web analytics
a

Facebook

Twitter

Copyright 2015 Libero Themes.
All Rights Reserved.

8:30 - 6:00

Our Office Hours Mon. - Fri.

703-406-7616

Call For Free 15/M Consultation

Facebook

Twitter

Search
Menu
Westlake Legal Group > Afghanistan War (2001- )

For Trump the Dealmaker, Troop Pullouts Without Much in Return

Westlake Legal Group merlin_161567295_14c45ea0-0b76-4e8f-bb7b-1a6b2bc86d93-facebookJumbo For Trump the Dealmaker, Troop Pullouts Without Much in Return United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Syria South Korea North Korea Kurds Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — The Taliban have wanted the United States to pull troops out of Afghanistan, Turkey has wanted the Americans out of northern Syria and North Korea has wanted them to at least stop military exercises with South Korea.

President Trump has now to some extent at least obliged all three — but without getting much of anything in return. The self-styled dealmaker has given up the leverage of the United States’ military presence in multiple places around the world without negotiating concessions from those cheering for American forces to leave.

For a president who has repeatedly promised to end the “endless wars,” the decisions reflect a broader conviction that bringing troops home — or at least moving them out of hot spots — is more important than haggling for advantage. In his view, decades of overseas military adventurism has only cost the country enormous blood and treasure, and waiting for deals would prolong a national disaster.

But veteran diplomats, foreign policy experts and key lawmakers fear that Mr. Trump is squandering American power and influence in the world with little to show for it. By pulling troops out unilaterally, they argue, Mr. Trump has emboldened America’s enemies and distressed its allies. Friends like Israel, they note, worry about American staying power. Foes like North Korea and the Taliban learn that they can achieve their goals without having to pay a price.

“It’s hard for me to divine any real strategic logic to the president’s moves,” said John P. Hannah, a senior counselor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. “The only real connective tissue I see is the almost preternatural isolationist impulse that he invariably seems to revert to when left to his own devices internationally — even to the point that it overrides his supposed deal making instincts.”

Reuben E. Brigety II, a former Navy officer and ambassador to the African Union under President Barack Obama who now serves as dean of the Elliott School for International Affairs at George Washington University, said just as worrisome as the decisions themselves was the seemingly capricious way they were made.

Mr. Trump, he said, often seems more interested in pleasing autocrats like Kim Jong-un of North Korea and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey than in organizing any kind of coherent policymaking process to consider the pros and cons.

“When he canceled the South Korea military exercises, the only person he consulted was Kim Jong-un,” Mr. Brigety said. “The decision to abandon the Kurds came after a brief phone call with Erdogan. So they weren’t taken because he had personally reflected on the strategic disposition of American forces around the world. They were taken after he took the counsel of strongmen over that of his own advisers.”

All the complaints from the career national security establishment, however, carry little weight with Mr. Trump, who dismisses his critics as the same ones who got the country into a catastrophic war in Iraq. While that may not be true in all cases, Mr. Trump makes the case that 18 years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it is time to pull out even without extracting trade-offs in return.

“When I watch these pundits that always are trying to take a shot, I say — they say, ‘What are we getting out of it?’” Mr. Trump told reporters on Monday as he hosted a cabinet meeting. “You know what we’re getting out of it? We’re bringing our soldiers back home. That’s a big thing. And it’s going to probably work. But if it doesn’t work, you’re going to have people fighting like they’ve been fighting for 300 years. It’s very simple. It’s really very simple.”

The United States has about 200,000 troops stationed around the world, roughly half of them in relatively less dangerous posts in Europe or Asia where American forces have maintained a presence since the end of World War II. Tens of thousands of others are deployed in the Middle East, although only a fraction of them are in the active war zones of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

It took only a few dozen Special Forces operators near the border in northern Syria to deter Turkey from assaulting America’s Kurdish allies there, but soon after Mr. Trump talked with Mr. Erdogan on Oct. 6, the president announced on a Sunday night that they would be pulled back. Turkey then launched a ferocious attack on the Kurds, and by the time a convoy of American troops moved away over the weekend, they were shown in a widely circulated video being pelted by angry Kurds throwing potatoes to express their sense of betrayal.

Mr. Trump did not ask Mr. Erdogan for anything in exchange. Instead, the diplomacy came only after the Turkish incursion began when he sent Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara to broker a cease-fire to give the Kurds time to evacuate a new safe zone to be controlled by Turkey along the Syrian border. Mr. Erdogan essentially got what he wanted.

In Afghanistan, Mr. Trump’s special envoy spent months negotiating a peace agreement with the Taliban militia that would provide guarantees that the country would not be used as a base for terrorist attacks against the United States if it reduced its troop presence to around 8,600. The talks fell apart, but Mr. Trump is drawing down American forces anyway, pulling out 2,000 troops in the last year, leaving 12,000 to 13,000. Plans are to keep shrinking the force to around 8,600 anyway.

In Asia, Mr. Trump voluntarily canceled traditional large-scale joint military exercises with South Korea at the behest of Mr. Kim even though the two have yet to reach any kind of concrete agreement in which North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons. The decision frustrated not only allies like South Korea and Japan but senior American diplomats and military officers, who privately questioned why North Korea should be given one of its key demands without having to surrender anything itself.

“Trump is a win-lose negotiator,” said Wendy R. Sherman, a former under secretary of state under Mr. Obama who helped broker the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran that Mr. Trump abandoned last year. “That’s what he did as a real estate developer. He doesn’t see the larger landscape, the interconnections, the larger costs, the loss of greater benefits.”

When he has sat down at the negotiating table, Mr. Trump’s record on the world stage has been mixed or incomplete. He has sealed an accord to update to the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, revised a free-trade agreement with South Korea and reached a limited trade pact with Japan.

But in addition to the collapse of the Afghan talks, he has gotten nowhere in nuclear negotiations with North Korea, made no progress in a long, drawn-out Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, has yet to even reach the table with Iran despite his stated desire and remains locked in a high-stakes, big-dollar negotiation with China over tariffs.

For Mr. Trump, though, the desire to “end the endless wars,” as he puts it, may override his instinct for deal-making. He talks repeatedly about the misery of families whose loved ones have been killed in the Middle East or elsewhere, and he seems to put decisions about deployments in a different category than trade deals or other negotiations. Getting them out of harm’s way is an end to itself.

“We’re going to bring our soldiers back home,” Mr. Trump said on Monday. “So far, there hasn’t been one drop of blood shed during this whole period by an American soldier. Nobody was killed. Nobody cut their finger. There’s been nothing. And they’re leaving rather, I think, not expeditiously — rather intelligently.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Is Quietly Reducing Its Troop Force in Afghanistan

Westlake Legal Group 21afghan-withdrawal1-facebookJumbo U.S. Is Quietly Reducing Its Troop Force in Afghanistan United States Defense and Military Forces Taliban Miller, Austin Scott (1961- ) Esper, Mark T Defense Department Afghanistan War (2001- )

KABUL, Afghanistan — The United States is already reducing the size of its troop force in Afghanistan despite the lack of a peace deal with the Taliban, at a time when President Trump has expressed reluctance to remain engaged in costly wars abroad.

In a news conference on Monday, the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, confirmed that the size of the American force in the country had already quietly dropped by 2,000 over the last year, down to roughly 12,000.

Other American and Afghan officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the plan, said that the eventual force size could drop to as low as 8,600 — roughly the size of an initial reduction envisioned in a draft agreement with the Taliban before Mr. Trump halted peace talks last month. Rather than a formal withdrawal order, they are reducing the force through a gradual process of not replacing troops as they cycle out.

A senior Afghan official said the Afghan government had signed off on the reduction. Officials would not discuss other details of the drawdown, including any specific timeline for it.

The confirmation came during a visit to Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, and after months of debate within the Trump administration on meeting the president’s goal of stopping what he has recently called “endless wars.”

Earlier in his visit, Mr. Esper seemed to allude to some potential reduction in American forces, saying that drawing down to 8,600 troops would not affect important counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

As Mr. Trump grew frustrated over the past year, diplomats tried to package an American troop reduction as a bargaining chip in peace talks with the Taliban, hoping to get some concessions from the insurgent group, which has long demanded a complete American troop withdrawal.

