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December 21, 2018
Trump’s Partial Afghanistan Withdraw May Bolster Peace Talks With Taliban

By Josh Yasmeh

The Trump administration announcement of a possible withdraw maybe part of an effort to bolster ongoing peace-talks led by the U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.

President Trump is considering a plan to withdraw a significant number of the 14,000 troops currently stationed in Afghanistan. The pull out could begin in a few weeks. The move may mark the beginning of the end of a 17-year war that has cost the lives of 2,400 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Afghans.

“Thanks to former President Karzai for bringing Afghan leaders together today. It is important that everyone speak with one voice on peace,” Khalilzad tweeted Thursday suggesting that peace talks with the Taliban are moving forward.

That meeting included representatives of the Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well. As it stands, Trump’s troop may indeed by a concession to the Taliban to foster goodwill in future talks.

Since the Taliban’s re-emergence as a potent non-state actor nearly three years ago, Afghan security forces have suffered overwhelming losses, resulting in a loss of morale and willpower. Led by inept generals and largely under-armed, Afghan soldiers have been working with U.S. forces to bolster their ranks and develop the kind of organizational structure necessary to safeguard the war-torn country and create a security situation necessary for political stability. Currently, Afghanistan government in Kabul controls a little over half of the country’s sovereign territory. The rest is controlled by the Taliban and a patchwork of tribal interests.

The prospect of an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan comes as the Taliban consolidates territorial gains it has secured over the last three years. In recent months, the Taliban and its affiliates have carried out a number of devastating attacks against Afghan law security personnel and civilians. Most recently in November, the Taliban ambushed security forces in the western province of Farah, killing 22 Afghan policemen.

With U.S. troops on their way out, it’s unclear what Afghanistan’s future will look like moving forward.

Trump’s decision on Afghanistan appears to be a part of a larger administration push to scale back the American presence in the Middle East.

On Wednesday, the president announced a plan to withdraw U.S. special forces from Syria and end American air support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters mobilized by the U.S. to fight ISIS in Northeast Syria.

In response to Trump’s announcement Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced his resignation on Thursday – effective February 28th.

Mattis and Trump have sparred in a number of foreign policy issues including the Iran nuclear deal, support for Saudi Arabia, NATO, and the administration’s strategy moving forward in Afghanistan and Syria. Trump’s decision on Syria appears to have been the last straw.

“One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships,” the outgoing Secretary of Defense James Mattis wrote in his resignation letter, “While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.”

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