Bravo, Donald Trump.
I never imagined I would ever write these three words. It pains me, in fact, to see them on the page.
But credit where credit is due. Over the weekend, at the Sheraton hotel in Doha, Qatar, the Trump administration was able to achieve in its first term what the Bush and Obama administrations were either unable or unwilling to do over two terms each: Sign a peace deal with the Taliban.
Officially entitled Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan, this three-part, four-page document guarantees a timeline of 14 months for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan; a Taliban pledge that Afghan soil will not be used against the security of the United States and its allies; the launch of intra-Afghan negotiations by March 10; and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.
No peace deal is perfect, and the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan is no exception to that rule. But it is the beginning of a much-delayed diplomatic process to bring an end to Americas longest and most unpopular war. Trump tried and failed to do it in 2019. In 2020, he may have succeeded.
Dont get me wrong: I have no doubt that if Barack Obama had signed such a deal with the Taliban, he would have been pilloried by the same Republican politicians and Fox News pundits now cheering Trumps agreement. Obama, for example, was scorned and slammed for releasing five Taliban detainees in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, in 2014; Trump, on the other hand, has agreed to the release of an astonishing 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
I am also aware that Trump has never been consistent on Afghanistan, nor does he give a damn about ordinary Afghans. He has cut U.S. aid to the country; bragged about dropping the mother of all bombs on it; pardoned two U.S. army officers accused of committing war crimes in Afghanistan; and casually and repeatedly discussed killing millions of Afghans, including in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday. Last year, according to the U.N., there were more than 10,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan, with around a quarter of them killed or wounded by the U.S. military and its allies. Their blood is on Trumps hands in the same way that the blood of thousands of Afghan civilians killed and injured between January 2009 and January 2017 is on Obamas.
For far too long, Iraq was the bad war and Afghanistan the good war. Yet there was nothing good about the decision to invade and occupy Afghanistan. None of the 19 hijackers were Afghans. The 9/11 plot was hatched in Hamburg, Germany, not Kabul or Kandahar. Yes, there were Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan but the Taliban, lest we forget, had agreed to hand over Osama bin Laden to a third country, on the condition that the United States provided some evidence of his guilt. The Bush administration refused.
Nevertheless, in September 2001, there was massive support across the political spectrum for attacking the Taliban in Afghanistan. The vast majority of Americans backed Bushs decision to invade and believed it would end in victory. So did the New York Times editorial board. The only member of Congress to oppose the conflict was the indomitable Rep. Barbara Lee, who warned of the danger of embarking on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target.
Nearly two decades later, it is difficult to overstate what a catastrophic disaster this particular open-ended war has been both for the American and Afghan peoples. Where to begin? Some 2,400 American soldiers killed and more than 20,000 wounded. More than 58,000 Afghan security forces killed. More than 100,000 Afghan civilian casualties. More than half the population below the poverty line. More than $2 trillion spent. A quadrupling in opium production. Endemic corruption. War crimes. The cover-up of child sexual abuse. The rise of ISIS in Afghanistan. The list goes on.
Today, the Taliban control or contest nearly half the countrys districts which, according to data from the Pentagon, is more territory than at any point since 2001. Meanwhile, five months after the Afghan presidential election, the official winner Ashraf Ghani is still trying to form a government while his main rival Abdullah Abdullah has declared himself the victor, crying fraud and treason in the process.
It wasnt only the Iraq invasion that was defined by official deceit and dishonesty. As a damning investigation by the Washington Post, based on leaked government documents, revealed in December 2019, senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.
Those who now line up to criticize or condemn Trump for trying to end this unwinnable war have yet to grapple with the shocking revelations contained in these Afghanistan Papers. Trump, of course, isnt interested in peace or the truth. The U.S. president craves a photo op with Taliban leaders and knows that he also needs a diplomatic win. Above all else, he hopes to use a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan to bolster his prospects for reelection in November.
But guess what? Sometimes bad people do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Yes, Trump is an awful president and an even more awful person. But just as only Nixon could go to China, perhaps only Trump could do this historic deal with the Taliban.
As political scientist Barnett Rubin, who has advised both the U.S. State Department and the United Nations on Afghanistan, told me, no rational, conventional, predictable U.S. politician would take the political risks needed to negotiate seriously with the Taliban.
Will a deal between the two sides hold? Can either Trump or the Taliban be trusted to stick to the terms of the agreement? Does it give away too much to the insurgents, in return for too little? Maybe. The bigger question, according to International Crisis Group President Robert Malley, is:Whats the alternative?