The decision to reduce American troops even before a deal with the Taliban means the United States is weakening its hand in future negotiations with the insurgents. And it is likely to mean a significant shift away from the United States military’s longstanding mission of training the Afghan military as American officials concentrate on counterterrorism operations, officials said.

Reducing the number of troops ahead of a complete departure from the country was always the most important American bargaining chip in any negotiations with the Taliban to end the long war. But from the start, Mr. Trump made it abundantly clear that he wanted out of Afghanistan.

At one stage halfway through the yearlong negotiations, Mr. Trump stumbled during a Fox interview, incorrectly saying that the number of American troops in Afghanistan was 9,000 and not the 14,000 it was listed at. Many, including some Taliban officials taking part in the talks in Qatar, read that as confirmation that the American decision to draw down had already been made whether the Taliban offered concessions or not.

Much of the initial effort by American negotiators was trying to persuade the Taliban that the United States was truly committed to Afghanistan, while signaling that the insurgents should not try to wait out the Americans.

American military officials, though wary of leaving Afghanistan altogether, had signed off on the first stages of a troop drawdown in a draft peace agreement that would have seen 5,400 American troops leave the country over about five months. The measure was put forward to show the Taliban that the Americans would abide by the proposed deal in return for the insurgent group reducing violence in Afghanistan, according to officials taking part in the negotiations.

But the peace talks collapsed last month when Mr. Trump pulled the plug on the deal his diplomats had finalized and initialed after a year of negotiations.

American officials have since quietly signaled that they are trying to keep the talks with the Taliban alive. Earlier this month, the chief negotiator for the United States, Zalmay Khalilzad, met informally with Taliban officials in Pakistan.

During his visit, Mr. Esper also said a peace agreement was “the best way forward.”

The current process of troop reduction outside of peace talks gives more control over the process to General Miller and the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which had criticized the United States for negotiating a troop withdrawal with the insurgents rather than with the country’s elected government.

Last year in January, Mr. Ghani, perceiving that Mr. Trump urgently wanted to cut costs in Afghanistan, said he would be happy to directly negotiate some degree of troop reductions with the Americans if they would avoid rushing into a bad deal with Taliban.

General Miller had long set out a goal of an 8,600-member troop force as being both a desired level and as the minimum needed to support the Afghan military, according to two defense officials.

General Miller, a Special Operations officer by trade, has a reputation for whittling down military units and commands to “trim the fat” and best accomplish their mission. In the last year that he has led the Afghan mission, American troops have focused on seeking out proactive leadership for Afghan forces who can better carry the burden of the war, while the United States can focus its resources in backing them up with air power.

At the height of the war, in 2010 and 2011, there were more than 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan, aided by tens of thousands of NATO allies in what made up one of the biggest military coalitions in the world.

Now, a further reduction in American forces would mean that the burden of training the Afghan military would fall more heavily on the roughly 8,500 NATO forces and other allies in the country.

It is unclear, however, whether a reduction in American forces might lead to some reconsideration by NATO allies as well. In a recent interview with The New York Times, NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, would not speculate on any reduction of troops, but added that NATO remains committed to the mission in Afghanistan.

“We have adjusted that many times, and we will always assess exactly the way and the composition of our forces in Afghanistan,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

The plan to shrink the force in Afghanistan comes as much of the world’s attention has been focused on the retreat of American forces from the front line in Syria as Turkish-backed troops advance into the country. And in many ways, the changes in Syria and Afghanistan are linked.

In December, on the heels of Mr. Trump’s first announcement that American forces would be leaving Syria, he also demanded the withdrawal of 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. Mr. Trump’s orders sent the Pentagon and the American command in the Middle East scrambling in an effort to persuade the president otherwise, officials say.

It was clear that the Taliban, too, have been closely watching the events in Syria, where the Trump administration allowed Turkey to move against Kurdish fighters who had long been closely allied with American forces.

“The U.S. follows its interests everywhere, and once it doesn’t reach those interests, it leaves the area. The best example of that is the abandoning of the Kurds in Syria,” Khairullah Khairkhwa, one of the Taliban’s senior negotiators, was quoted as saying in an interview posted on the insurgent group’s website recently. “It’s clear the Kabul administration will face the same fate.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Is Quietly Reducing Its Troop Force in Afghanistan

Westlake Legal Group 21afghan-withdrawal1-facebookJumbo U.S. Is Quietly Reducing Its Troop Force in Afghanistan United States Defense and Military Forces Taliban Miller, Austin Scott (1961- ) Esper, Mark T Defense Department Afghanistan War (2001- )

KABUL, Afghanistan — The United States is already reducing the size of its troop force in Afghanistan despite the lack of a peace deal with the Taliban, at a time when President Trump has expressed reluctance to remain engaged in costly wars abroad.

In a news conference on Monday, the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, confirmed that the size of the American force in the country had already quietly dropped by 2,000 over the last year, down to roughly 12,000.

Other American and Afghan officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the plan, said that the eventual force size could drop to as low as 8,600 — roughly the size of an initial reduction envisioned in a draft agreement with the Taliban before Mr. Trump halted peace talks last month. Rather than a formal withdrawal order, they are reducing the force through a gradual process of not replacing troops as they cycle out.

A senior Afghan official said the Afghan government had signed off on the reduction. Officials would not discuss other details of the drawdown, including any specific timeline for it.

The confirmation came during a visit to Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, and after months of debate within the Trump administration on meeting the president’s goal of stopping what he has recently called “endless wars.”

Earlier in his visit, Mr. Esper seemed to allude to some potential reduction in American forces, saying that drawing down to 8,600 troops would not affect important counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

As Mr. Trump grew frustrated over the past year, diplomats tried to package an American troop reduction as a bargaining chip in peace talks with the Taliban, hoping to get some concessions from the insurgent group, which has long demanded a complete American troop withdrawal.

The decision to reduce American troops even before a deal with the Taliban means the United States is weakening its hand in future negotiations with the insurgents. And it is likely to mean a significant shift away from the United States military’s longstanding mission of training the Afghan military as American officials concentrate on counterterrorism operations, officials said.

Reducing the number of troops ahead of a complete departure from the country was always the most important American bargaining chip in any negotiations with the Taliban to end the long war. But from the start, Mr. Trump made it abundantly clear that he wanted out of Afghanistan.

At one stage halfway through the yearlong negotiations, Mr. Trump stumbled during a Fox interview, incorrectly saying that the number of American troops in Afghanistan was 9,000 and not the 14,000 it was listed at. Many, including some Taliban officials taking part in the talks in Qatar, read that as confirmation that the American decision to draw down had already been made whether the Taliban offered concessions or not.

Much of the initial effort by American negotiators was trying to persuade the Taliban that the United States was truly committed to Afghanistan, while signaling that the insurgents should not try to wait out the Americans.

American military officials, though wary of leaving Afghanistan altogether, had signed off on the first stages of a troop drawdown in a draft peace agreement that would have seen 5,400 American troops leave the country over about five months. The measure was put forward to show the Taliban that the Americans would abide by the proposed deal in return for the insurgent group reducing violence in Afghanistan, according to officials taking part in the negotiations.

But the peace talks collapsed last month when Mr. Trump pulled the plug on the deal his diplomats had finalized and initialed after a year of negotiations.

American officials have since quietly signaled that they are trying to keep the talks with the Taliban alive. Earlier this month, the chief negotiator for the United States, Zalmay Khalilzad, met informally with Taliban officials in Pakistan.

During his visit, Mr. Esper also said a peace agreement was “the best way forward.”

The current process of troop reduction outside of peace talks gives more control over the process to General Miller and the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which had criticized the United States for negotiating a troop withdrawal with the insurgents rather than with the country’s elected government.

Last year in January, Mr. Ghani, perceiving that Mr. Trump urgently wanted to cut costs in Afghanistan, said he would be happy to directly negotiate some degree of troop reductions with the Americans if they would avoid rushing into a bad deal with Taliban.

General Miller had long set out a goal of an 8,600-member troop force as being both a desired level and as the minimum needed to support the Afghan military, according to two defense officials.

General Miller, a Special Operations officer by trade, has a reputation for whittling down military units and commands to “trim the fat” and best accomplish their mission. In the last year that he has led the Afghan mission, American troops have focused on seeking out proactive leadership for Afghan forces who can better carry the burden of the war, while the United States can focus its resources in backing them up with air power.

