31. We need to end it but I fear it won't end well. So sad that the neo-con obsession with Iraq caused us to take our eye (and resources) off the ball in Afghanistan. If those resources had been devoted to Afghanistan perhaps we could have achieved something lasting.

  32. @Penn - Over 100,000 US and NATO armed personnel isn't sufficient resources? Maybe we just had bad leadership with a horrible game plan. Afghanistan is further proof that the US wins all the battles and still looses the war (Vietnam and now Afghanistan).

  33. Why will we not learn from history. As soon as allied troops left WWI Germany, the plan for rearmament began. When we left The ROK after WWII the north invaded. When we Vietnameased the Vietnam war the north moved in. Why do you think we left troops in Germany? To keep Stalin from invading the rest of Europe after he had Interred all the military aged men of Eastern Germany. Without allied troops in Afghanistan the Taliban and their cohorts will take over.

  34. Trump is probably waiting for a beautiful love letter from the Taliban.

  35. Keep digging. Or get out of the hole. The US is making a painful decision: Getting out and leaving its Afghan allies, that nation’s women, the fighters it trained and the pained region ever more torn. But it is a decision that needs to be made. Sadly, the principal lesson to be learned won’t be. American politicians go to war seemingly convinced they’ll get in and out, like cat burglars, and all will be well. It rarely turns out to be the case. God help Afghanistan. God help her women. God held us all.

  36. The United States should of been in and out to deal with Osama Bin Laden, and his cohorts in a one and done year, with twice as many troops on the ground, as the air war only made them leave the country to fight another day. Then, the worse part was that it stirred up the 2 billion Muslims in the Islamic world, who are sadly, religious fanatics, few of which allow human rights to the females in their midst. Watch, the Netflix, documentary "The Family," about religious fundamentalists in this country, and you get the picture of how religion can't be changed, it is stuck in delusional centuries old dogma.

  37. @MaryKayKlassen How is it plausible to label two billion people as religious fanatics? According to a RAND study, only 14% of conflicts since 1980 have been solved through military solution, others have been settled through dialogue. Not to forget US and NATO are still the greatest military might that mankind has ever seen yet peace has eluded them. Would be pretty useful to put history in perspective for a minute, these people have never been defeated. Starting from Mughals to Brits, to Russians or Americans, there is simply no military solution and there never was.

  38. People want easy answers and easy solutions. For years, we’ve talked about “ending the War in Afghanistan” almost exclusively in terms of ending US involvement. As if peace would be assured once the US walked out the door. It’s a nice, cute narrative that provides an easy answer to the war in Afghanistan. Too bad it isn’t true.

  39. @Joseph Agreed. I'd add that it's also "too bad" the average US voter will chose to believe it, as it avoids the painful realisation we're not "freedom fighters" but rather just another powerful nation making terrible mistakes motivated by greed. Also, they can have a feeling of "fulfilled duty".

  40. @Otavio Zabaleta You can justly accuse the US of many things in Afghanistan, but being motivated by greed is not one of them. The US has gotten nothing financially out of Afghanistan, which makes sense because it was never about the money in the first place.

  41. I wonder why President Trump is surrendering to Taliban, the reason given is that, Trump wants complete withdrawal of troops before elections, as promised. In my opinion the time of withdrawal is very crucial. If the announcement of a joint declaration or treaty with Taliban is done just before the elections without any actual withdrawal of troops it may help Trump. As it is sure that the withdrawal of US troops will definitely result in chaos, as many stakeholders are not likely to be included in the agreement or in the process who are waiting for opportune time. Also the withdrawal from Afganistan and return of soldiers home may harm Trump's image, it may be seen as dumping of a secular democratically elected government and handing over the country to fanatic radicals, who do not value democracy, gender equality, secularism, etc which are seen as American values ...

  42. Trump is making the same solution for the same reasons as Nixon and Kissinger did in 1972 on Vietnam.

  43. @satish pande Precisely because what you list are American values, the Taliban likely will win upon US withdrawal.

  44. A peace deal? Oh, the Americans must have really lost interest in this war. That’s what you do, you don’t lose the wars, you lose interest in the wars.

  45. Given the history of Afghanistan since the middle of the last century, the less than stellar performance of elected Afghan governments in the past 18 years, and the operational methods of the Taliban, I am not optimistic about the possibility of either peace or stability for the country. It seems that the allies will find a way to get out, which is necessary. It is good for us, but for Afghanistan I'd be surprised if it is anything more than the beginning of another period of instability and violence likely leading to more Taliban oppression - especially of women and girls.

  46. The American bully has been defeated by soldiers in sandals. We need to stop meddling in other countries and leave them alone. The $45 billion a year we spent could have gone to help the American people instead of feeding our politicians and military industrial complex.

  47. Take a note : Next time we decide a problem can be solved by warfare, let us first consider an exit strategy. After that, let us consider the fact that war is obsolete and doesn't solve any problems, it just makes more of them. A country that spends half its budget on weapons of mass destruction and permanent military footing in 800 bases around the world will never know peace, as it is too invested in raw force over others. I hope we can get our state department back after the dotard storm, and even more, I hope we can become honest brokers among nations once again.

  48. Why American soldiers are still in Japan & Germany? it has been almost 75 years World War II hostilities has been concluded. Japan attacked USA, which primarily led to US intervention in 1941. Al Quida attacked USA from their base in 2001 and its been only 18 years. USA should be prepared to stay there very long period of time, otherwise all the gains achieved over the years will be lost in a hurried withdrawal and Afghanistan will go back in chaos, leading US have to go back again.

  49. Is violence the Taliban's only source of leverage? I think not. Like many countries, Afghanistan has a few, well, maybe just one, urban enclave with some modern systems and educated people who often speak English. Nothing wrong with this but when we look more closely at these educated urban folks, we find they have great disdain for the rural population, often based on ignorance because they don't speak any of the rural languages. So the rural folks hate these educated urban folks. This hatred, or if not hatred then disgust they feel is a great resource for a group like the Taliban. Urban populations like those in Afghanistan want to affiliate with powerful external partners such as the old Soviet Union or with us. For them it is probably culturally impossible to partner with their own rural populations. When the US withdraws the Taliban will win, not because of violence but because they mobilize a much larger proportion of the Afghan population.