The fact that the Taliban got so much out of the deal is not, primarily, a result of anything the Trump administration did, Malley told me. It is because, after two decades, the U.S. has failed to win an unwinnable war.
For Malley, who was a senior foreign policy adviser to Obama, it would have been far preferable if a deal had been reached years ago, when the Taliban were in a weaker position but it would be far worse if a deal were not reached now, based on the illusory belief that, somehow, the Taliban will be in a weaker position tomorrow.
As with Iran and the nuclear agreement, though, there are plenty of hawks in Washington, D.C., who still want to hold out for a better deal in Afghanistan.
For a deal to work, it requires agreement on all sides. A better deal that one side rejects is not a deal at all, but a dream of a better world, said Rubin. We all have such dreams, but eventually we have to wake up.
Unless, he added, we are dead.
See more here:
- Donald Trumps Lifelong Obsession with Comebacks - POLITICO - May 11th, 2020
- Why No One Is Calling on Trump to Resign - The Atlantic - May 11th, 2020
- Trump sticks with positive messaging as coronavirus misery piles up - POLITICO - May 11th, 2020
- Donald Trump Lashes Out Again At Chuck Todd, Calls For Him To Be Fired Over Edited Meet The Press Clip - Deadline - May 11th, 2020
- Kayleigh McEnany the 'acceptable' face of Trumpism who infuriates liberals - The Guardian - May 11th, 2020
- Trump ducks the real enemy - CNN - May 11th, 2020
- Fallout in Trump's Washington as he rejects facts and science - CNN - May 11th, 2020
- Why aren't editorial boards screaming: Trump has to go? - CNN - May 11th, 2020
- Rosie O'Donnell working with Michael Cohen on tell-all about Donald Trump - Fox News - May 11th, 2020
- Trump is culpable in deaths of Americans, says Noam Chomsky - The Guardian - May 11th, 2020
- Donald Trump could freeze immigration for years - AS English - May 11th, 2020
- Last Week Tonight: John Oliver Talks Dismissal Of Michael Flynn Case And Donald Trumps Live And Let Die Coronavirus Strategy - Deadline - May 11th, 2020
- Trump says he only will submit to GOP oversight for his administration - CNN - May 11th, 2020
- Donald Trump Is Going to Hate SNL's Season Finale Mother Jones - Mother Jones - May 11th, 2020
- The one Republican Senate candidate willing to call out Donald Trump - POLITICO - May 11th, 2020
- The crude and callous coronavirus calculation of Chris Christie and Donald Trump | TheHill - The Hill - May 11th, 2020
- Fact-checking five of Trump's false claims this week - CNN - May 11th, 2020
- The Best Thing That Happened This Week: No, the Phillies Didnt Scout Donald Trump in High School - Philadelphia magazine - May 11th, 2020
- Teenagers reveal what they really think of Donald Trump - The Conversation US - May 11th, 2020
- Anthony Fauci just crushed Donald Trump's theory on the origins of the coronavirus - CNN - May 11th, 2020
- Trump, Biden gear up for battle in Florida, where coronavirus isn't the only thing on voters' minds - NBCNews.com - May 11th, 2020
- How Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and America Get Away With It - The Intercept - May 11th, 2020
- 11 US Secret Service agents test positive for the coronavirus - Business Insider - Business Insider - May 11th, 2020
- Trump's stage is caving in. Bring on the doctors. - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- Donald Trump's big coronavirus sacrifice? Lunch. - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- Trump is driving Birx to a tough spot. It's about to get even tougher. - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- Republicans are stuck with Donald Trump - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- Donald Trumps China Nightmare Is Coming True For The U.S. Dollar - Forbes - April 27th, 2020
- Trump's coronavirus leadership has been 'awful' for the US and the world, US entrepreneur says - CNBC - April 27th, 2020
- What Donald Trump Could Learn from Herbert Hoover - POLITICO - April 27th, 2020
- Donald Trump said coronavirus 'should have never happened.' What? - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- Tapper: Trump's musings were there for all to see and hear - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- The 52 most off-the-wall lines from Donald Trump's Sunday night coronavirus briefing - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- What Would Donald Trump Do if Kim Jong-un Died? - The National Interest - April 27th, 2020
- Donald Trumps Pathetic COVID-19 Response Is Killing Thousands of People - Vanity Fair - April 27th, 2020
- Like You, Donald Trump Wants a Break on His Rent - Mother Jones - April 27th, 2020