At the height of the war, in 2010 and 2011, there were more than 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan, aided by tens of thousands of NATO allies in what made up one of the biggest military coalitions in the world.

Now, a further reduction in American forces would mean that the burden of training the Afghan military would fall more heavily on the roughly 8,500 NATO forces and other allies in the country.

It is unclear, however, whether a reduction in American forces might lead to some reconsideration by NATO allies as well. In a recent interview with The New York Times, NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, would not speculate on any reduction of troops, but added that NATO remains committed to the mission in Afghanistan.

“We have adjusted that many times, and we will always assess exactly the way and the composition of our forces in Afghanistan,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

The plan to shrink the force in Afghanistan comes as much of the world’s attention has been focused on the retreat of American forces from the front line in Syria as Turkish-backed troops advance into the country. And in many ways, the changes in Syria and Afghanistan are linked.

In December, on the heels of Mr. Trump’s first announcement that American forces would be leaving Syria, he also demanded the withdrawal of 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. Mr. Trump’s orders sent the Pentagon and the American command in the Middle East scrambling in an effort to persuade Mr. Trump otherwise, officials say.

It was clear that the Taliban, too, have been closely watching the events in Syria, where the Trump administration allowed Turkey to move against Kurdish fighters who had long been closely allied with American forces.

“The U.S. follows its interests everywhere, and once it doesn’t reach those interests, it leaves the area. The best example of that is the abandoning of the Kurds in Syria,” Khairullah Khairkhwa, one of the Taliban’s senior negotiators, was quoted as saying in an interview posted on the insurgent group’s website recently. “It’s clear the Kabul administration will face the same fate.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s.

For 18 years and four presidential elections, Democrats running for president have felt compelled to lay out comprehensive plans for the future of Afghanistan, vowing to never again let the country become a breeding ground for terrorists who could strike the United States as they did on Sept. 11, 2001.

Now, the candidates are racing one another — and President Trump — to demonstrate how quickly they would end the long-running conflict. In the debate on Thursday night, there was almost no discussion of American goals for the country, like building a democracy or protecting the rights of women — objectives that were staples of past Democratic campaigns.

It is a striking change. Even while deeply opposing President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, Democrats saw Afghanistan as the good war, prompted by a direct attack on the United States. President Barack Obama ordered a surge in American forces by the end of his first year in office. But as the years went by, he had growing doubts, and now Democrats have fully embraced those misgivings and want out.

Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are so eager for the United States to depart that they say they would pull out combat troops even in the absence of an agreement with the Taliban.

“What we’re doing right now in Afghanistan is not helping the safety and security of the United States,” Ms. Warren said during the debate. “It is not helping the safety and security of the world. It is not helping the safety and security of Afghanistan.”

“We cannot ask our military to keep solving problems that cannot be solved militarily,” she added.

A foreign policy adviser to Mr. Sanders, who has said he would withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan in his first term as president, echoed that argument in an interview on Friday, saying that while Mr. Sanders supported negotiations with the Taliban, the next president should be “modest about what we, the United States, can actually achieve given that we’ve been there for almost two decades.”

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and the only candidate to have served in Afghanistan, acknowledged during an interview over the weekend that what the Democrats missed last week was any discussion of what the United States still wanted or needed to achieve in Afghanistan — the first step toward determining what kind of presence to have on the ground.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 12debate-a1-swap-articleLarge Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s. Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Burns, R Nicholas Biden, Joseph R Jr Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

Senator Bernie Sanders, left, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Elizabeth Warren say they would pull American combat troops out of Afghanistan even in the absence of an agreement with the Taliban.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times

“I will say I agree that didn’t come through in the debate,” said Mr. Buttigieg, who has pledged to withdraw the troops within a year of taking office, but only with a substantive peace deal with the Taliban. “It almost came across as if the candidates think there is no point to being there, which is not how I view it.”

Mr. Buttigieg said that could be a reflection of wariness over “endless war,” and the confusion generated by a conflict in which the American goals have often seemed to shift. He recalled that when he exercised at the gym at the headquarters of the international security force in Kabul, he would stare at a large graphic that had “eight lines of effort on it, and it was very hard to understand what the scope of the mission was.”

Yet even the central goal of protecting the American homeland from another attack, a staple of John Kerry’s run for the presidency in 2004 and Mr. Obama’s in 2008, barely gets a mention now. Mr. Kerry told The New York Times in 2004 that any effective Afghanistan plan “requires destroying terrorists. And I’m committed to doing that. But I think I have a better way of doing it.”

Five years later, Mr. Obama overruled warnings from his ambassador in Kabul that his administration’s plan to surge troops into the country, then depend on the Afghan government to defend itself, would probably not work. Speaking at West Point, Mr. Obama said he had “determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.” Quietly, his White House set up an “Afghan Good Enough” committee to find an exit.

The current presidential candidates seem uninterested in revisiting those decisions. Instead, they race to reassure voters about how quickly they would bring the remaining 14,000 troops home.

To some Democrats who devoted years to stabilizing Afghanistan, the candidates are losing an opportunity to take on Mr. Trump for what they view as a feckless foreign policy, one in which the president is trying to rush through a bare-bones peace agreement with the Taliban so that he can announce major troop withdrawals before the 2020 election.

“It would be unworthy of the U.S. to leave the Afghan people and government to the mercies of the Taliban in an unequal agreement,” R. Nicholas Burns, a former under secretary of state for policy and now an adviser to Mr. Biden, said over the weekend.

Pete Buttigieg, the only candidate to have served in Afghanistan, said his competitors overlooked any discussion of what the United States still wanted or needed to achieve in Afghanistan. CreditElizabeth Frantz for The New York Times

As ambassador to NATO in the early years of the war, Mr. Burns took allies to Afghanistan to persuade them to join the coalition, declaring that it was in their own interest to stabilize the country, where 2,400 Americans have died in combat, along with 1,000 troops from NATO and other nations. “Trump has displayed astonishingly weak negotiating skills by signaling to the Taliban his desperation to withdraw American forces ahead of the 2020 election,” he said.

But if the Taliban were tuned into the recent debates, or were reviewing the positions the candidates have posted on their websites, they would most likely conclude that no matter who gets elected, they are on the verge of achieving their central goal: getting American forces out of the country.

Mr. Biden himself, a voice for more rapid withdrawal during the Obama administration, now advocates keeping an intelligence presence — though in the debate he said it would be across the border in Pakistan.

“We can prevent the United States from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases — insist the Pakistanis provide bases for us to airlift from and to move against what we know,” Mr. Biden said after one of the moderators quoted Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying that Afghanistan still needed military support to prevent violence. “We don’t need those troops there. I would bring them home.”

Mr. Biden’s longtime national security adviser, Antony Blinken, refined that on Sunday, saying the candidate would “draw down our combat forces and narrowly focus the mission on counterterrorism, with small numbers of special operators and intelligence assets in and around Afghanistan. He would rally the world to support Afghans’ human rights and continued development efforts.”

Senator Kamala Harris of California said in an interview with The Times this year that while she supported withdrawing troops, she believed the United States needed some sort of continued presence in Afghanistan to support the government and stop terrorists from regrouping.

“The question is the type of presence,” she said. “I think that it is completely appropriate that we would give support to the Afghan government in terms of helping them train their troops and thinking about how we can provide assistance so that they can have their own people up and running in a way that they keep their country secure, and in particular prevent it from becoming a haven” for terrorists.

One of the curious elements of the presidential campaign is that Afghanistan has been the only foreign policy issue actively debated among Democrats. There has been little to no debate about the far bigger strategic questions raised by the revival of superpower tensions with Russia and China. The growing confrontation with Iran and the president’s dealings with Kim Jong-un of North Korea have barely been mentioned.

Senator Kamala Harris said that the United States needed some sort of continued presence in Afghanistan to support the government and stop terrorists from regrouping.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

Perhaps that is because the Afghan conundrum is so familiar to voters, and goes to a central question: When would these aspirants for the Oval Office use traditional military force?

Mr. Buttigieg — noting that Congress’s 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force has allowed the war in Afghanistan to continue for so long that, very soon, the soldiers fighting it will include people who were not born when the law was passed — said that as president, he would put a three-year limit on such authorizations and require a congressional vote to renew them for longer.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Afghanistan,” he said, “it’s that the best way not to be caught up in endless war is to avoid starting one in the first place.”

