“For many, like me, who worked on policy toward Afghanistan for years, recent leaks about an impending agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban bring mixed emotions. It is impossible to separate any deal from President Donald Trump’s persistent declarations that he wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan now. Such assertions weakened the hand of America’s negotiators and inevitably color any agreement – whatever its merits – with ‘America First’ and the sense that the U.S. is cutting and running. Nevertheless, if a deal materializes, it could represent the best opportunity in years to secure American interests and downsize U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan.
“What appears to be on offer does fall far short of what most Americans and Afghans hoped would mark the end of America’s long military engagement. After nearly two decades of conflict, continuing this week with a deadly bombing, we’re expecting a deal that cements a (partial) American withdrawal in exchange for important, but easily reversible, commitments by the Taliban – and only a pledge to start intra-Afghan negotiations on the shape of the new political order. This is beyond disappointing…”