- Donald Trump Is Living Groundhog Day in Reverseand We're All Stuck in His Nightmare - The Daily Beast - April 27th, 2020
- Donald Trump Is Exploiting the Coronavirus Pandemic to Sell Campaign Swag - Mother Jones - April 27th, 2020
- Trump claims he will temporarily suspend immigration into US due to coronavirus fears - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- A Brief List of the Times Donald Trump Tried to Punish Jeff Bezos - Slate - April 27th, 2020
- Donald Trump just threw Georgia's governor directly under the bus on coronavirus - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- Biden says he thinks Trump will try to delay the election - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- The Senate just proved Donald Trump wrong -- again -- on Russian interference in 2016 - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- Trump and the coronavirus have exposed America as a declining empire: Time to face the facts - Salon - April 27th, 2020
- To Mr. Donald Trump, President of the United States | News, Sports, Jobs - Lock Haven Express - April 27th, 2020
- Trevor Noah Says President Donald Trump Is Like Eminem In The Song Stan - Deadline - April 27th, 2020
- Maryland has received 'hundreds of calls' about the effectiveness of ingesting disinfectants to treat coronavirus, governor says - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- Trump: Immigration order to apply only to green cards - CNN - April 27th, 2020
- Trump says briefings 'not worth the effort' amid fallout from disinfectant comments - The Guardian - April 26th, 2020
- Donald Trump set to fall back on xenophobia with re-election plan in tatters - The Guardian - April 26th, 2020
- In Deep review: Trump v intelligence and Obama vs the people - The Guardian - April 26th, 2020
- Hillary Clinton: 'Please don't poison yourself because Donald Trump thinks it could be a good idea' | TheHill - The Hill - April 26th, 2020
- The Luxury of Irresponsibility - New York Magazine - April 26th, 2020
- Trump attack on Biden highlights president's own past dealings with China - The Guardian - April 26th, 2020
- Trump shocks in time of crisis with his standard approach - CNN - April 26th, 2020
- Season finale: Is this the end of the Trump show? - RTE.ie - April 26th, 2020
- Revealed: leader of group peddling bleach as coronavirus 'cure' wrote to Trump this week - The Guardian - April 26th, 2020
- Donald Trump Keeps Trying to Make Reality Disappear - The Daily Beast - April 26th, 2020
- Trump and Putin issue rare joint statement promoting cooperation - Reuters - April 26th, 2020
- Donald Trump says disinfectants and sunlight could be used as coronavirus treatments - msnNOW - April 26th, 2020
- Trump's surprise immigration ban expected to include major exemption - POLITICO - April 26th, 2020
- Whats behind Trumps fresh push to wrest control of Voice of America - POLITICO - April 26th, 2020
- Yes, Cindy Adams Is Still Besties With Donald Trump: What Did We Expect? - Vanity Fair - April 26th, 2020
- No Other Leader Politicizes Pandemic Briefings Like Trump - The Intercept - April 11th, 2020
- Trump says he's 'not determined' to open the country in May as it happened - The Guardian - April 11th, 2020
- Donald Trump Berates CNNs Jim Acosta Over Happy Talk Question: These Are The Saddest News Conferences That Ive Ever Had - Deadline - April 11th, 2020
- Trump to announce council focused on reopening the US for business - The Guardian - April 11th, 2020
- Trump says he's not going to reopen economy 'until we know this country is going to be healthy' - CNBC - April 11th, 2020
- Here's the silver lining in the CNN poll for Donald Trump - CNN - April 11th, 2020
- Trump tells faith leaders to let the country 'get healed' before holding in-person services - CNN - April 11th, 2020
- Trump: Reopening the Country Too Early Could Kill People but So Could Staying at Home - Vanity Fair - April 11th, 2020
- Trump's poll numbers dip over handling of coronavirus pandemic - The Guardian - April 11th, 2020
- 'Now is not the time': WHO responds to Trump's threat to cut funding - CNBCTV18 - April 11th, 2020
- Under Cover of Covid-19, Donald Trump Ramps Up His War on Truth-Tellers - The Intercept - April 11th, 2020
- Trump fails the test: Yet more evidence he has no idea what he's doing - Salon - April 11th, 2020
- This Is Trumps Fault - The Atlantic - April 11th, 2020
- Here's the biggest thing Donald Trump doesn't get about the media - CNN - April 11th, 2020
- Dr. Lance Dodes on Trump: A "predator" who "would be in prison" if he hadn't been born rich - Salon - April 11th, 2020
- Treasury acted appropriately on Trump tax returns: watchdog - NBCNews.com - April 11th, 2020
- Trump orders U.S. government to help Italy in coronavirus fight - Reuters - April 11th, 2020