None of the candidates seem particularly impressed by the argument that withdrawing troops would create a vacuum in Afghanistan for the Taliban and other terrorist groups to fill.

“It’s a false choice to say we need an enduring combat presence in Afghanistan or we open ourselves to an unmanageable terrorist threat,” a spokeswoman for Ms. Warren said. “International terrorism is a worldwide challenge, and it is best confronted not with boots on the ground in Afghanistan, but instead with diplomacy and intelligence and through coordination with partners and allies.”

Mr. Sanders would continue the United States’ intelligence presence in Afghanistan, according to his campaign, but focus on humanitarian and developmental incentives, not military pressure, to bring the Taliban to the table and reach a peace deal. He and Ms. Warren made very similar arguments.

“I was in Afghanistan with John McCain two years ago this past summer,” Ms. Warren said at the debate. “We talked to people on the ground and asked the question, the same one I ask on the Senate Armed Services Committee every time one of the generals comes through: ‘Show me what winning looks like. Tell me what it looks like.’ And what you hear is a lot of ‘Uh,’ because no one can describe it. And the reason no one can describe it is because the problems in Afghanistan are not problems that can be solved by a military.”

More coverage of the war in Afghanistan
How Trump’s Plan to Secretly Meet With the Taliban Came Together, and Fell Apart

Sept. 8, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 09dc-prexy-1-threeByTwoSmallAt2X-v3 Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s. Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Burns, R Nicholas Biden, Joseph R Jr Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan
Will a New Plan End the War in Afghanistan?

Aug. 9, 2019

Westlake Legal Group merlin_156994566_cf6d3d6a-fb03-4af3-b1e4-abca58ee96ba-threeByTwoSmallAt2X Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s. Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Burns, R Nicholas Biden, Joseph R Jr Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan
U.S. Military Calls ISIS in Afghanistan a Threat to the West. Intelligence Officials Disagree.

Aug. 2, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 02dc-intel1-threeByTwoSmallAt2X Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s. Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Burns, R Nicholas Biden, Joseph R Jr Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan
‘What Kind of Peace Talks Are These?’: On the Front Lines of a 17-Year War

July 17, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 00afghan-voices-top-threeByTwoSmallAt2X Democrats’ Afghan Strategy Sounds Familiar. It’s a Lot Like Trump’s. Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Taliban September 11 (2001) Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Burns, R Nicholas Biden, Joseph R Jr Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Bolton Ouster Underscores a G.O.P. Divided on Foreign Policy

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s abrupt ouster of John Bolton, his hawkish national security adviser, has reignited concerns among some Republicans in Congress about the White House’s waning interest in projecting American military power around the world, a doctrine that was once the subject of a powerful consensus in their party.

It is the latest sign of the divide among Republican lawmakers on national security, pitting a camp of hawkish conservatives including Representative Liz Cheney, the House’s third-ranking Republican, and Senator Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, against a newer, anti-establishment group aligned with Mr. Trump’s impulses to put an end to the nation’s intractable military conflicts.

Mr. Bolton’s exit, announced by Mr. Trump on Twitter on Tuesday, following Mr. Trump’s revelation that he had scheduled — and then scrapped — plans to meet with the Taliban for peace talks at Camp David, dramatized the rift.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, praised Mr. Bolton’s leadership on Wednesday in comments that appeared to be directed at the White House.

“He knows there are many threats to American interests and that those threats will not recede if we retreat,” Mr. McConnell said from the Senate floor. “He understands that American leadership is essential to keeping these threats and enemies at bay, and that our partners and allies rarely act without us.”

Mr. Romney called Mr. Bolton’s departure “an extraordinary loss for our nation and the White House,” expressing deep concern about how Mr. Trump would move forward in Afghanistan following his departure.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160518498_13917e1f-2d33-4607-b27e-2dfa024aa2eb-articleLarge Bolton Ouster Underscores a G.O.P. Divided on Foreign Policy United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Republican Party Defense and Military Forces Bolton, John R Afghanistan War (2001- )

“I’ve talked to him dozens of times and I do believe the president wants to end the war in Afghanistan,” Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said.CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

“We have to regroup and decide how we’re going to proceed, but it’s certainly essential that Afghanistan not be allowed to return as a base for terrorist activity,” said Mr. Romney, a frequent critic of Mr. Trump who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee. “And that will mean an ongoing American presence there unless we see a very different response from the Taliban.”

Ms. Cheney, an ally of the president, had expressed alarm about Mr. Trump’s apparent willingness to host the Taliban at the presidential retreat.

“Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after Al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3,000 Americans,” Ms. Cheney, wrote on Twitter. “No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever. The Taliban still harbors Al Qaeda. The President is right to end the talks.”

But in the Senate, Rand Paul of Kentucky, a libertarian-minded Republican who has made disengaging from foreign military conflict a calling card, hastily scheduled a conference call with reporters to congratulate Mr. Trump for jettisoning Mr. Bolton.

During a separate interview, on the heels of the president’s decision to abandon negotiations with the Taliban, Mr. Paul again made the case for a withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan.

“I think they will fight until the end of time,” Mr. Paul said, noting that he has several family members and friends in the military. “I have a tough time sending them to potentially lose their lives in Afghanistan when I can’t delineate what their mission is, the reason we’re there any more.”

Mr. Trump’s allies argued that Mr. Bolton’s departure signaled that Mr. Trump was reasserting his own stamp on foreign policy.

“There are several areas where there’s been this sincere philosophical conflict and this is certainly one of them,” said Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“The president is very hawkish when it comes to dealing with the economic realm, but when it comes to war fighting, he’s got that more populist, even libertarian strain to him,” said Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, who is an ally of the president and sits on the Armed Services Committee. “The Bolton dismissal is an outcome of that push and pull,” Mr. Cramer continued, adding that Mr. Bolton “pushed maybe too hard.”

It is not the first time the president’s foreign policy has left Republican lawmakers crosswise with the White House, provoking their dissent in a way that perhaps no other issue has. In June, when Mr. Trump abruptly reversed his decision to launch a military strike against Iran after an American spy plane was shot down, national security hawks in his party, including Ms. Cheney, publicly lamented the decision. Mr. McConnell led Senate Republicans in January — as well as a group of Democrats — in delivering a pointed rebuke of the president’s announced withdrawal of United States military forces from Syria and Afghanistan.

Those who have frequently found themselves in lock step with Mr. Bolton, a cadre of hawkish lawmakers, many of whom have defense and military backgrounds, are now without a key ally in the White House. But they walked away early this week with a victory, praising Mr. Trump’s decision to cancel the negotiations to end the war with the Taliban. Those lawmakers have argued that Mr. Trump must not withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan based on a political timetable, and that any deal with the Taliban should be viewed with the utmost skepticism.

“We can’t just wish the war away because it’s been long, hard and difficult,” said Representative Michael Waltz, Republican of Florida, who is a former Army Special Forces officer who served in Afghanistan. “Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. And in my view, we need to stay on offense, we need to keep our foot on their neck, we need them worrying about where they can sleep at night.”

The president’s frequent changes of heart on national security issues have also taught Republicans to hope that on crucial decisions, he will oscillate toward their preferred approach. He routinely voices frustration with the worldview that suggests the United States bears responsibility for patrolling the globe, and on Monday groused that soldiers in Afghanistan were serving, to a large extent, as policemen. Those comments have stoked hope among noninterventionists like Mr. Paul that the president will follow his instincts and make good on his campaign pledge.

“I’ve talked to him dozens of times, and I do believe the president wants to end the war in Afghanistan,” Mr. Paul said. “But he’s surrounded by people telling him all kinds of reasons why he can’t.”

