Today is the eighteenth anniversary of the dark terrorist act that wounded America and spawned the war in Afghanistan which has continued, without pause or purpose, since that awful day. This past weekend, President Donald Trump canceled a year-long peace effort between the U.S. and the Taliban, a project advocates claimed could end the war. Whether or not that claim was overblown, the talks Trump shut down handed unwarranted strategic power to the Taliban. It is time now to take that power back.
We must immediately end this war with a rapid and prudently executed military withdrawal on terms we issue. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insists that “real peace” in Afghanistan “will come when the Taliban stop killing Afghans and implement a ceasefire.” It is true that intra-Afghan negotiations will be necessary for a lasting peace, but predicating the end of U.S. involvement on assurances from the Taliban is akin to building a house on shifting sand. It all but guarantees the war will continue indefinitely.
Though it is a distasteful reality, we must honestly acknowledge that the Taliban will not disappear from Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, particularly after they withstood then-President Barack Obama’s 2010–11 surge. The Taliban cannot be forced into an agreement that they don’t want, and Washington cannot allow the Taliban to thus obstruct our exit. It would be foolhardy to base any outcome on trusting the Taliban to keep promises. Though they have a tactical military advantage on the ground in Afghanistan, we still hold the more powerful strategic cards.