Saturday, February 29, 2020

Strategic Ploy

They've blown it.

I didn't expect this, not even from this President. Nonetheless, the USA and the Taliban signed a deal Saturday which includes, as President Trump noted later during his news conference, result in the withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan over a 14-month period. 

It is subject to the success of  "intra-Afghanistan negotiations," as The Hill puts it.  However, the Taliban

“will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies,” the agreement says.

The Taliban also committed to sending a “clear message that those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies have no place in Afghanistan” and will instruct its members not to cooperate with groups or individuals that threaten the United States, according to the deal.

In return,

The intra-Afghan talks will be launched with a prisoner release, according to Saturday’s deal. The Taliban will have 5,000 prisoners released, while the Afghan government side will have 1,000. Remaining prisoners will be released in three months.

The Hill adds

In a letter to Pompeo and Esper this week, 22 House Republicans led by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) expressed “serious concerns” about the deal and asked for “assurances that you will not place the security of the American people into the hands of the Taliban, and undermine our ally, the current government of Afghanistan.”

This is not a negotiated surrender, though it could be framed that way. It is worse than a surrender. Five-to-one (in prisoner release) is not a good ratio. In return, we get promises from the organization that gave sanctuary to the forces responsible for the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 and which aims to impose Sharia law upon Afghanistan. The situation is dicey; “other factions,” reports The Washington Post,” including breakaway Taliban groups and others claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, have footholds around the country and potentially could grow stronger without U.S.-led forces to keep them in check.”

Elizabeth Warren, Bernard Sanders, and even Joe Biden have implied that they would withdraw all USA forces from Afghanistan. In retrospect, they should have realized that President Trump, who fancies himself a master deal maker, would make a deal negotiating withdrawal of American soldiers.

With this agreement- which may, fortuitously, fall apart- Trump seems to have outflanked almost any potential Democratic nominee.  Most of the Democratic candidates haven't explicitly ruled out having any combat soldiers in Afghanistan but they have come awfully close.   The President has approved a terrorist-friendly arrangement critics can credibly label a "sell-out," but Democrats are in no position to exploit one of Trump's vulnerabilities, a man easily manipulated by the country's enemies

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