Intent on ensuring Mr. Trump delivers on his campaign promise to end the forever wars, organizations like FreedomWorks, a libertarian advocacy group associated with the Tea Party, and Concerned Veterans for America, one of the arms of the Koch network, have mounted lobbying campaigns on Capitol Hill in an effort to provide political cover for Republicans who back ending military engagement in Afghanistan. They have found support from strident conservatives in the House, like Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida and Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t end up in an endless war in Syria or Iran, and I think that is more reflective of the president’s view than his staff’s,” said Mr. Gaetz, a close ally of Mr. Trump. “I think the president has been pretty consistent in his desire to not start a new forever war, and I think the country can even be more heartened in that ideology with Mr. Bolton’s departure.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump Declares Afghan Peace Talks With Taliban ‘Dead’

Westlake Legal Group 09dc-trumpafghan1-facebookJumbo Trump Declares Afghan Peace Talks With Taliban ‘Dead’ United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Taliban September 11 (2001) Camp David (Md) Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — President Trump declared that peace talks with the Taliban were “dead, as far as I’m concerned,” saying he called off a meeting at Camp David after the militant group in Afghanistan killed 12 people, including one American soldier.

Speaking to reporters on Monday as he left for a political rally in North Carolina, Mr. Trump said he did not intend to try to revive efforts to reach a peace accord with the Taliban that could accelerate the removal of American troops from the country.

“They are dead — they are dead. As far as I’m concerned they are dead,” Mr. Trump said of peace talks, accusing the group of the attack that killed an American soldier from Puerto Rico. “You can’t do that. You can’t do that with me. So they are dead as far as I’m concerned.”

The president’s declaration was the latest evidence of difficulty in the nine-month effort to negotiate an exit of American troops from Afghanistan after America’s longest war, which began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But it was unclear whether Mr. Trump’s angry denunciation would mean a permanent end to the talks. The president has demonstrated a willingness to swing from one extreme to the other in the conduct of foreign policy, for example alternately condemning and then praising Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea.

The long-running effort to negotiate peace in Afghanistan has split the administration, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supporting it, but with John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, opposing the talks.

Mr. Trump had promised during his presidential campaign to withdraw American troops from endless wars around the world, and has pushed to bring soldiers home from Afghanistan and Iraq. The president defended the idea of finalizing a peace agreement at Camp David, saying the famous presidential retreat had been used before to host people who “would not have been considered politically correct.”

But he said that it was his decision — and his alone — to cancel the meeting after word of the Taliban attacks.

“It was my idea, and it was my idea to terminate it,” Mr. Trump said. “I didn’t discuss it with anybody else. When I heard, very simply, that they killed one of our soldiers and 12 other innocent people, I said ‘There is no way I’m meeting on that basis.’”

To underscore that the peace talks with the Taliban were off, Mr. Trump asserted, without providing any evidence, that the United States military had “hit the Taliban harder in the last four days than they’ve been hit in over 10 years. So that’s the way it is.”

Today, though, the American military presence in Afghanistan is far lower than it has been in prior years, when tens of thousands of troops from the United States were engaged in much more aggressive and frequent engagement with the Taliban.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Afghans Glad Trump Stopped Taliban Talks, Even if They Doubt His Explanation

KABUL, Afghanistan — For several days after Abdul Sami was sent tumbling and knocked unconscious by a powerful Taliban car bombing last week, he had no idea that an American soldier was among the 12 people killed.

Perched on a hospital bed on Monday, his legs and abdomen wrapped in bandages, Mr. Sami just shrugged when told that the soldier’s death had been cited by President Trump as the basis for his decision to abort peace talks with the Taliban.

“Tell Mr. Trump I’m very, very tired and I don’t feel like keeping up with these peace talks anyway,” said Mr. Sami, 23, a travel agency employee. “There is no point in trying for peace when the Taliban does such terrible things to innocent people.”

For many Afghans, the abrupt suspension of talks after 10 months of negotiations was not entirely unexpected. What jarred them was the notion that a single attack, and the death of one American, could really have upended the talks when the deaths of thousands of Afghans this year — not to mention at least 15 other American soldiers — had not.

That was the question on the mind of Ghulam Mohammad, 35, a laborer wounded in the bombing that killed the American, Army Sgt. First Class Elis Barreto Ortiz. His wiry body was bent in pain Monday from a hole ripped in his stomach by shrapnel.

“It’s always the poor people who are stepped on and killed,” Mr. Mohammad said. “Nobody cares about us — not Trump, not our own government.”

The doctor who treated him also was skeptical.

“This is all a political game. Why talk for ten months and then suddenly stop — and just because an American soldier was killed?” asked the doctor, who was not authorized to speak with reporters.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160493811_0d337d79-dd81-4365-a748-0e8dd8469922-articleLarge Afghans Glad Trump Stopped Taliban Talks, Even if They Doubt His Explanation Trump, Donald J Terrorism Taliban Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

“It was never in the interests of the Afghan people,” Shahla Farid, a law professor at Kabul University. said of the American talks with the Taliban.CreditKiana Hayeri for The New York Times

“I’d like to ask Mr. Trump why he didn’t stop the peace talks after all those attacks when the Taliban killed so many civilians,” the doctor said.

There had been deep skepticism in Afghanistan that the Taliban would ever agree to share power, cut ties with terrorist groups or stop killing civilians — especially after the group ramped up suicide attacks in urban centers during the talks.

In the countryside, Afghan forces supported by American advisers and air power also have intensified operations since last fall. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that more than a thousand Taliban fighters had been killed over the previous 10 days.

Since negotiations between the United States and the Taliban began last fall, many Afghans had lived in a state of suspended animation, between hope and dread. There was hope that decades of war might finally come to a close, but dread that under a peace deal the Taliban would return to power and reimpose their brutal repression.

Many Afghans also have expressed concern that the United States, eager to end nearly 18 years of war in Afghanistan, would withdraw its 14,000 troops abruptly. Some fear such a move would precipitate the kind of mayhem that nearly destroyed the country and brought the Taliban to power in 1996.

The suspension of talks between the United States and the Taliban appeared to open the way for proceeding with a presidential election Sept. 28. The election had been in doubt because of concerns that it would interfere with talks between the Afghan government an the Taliban, which had been expected to begin as early as this month as part of the proposed agreement scuttled by Mr. Trump.

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, who had fumed while his government was excluded from the Taliban talks with the United States, is running for a second five-year term. The Taliban, which fiercely opposes elections, has attacked polling stations in previous campaigns.

Violence continued unabated Monday. The Taliban besieged parts of three northern provinces, with civilians killed in the fighting along with government security forces and Taliban fighters.

Afghan security forces were seen in large numbers on the streets of Kabul on Monday.CreditJim Huylebroek for The New York Times

In Kabul, gunmen in trucks raced through the streets, firing in the air to commemorate the anniversary of Al Qaeda’s assassination of a famous politician and military commander, the Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Masood, two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Some clashed with security forces.

The police said one security force member and a civilian bystander were killed. A roadside bomb wounded three Masood supporters.

Speaking at a ceremony honoring the slain commander, Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s chief executive, said, “Today, we are as far from peace as we were years ago,” an Afghan news channel reported.

In a video posted on Facebook, several pro-Masood gunmen were shown firing pistols at a billboard of Mr. Ghani, a political foe of many followers of Mr. Masood from the northern province of Panjshir.

For many Afghans, such scenes only deepened a sense of futility and despair born of exhaustion from the violence that intensified on both sides during the 10 months of talks between the Americans and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.

“It was never in the interests of the Afghan people,” Shahla Farid, a law professor at Kabul University and a women’s rights activist, said of the proposed deal for an American withdrawal. “The Afghan people who are the main victims of this war were kept in the dark.”

For many Afghan women, who were confined to their homes by the Taliban and forced to cover themselves in public, the halt to negotiations was a blessing. Women interviewed in recent months have said the rights and freedoms won since the American-led invasion toppled the Taliban in 2001 would be threatened by any deal that returned the Taliban to power.

Ms. Farid was so disillusioned by the proposed deal, she said, that she had planned to take nearly 500 burqas to the United States for women to wear in protest if the agreement were consummated.

Momin Rasooli, 18,suffered a chest wound suffered in a Taliban suicide bombing. Relatives visited him in the hospital.CreditKiana Hayeri for The New York Times

She said she believed Mr. Trump had seized on the American soldier’s death as a pretext to halt the proposed agreement, in part, over Taliban intransigence and concern that the group would not honor its commitments once American troops withdrew.

If not for public complaints about the proposed deal from women and other skeptics, a flawed agreement might have been finalized, said Mary Akrami, head of the Afghan Women’s Network, a coalition of rights groups. She said the deal would have legitimized the Taliban.

