Don’t fall for the hype.
That is the one lesson that we all should have learned about President Donald Trump. He’s a salesman, not a statesman. He offers up fantasies, not facts.
The most recent agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan is a clear example of this.
In the 2016 campaign, Trump had the good sense to promise to end America’s forever wars and bring the troops home. Afghanistan, our longest war now in its 19th year, is a classic example.
We invaded Afghanistan to get Osama bin Laden and punish his forces for their attack on America on 9/11. We threw the Taliban out of power. Under Obama’s watch, bin Laden was found and killed.
Yet we didn’t get out.
We have squandered trillions of dollars and lost thousands of American lives in an unending war in an impoverished nation on the other side of the world. We don’t care enough to send the troops and invest the trillions needed to occupy the country.
Yet no president has had the courage to get the troops out and end the folly.
Trump promised that he would do it. Now, he’s cut a deal with the Taliban that he will use to claim that he’s fulfilled his promise. Don’t fall for the hype.
The deal Trump made with the Taliban will bring U.S. forces down — but only to the approximate level that existed at the end of the Obama administration. He’s essentially agreed only to reverse the buildup that he had ordered over the last three years.
Further reductions are said to be dependent on the Taliban making a deal with the existing government. But the Afghani government already objects to the agreement that Trump made. It doesn’t want to face the Taliban without U.S. soldiers.
After nearly two decades, it has been unable to create a legitimate government and a coherent military that can consolidate its position.
If we wait for the Afghan government to agree for U.S. soldiers to leave, the forever war will continue, well, forever.
Trump wants credit for ending the war — and fulfilling his campaign promise — without ending it. He wants to get out, but he doesn’t want to be blamed for losing.
What’s needed is a clear commitment to get out — not dependent on what the Afghani government or the Taliban do. Trump has failed to produce that, violating the campaign pledge he made to the American people.
The sad reality is that we have no reason to be in Afghanistan.
The country is impoverished, not strategic. The Taliban are oppressive and violent. The Afghanis should be uniting to defeat the Taliban and keep them from coming to power. But this is the responsibility of the Afghanis, not of the United States.
The architects of the forever war warn that we will lose credibility if we get out and the government collapses. But what could be a greater loss of credibility than fighting futilely for nearly two decades without victory and without end?
They warn that without U.S. forces, Afghanistan could become a launching ground for terrorists. But, as we’ve seen, terrorists have many places to train in failed states—including those we’ve helped create like Libya.
We would be far better off—and far more secure from terrorists—if we stopped destabilizing the Middle East, ended the forever wars, stopped sponsoring regime changes, and addressed the threat of terrorism as a matter for intelligence, international cooperation, and aggressive policing.
At the very least, we should stop wasting trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives on wars that we have no plan or commitment to win.
Trump was right in 2016: Great powers do not fight endless wars. He is wrong to pretend that he’s bringing the troops home from Afghanistan when all he’s agreed to is to bring them back down to the level they were at when he took office.
Americans are right to want an end to the endless wars. We need a president who has the courage and common sense to end them.
Trump has proven once more that he is not that president.