Ms. Akrami said she doubted Mr. Trump’s contention that he called off negotiations over the death of a single American soldier. If that explanation were true, she said, “it would be a disrespect to all Afghans, to all the victims who lost their lives.”

On social media Monday, many Afghans mocked the American special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, who said last week that a peace agreement had been reached “in principle,” pending approval by Mr. Trump.

“Khalilzad had a miscarriage in the ninth month,” one Facebook post read.

In the north, several civilians cut off by Taliban assaults but reached by telephone expressed relief that the talks were off.

When they heard the news, “people were happy, but still worried that this was another plot to hand us over to the Taliban,” said Malalai Saad, 46, a women’s rights activist in Kunduz.

Najmuddin Akrami, 65, a carpenter in Kunduz, said that regardless of any peace deal, the Taliban were getting stronger while “America is trying to play any game or trick to find a way to leave Afghanistan.”

At the hospital in Kabul, Momin Rasooli, 18, sat shirtless with a bandage covering a chest wound suffered in a Taliban suicide bombing on Sept. 2. His brother, Jawad Jawed, 25, tried to console him.

Mr. Jawed said he never believed the American talks with the Taliban would produce a real peace.

“As long as there is an Afghanistan, there will always be fighting and death,” he said. “It’s all I’ve known all my life.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Trump’s Plan to Secretly Meet With the Taliban Came Together, and Fell Apart

WASHINGTON — On the Friday before Labor Day, President Trump gathered top advisers in the Situation Room to consider what could be among the profound decisions of his presidency — a peace plan with the Taliban after 18 years of grinding, bloody war in Afghanistan.

The meeting brought to a head a bristling conflict dividing his foreign policy team for months, pitting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, in a battle for the competing instincts of a president who relishes tough talk but promised to wind down America’s endless wars.

As they discussed terms of the agreement, Mr. Pompeo and his negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, made the case that it would enable Mr. Trump to begin withdrawing troops while securing a commitment from the Taliban not to shelter terrorists. Mr. Bolton, beaming in by video from Warsaw, where he was visiting, argued that Mr. Trump could keep his campaign pledge to draw down forces without getting in bed with killers swathed in American blood.

Mr. Trump made no decision on the spot, but at some point during the meeting the idea was floated to finalize the negotiations in Washington, a prospect that appealed to the president’s penchant for dramatic spectacle. Mr. Trump suggested that he would even invite President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, whose government has not been party to the talks, and get him to sign on.

In the days that followed, Mr. Trump embraced an even more remarkable idea — he would not only bring the Taliban to Washington, but to Camp David, the crown jewel of the American presidency. The leaders of a rugged militant organization deemed terrorists by the United States would be hosted in the mountain getaway used for presidents, prime ministers and kings just three days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that led to the Afghan war.

Thus began an extraordinary few days of ad hoc diplomatic wrangling that upended the talks in a weekend Twitter storm. On display were all of the characteristic traits of the Trump presidency — the yearning ambition for the grand prize, the endless quest to achieve what no other president has achieved, the willingness to defy convention, the volatile mood swings and the tribal infighting.

What would have been one of the biggest headline-grabbing moments of his tenure was put together on the spur of the moment and then canceled on the spur of the moment. The usual National Security Council process was dispensed with; only a small circle of advisers was even clued in.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156790473_7a708a42-ed75-4941-bd86-0b2350694951-articleLarge How Trump’s Plan to Secretly Meet With the Taliban Came Together, and Fell Apart United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Taliban Pompeo, Mike Khalilzad, Zalmay Ghani, Ashraf Bolton, John R Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, had differing views on the peace plan.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

And even after it fell apart, Mr. Trump took it upon himself to disclose the secret machinations in a string of Saturday night Twitter messages that surprised not only many national security officials across the government but even some of the few who were part of the deliberations.

For Mr. Trump, ending the war in Afghanistan has been a focus since taking office, a signature accomplishment that could help him win re-election next year. For nearly a year, Mr. Khalilzad, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, has engaged in talks with the Taliban to make that happen.

In recent weeks, it had been increasingly clear that the United States and the Taliban, after nine rounds of painstaking negotiations in Doha, Qatar, had ironed out most of the issues between them. Mr. Khalilzad declared that the agreement document had been finalized “in principle.”

The deal called for a gradual withdrawal of the remaining 14,000 American troops over 16 months, with about 5,000 of them leaving within 135 days. In return, the Taliban would provide counterterrorism assurances to ease American fears of a repeat of Sept. 11 from Afghan soil.

But the negotiations left out Afghanistan’s government, and Mr. Ghani’s officials criticized it for lacking measures that would ensure stability. At home, Mr. Trump was cautioned by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina; Gen. Jack Keane, a retired Army vice chief of staff; and Gen. David Petraeus, the retired Afghanistan and Iraq commander.

Mr. Bolton was the leading voice against the deal on the inside as Mr. Pompeo’s allies increasingly tried to isolate the national security adviser. Mr. Bolton argued that Mr. Trump could pull out 5,000 troops while still leaving enough forces to assist counterterrorism efforts without a deal with the Taliban, a group he argued could not be trusted.

In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Graham said he shared Mr. Trump’s desire “to end the war in Afghanistan between the Taliban and the Afghan people.” But he added that no deal could include withdrawing all American forces or trusting the Taliban to confront Al Qaeda or the Islamic State.

“My advice to the administration is, let’s focus on trying to shore up our relationship with Pakistan,” he said, adding that it should include a free-trade agreement. He said that the Taliban must be prevented from believing it can seek safe harbor in Pakistan.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the top American negotiator, had declared that an agreement document between the United States and the Taliban had been finalized “in principle.”CreditJim Huylebroek for The New York Times

When Mr. Khalilzad left Doha after the last round of talks concluded on Sept. 1, two days after the Situation Room meeting, he and his Taliban counterparts had finalized the text of the agreement, according to people involved. Leaders of both teams initialed their copies and handed them to their Qatari hosts.

Before the end of the meeting, Mr. Khalilzad brought up the idea of a Taliban trip to Washington. Taliban leaders said they accepted the idea — as long as the visit came after the deal was announced.

That would become a fundamental dividing point contributing to the collapse of the talks. Mr. Trump did not want the Camp David meeting to be a celebration of the deal; after staying out of the details of what has been a delicate effort in a complicated region, Mr. Trump suddenly wanted to be the dealmaker who would put the final parts together himself, or at least be perceived to be.

The idea was for Mr. Trump to hold separate meetings at Camp David with the Taliban and with Mr. Ghani, leading to a more global resolution.

Even as talks were wrapping up in Doha, the American ambassador to Afghanistan arrived at the presidential palace in Kabul with the proposal of a Camp David meeting, Afghan officials said.

Details were sorted out between the Afghan president and the American side when Mr. Khalilzad arrived from Doha and held four rounds of talks with Mr. Ghani. A plane would arrive to take Mr. Ghani and his delegation to the United States, according to the initial plan.

Mr. Ghani’s ministers knew that a Taliban delegation would most likely be arriving, too, but were unclear on the details. They had three priorities: the fate of presidential elections scheduled for Sept. 28, how the peace talks would move forward to include them and how they would bolster security forces to reduce the cost for the United States.

As a sign of how important the event was for the United States, Mr. Ghani got the Americans to agree to include on the trip his national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, who had essentially been kept out of the American meetings after lashing out at the peace process.

Members of the Taliban delegation in Doha, Qatar, in July. Taliban leaders said the Americans were tricking them into political suicide with the Camp David meeting.CreditKarim Jaafar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For months, the Americans had essentially held Mr. Ghani’s re-election campaign hostage to a deal that they projected was imminent. Mr. Ghani was reduced to pretending that the September elections were still on by holding a couple of daily “virtual rallies” at which he addressed small gatherings around the country via video chat. If the American-Taliban deal were finalized, it would most likely push the elections back.

If Mr. Ghani had refused the Camp David meeting, he would have been called a spoiler of peace, a senior Afghan official said. So he took his chances; it was to be hosted by an ally on friendly turf, and it could help clarify whether there would be a peace deal, and whether the elections would proceed.

But Taliban leaders, having refused to negotiate directly with the Afghan government until after the group had an agreement with the United States, said the Americans were tricking them into political suicide.

A senior Taliban leader said on Sunday that Mr. Trump was fooling himself to think he could bring the Taliban and Mr. Ghani together at Camp David “because we do not recognize the stooge government” in Kabul.

The Americans were also rushing to finalize outstanding issues in the days before the last-minute proposed Camp David meeting. Among the most significant was a disagreement over the release of thousands of Taliban prisoners in Afghan prisons.

Afghan officials said the Americans had taken the liberty of negotiating on their behalf by agreeing to the release. Mr. Ghani’s government found that unacceptable, saying it would agree only if the Taliban reciprocated with an extensive cease-fire — something the insurgents are reluctant to do at this stage of the talks since violence is their main leverage.

The final negotiations occurred during a period of intensifying bloodshed. In response to Taliban attacks, American negotiators made clear they were prioritizing the agreement, not looking to boycott the talks. Their negotiations were undergirded by increasing battlefield pressure by the American military.

When Mr. Khalilzad and Gen. Austin S. Miller, the American commander in Afghanistan, returned to Doha on Thursday, it was to finalize technical appendices to the main text. The Taliban negotiators got no sense that anything was amiss and later posted on Twitter that the atmosphere was good.

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan. His government has not been party to the talks.CreditJim Huylebroek for The New York Times

But the same day, aides told Mr. Trump about a suicide car bomb attack that killed an American soldier and 11 others. At this point, according to senior officials, Mr. Trump and his team were unified. He could not host Taliban leaders at Camp David just days after an American was killed.

“This is off; we can’t do this,” Mr. Trump told his aides, according to one official.

No announcement was made by the White House. In Kabul on Friday, Mr. Ghani’s officials told reporters that he planned to travel to the United States, and then hours later said he would not go.

But little was made of that at the time. The endgame of the talks seemed near, if not the timetable. Only then came Mr. Trump’s tweets on Saturday night disclosing that he had invited the Taliban and Mr. Ghani to Camp David — but called it off, citing the bombing.

The tweets took many in the administration by surprise; there was no reason for Mr. Trump to reveal what had happened, several officials said, especially since he has not given up on the idea of a negotiated settlement.

Hours later, Mr. Pompeo visited Dover Air Force Base for the arrival of the coffin of Army Sgt. First Class Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz, who was killed in the Kabul bombing. His presence was unusual for a secretary of state; the return of fallen American soldiers would be more traditionally attended by presidents or defense secretaries.

On Sunday, after their negotiating team held an emergency internal meeting in Doha, the Taliban said Mr. Trump’s decision to cancel the talks would hurt only the United States. The Afghan government blamed the Taliban, saying that the violence was making the peace process difficult.

American officials stressed that the peace drive was not over and the deal had been neither rejected nor accepted. With Mr. Trump especially, anything can happen.

But for the moment, at least, all sides seemed certain of one thing: Violence will now intensify. The war will go on.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

After Trump Calls Off Talks, Afghanistan Braces for Violence

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s decision to break off peace talks with the Taliban, at least for now, left Afghanistan bracing for a bloody prelude to national elections this month, while the administration declined on Sunday to rule out a withdrawal of American troops without a peace accord.

In a round of television interviews, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed an attack by the Taliban for the cancellation of talks at Camp David this weekend that the administration had expected would lead to the signing of a peace agreement.

Mr. Pompeo said that the Taliban had “tried to gain negotiating advantage by conducting terror attacks inside the country,’’ resulting in the death of an American soldier in Kabul. “We’re going to walk away from a deal if others try to use violence to achieve better ends in a negotiation,’’ he said.

But after abruptly scrapping a diplomatic process that appeared to be inching toward a conclusion, it was unclear where Mr. Trump would go from here.

The administration continued to face questions about what led to Mr. Trump’s sudden renunciation of the talks, including whether the sticking point was his desire to seal the deal himself in a dramatic summit meeting at Camp David.

Mr. Pompeo and other administration officials left open the door to a resumption of negotiations, and so did the Taliban. But any new talks may not happen for several months, with each side feeling that an agreement that seemed within reach was sabotaged by the other, Afghan officials said.

And there was a consensus in Kabul and Washington that the sudden derailment of what had seemed like a carefully orchestrated effort for a deal could lead to a surge of violence before the Sept. 28 election. The Taliban have opposed holding the election, which President Ashraf Ghani is seen as a front-runner.

Despite a series of car bombings and attacks, there has been a sense that the Taliban have been hanging back, hoping a deal would delay the election. Now, the Taliban have more of an incentive to disrupt the election, and make clear that after an 18-year war they remain a potent political and military player.

Mr. Trump’s aides said they were mystified about whether the president had a new strategy for fulfilling his promise to withdraw American troops or preventing escalating violence.

There were also questions about the accuracy of his assertion that the Taliban had accepted his invitation to Camp David on Sunday, and that he was the one calling off the meeting.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_160419840_17e888ce-f72a-40ea-a2cd-b45ae3d46026-articleLarge After Trump Calls Off Talks, Afghanistan Braces for Violence Trump, Donald J Taliban September 11 (2001) Pompeo, Mike Khalilzad, Zalmay Ghani, Ashraf Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

The remains of the American soldier killed in the Taliban attack, Sgt. First Class Elis Barreto Ortiz, at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday.CreditCliff Owen/Associated Press

Taliban negotiators said Sunday that they had agreed to come to the United States only after a deal was announced and only to meet with the American side, suggesting that Mr. Trump may have canceled a meeting that the key participants were not planning to attend.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo cited the Taliban attack that killed an American soldier on Thursday as the reason for calling off the talks.

But the death of the soldier, Sgt. First Class Elis Barreto Ortiz, was the 16th this year, one of many since talks with the Taliban began nearly a year ago. And Mr. Pompeo undercut the argument by acknowledging that the United States, too, has continued to fight, claiming “over a thousand Taliban killed in just the last 10 days alone.”

On Sunday, some of Mr. Trump’s fellow Republicans expressed outrage at the thought of the Taliban coming to Camp David, where President George W. Bush gathered his war cabinet days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to plan a military campaign against Afghanistan to wipe out Al Qaeda and kill its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Representative Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said “no member of the Taliban should set foot’’ in the presidential retreat. “The Taliban still harbors Al Qaeda,” she said on Twitter. “The President is right to end the talks.”

Representative Adam Kinzinger, another Republican and a former Air Force officer who served in Afghanistan, said that “never should leaders of a terrorist organization that hasn’t renounced 9/11 and continues in evil be allowed in our great country. NEVER.”

Several pointed to a tweet Mr. Trump himself had written in 2012, criticizing President Barack Obama for “negotiating with our sworn enemy, the Taliban, who facilitated 9/11.”

Mr. Pompeo and other officials offered the same argument on Sunday that Mr. Obama offered seven years ago: To achieve peace, you have to talk with your enemies.

That is a view, though, that has encountered resistance by some in the administration, including John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, who opposed the emerging pact and argued internally that Mr. Trump could keep his campaign pledge to draw down forces without a signing a deal with the Taliban, a group he said could not be trusted.

Mr. Pompeo said that the president had not yet decided whether to go ahead with a reduction in the forces now in Afghanistan.

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan during Independence Day celebrations in Kabul last month.CreditAfghan Presidential Palace

Mr. Trump has vowed to reduce the number of American forces there, saying two weeks ago that their numbers would come down to 8,600, from a current level of about 14,000. That is far below the 100,000 troops that were based there during the height of the war.

Mr. Trump has never set conditions on his decision to withdraw — a step many experts see as a mistake, since it has encouraged the Taliban to simply wait out the Americans, guessing they might begin a withdrawal with no agreement.

But Mr. Pompeo laid out two conditions for a withdrawal on Sunday: that violence be reduced and that another terrorist attack on the United States from Afghanistan never be permitted. “We’re not going to withdraw our forces without making sure we achieve President Trump’s twin objectives,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The attempt to broker a deal came at one of the most precarious moments in Afghanistan since 2001.

Many of the hopes that President Bush once had for a transformation of Afghanistan have long since been abandoned; with the resurgence of the Taliban, the early efforts to assure the education of girls, protect the rights of women and transform villages with agricultural technology and American aid have faded.

But Afghans saw in the negotiations a chance to regain some sense of control, by engineering some kind of political accommodation between Mr. Ghani’s government and the Taliban, a form of power-sharing that a decade ago would have been unthinkable.

In an interview on Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, argued that it had been clear for years that the only lasting peace would come from some kind of political process between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

He said that his idea of a successful negotiation would be one that “reduces the level of violence” and sets up an intra-Afghan dialogue.

That was the goal of the negotiations that Zalmay Khalilzad, the special envoy for Afghanistan, had been painstakingly negotiating in Doha, Qatar, for nearly a year, and seemed on the verge of achieving. On Thursday, Mr. Khalilzad was in Doha again with Gen. Austin Miller, the commander of the United States forces in Afghanistan, who has also said that he believes the battle between the Afghan government and the Taliban would never be resolved militarily.

“The fight will go until a political settlement,’’ he said.

At the core of the tentative agreement between the United States and the Taliban were assurances from the group that it would not support international terrorist groups, and that Afghan soil would not be used for attacks against the West.

“We had the Taliban’s commitment to do that,” Mr. Pompeo said on Fox News on Sunday. “We had their commitment to break from Al Qaeda, publicly. And they would obviously have to deliver on that commitment. So we’ve made real progress, but in the end the Taliban overreached.”

Soldiers near the United States Embassy in Kabul on Thursday after a Taliban attack that killed 12 people, including an American soldier.CreditJim Huylebroek for The New York Times

American and Western officials said that until Mr. Trump’s announcement on Saturday, they expected direct talks would start between the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government. In return, Mr. Trump would announce a withdrawal schedule for American troops.

With the negotiations overshadowing electoral politics, the country had two national processes — peace talks and presidential elections — in a race with each other, each casting doubt over the prospects for the other.

Mr. Ghani, a 70-year-old former anthropologist and World Bank official who returned to Afghanistan after the American-led invasion that ousted the Taliban government, has been insistent that the election go ahead at any cost. He believes that his re-election would give him leverage with the Taliban, who have threatened violence if they do not regain significant political power.

Yet the Afghan government was not a party to the talks, and only recently did the United States government start briefing Mr. Ghani about the details, his aides said. Even then, American officials would not leave him a copy of the draft agreement governing the fate of his country.

Mr. Ghani has reached out to the Taliban at various moments, offering passports to Taliban negotiators and urging them to engage in peace talks. But the Taliban has refused to recognize his government as legitimate, and Mr. Ghani has questioned whether, even if the United States announced a peace deal, the Taliban would negotiate an acceptable accord with any elected government.

But he was apparently willing to travel to Washington, at Mr. Trump’s behest, and attend the Camp David talks. And he was planning to do so, his aides said, though wary of not knowing what would transpire there.

He was also deeply worried about Mr. Trump’s insistence on reducing American forces, fearing a rushed process that could bring about a repeat of the chaos that gripped the country a generation ago when Soviet troops left Afghanistan, paving the way for the Taliban and, ultimately, Al Qaeda.

Mr. Pompeo did little on Sunday to alleviate his concern. Asked by Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation” if 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan was “where it stays for the foreseeable future,” Mr. Pompeo hedged.

“I can’t answer that question,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s the president’s decision.”

Military and intelligence officials say that the American forces are chiefly there to provide intelligence to the Afghans, who are shouldering most of the fighting. General Dunford said Thursday that the planned reduction to 8,600 troops was based on a Pentagon estimate of how many it would take to assure that terrorist groups were not exploiting the power vacuum in the country.

Mr. Trump, like Mr. Obama before him, has made no secret of his desire to bring American troops home from the country’s longest war. But some experts believe Mr. Trump was rushing the diplomatic process for his own political purposes, to make good on a 2016 campaign promise.

“In the short term, the disruption is beneficial — we were demoralized by the process, we were in complete uncertainty,” said Abdul Waheed Wafa, the director of Afghanistan Center at Kabul University.

“The Taliban were on the one hand blowing things up here and on the other hand gaining advantage in the talks in Doha,’’ he said. “I don’t think either side has shut the door completely. Until they resume again, the Taliban will throw everything they have — with explosions, and with even more pressure on cities under siege. And the U.S. military can pressure back too.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Taliban Failed to Live Up to ‘Commitments’ in Peace Talks, Pompeo Says

Westlake Legal Group 08diplo-promo-facebookJumbo-v2 Taliban Failed to Live Up to ‘Commitments’ in Peace Talks, Pompeo Says Trump, Donald J Taliban September 11 (2001) Pompeo, Mike Khalilzad, Zalmay Ghani, Ashraf Afghanistan War (2001- ) Afghanistan

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that President Trump ended peace negotiations with the Taliban because the group had “failed to live up to a series of commitments they had made,” but he left open the possibility that American troops could be withdrawn from Afghanistan even in the absence of a deal.

“The Taliban overreached,” he said, apparently referring to the escalation of car bombings and other violence around Kabul as negotiators closed in on an agreement. Mr. Trump said a peace deal was supposed to have been sealed at a meeting at Camp David attended by Taliban leaders and then, separately, with Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan.

A car bombing on Thursday killed one American soldier, which Mr. Trump said in a series of tweets Saturday night had led to his decision. “President Trump said, ‘Enough,’” Mr. Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week.” The lead American negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, had been recalled to the United States, Mr. Pompeo added.

Despite Mr. Trump’s tweet, it was not clear that the Taliban leadership had ever agreed to come to the president’s official Camp David retreat in Maryland for the meeting, a hastily organized effort by Mr. Trump to replicate past peace deals and declare that America’s longest war was being ended. The timing certainly would have been awkward — it was scheduled to take place just days before the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which were planned on Afghan soil by terrorists under Taliban protection.

Comments Mr. Pompeo made in a separate appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” made it clear that even if the Taliban had shown up, the outcome was not certain. The deal would have committed the Taliban to reducing violence, but not ending violence. And it would have incorporated an agreement for the Taliban to then negotiate with Mr. Ghani’s government over the political future of the country.

[Taliban talks hit a wall over deeper disagreements, officials say.]

The attempt to broker a deal came at what may be among the most precarious moments in Afghanistan since 2001. Mr. Trump has vowed to reduce the number of American forces there, saying two weeks ago that their numbers would come down to 8,600, from a current level of about 14,000. That is far below the 100,000 troops that were based there during the height of the war. But Mr. Trump has never set conditions on his decision to withdraw — a step many experts see as a mistake, since it has encouraged the Taliban to simply wait out the Americans, guessing they might begin a withdrawal with no agreement.

It remains unclear why Mr. Trump canceled the meeting; while he linked it to the death of the American serviceman in a car bombing, other Americans have died in similar attacks while negotiations were underway in Doha, Qatar.

But it is possible that Mr. Trump began to fear the negative reviews of the agreement, which came even from many of his Republican colleagues. The agreement called for a reduction in violence but not a complete cease-fire. It left unclear what role the Taliban would play in future politics.

And the Afghan government has objected both to the terms of a possible agreement and to how it was negotiated with the Taliban.

Only recently did the United States government brief Mr. Ghani about the details of the negotiations, and even then would not leave him with a copy of the agreement about the fate of his country. Mr. Ghani has met several times with Mr. Khalilzad, the American envoy who is in charge of the peace negotiations. The two men have known each other for years.

Mr. Ghani fundamentally does not believe that the Taliban will reach an acceptable accord with the elected government, and it appears he was not willing to travel to Washington if he felt he would be cornered into signing an agreement that would be hard to enforce. Mr. Ghani’s concerns are deeply rooted in history, as the withdrawal of the Soviet Union resulted in the Afghan state collapsing into anarchy. Mr. Ghani is cautioning against a rushed process that could bring about a repeat of that chaos.

The United States’ deal with the Taliban was to include a schedule for the withdrawal of the remaining American and NATO troops in the country, who number more than 20,000 all together. In return, the Taliban would provide assurances that they would not support international terrorist groups, so that Afghan soil would not be used for attacks against the West, and they would open direct talks with Afghan officials.

American and Western officials say they had prepared for an immediate start to direct talks between the Taliban and other Afghans, including the government, once the withdrawal schedule was announced. Before the cancellation, some officials said they hoped momentum in the talks would result in the elections being delayed.

That hope is now dashed, and it seems likely the election will go forward. But American officials fear it could be deeply marred by violence if the Taliban believe the negotiations are over.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com