There are signs emerging that President Trump is slowly but surely moving back toward the non-interventionist world view that he had championed on the campaign trail. Trump was once believed to have held the view that withdrawal from US global commitments was the safest bet for ensuring the continuous prosperity of America. He is particularly concerned about the reversals in Afghanistan and is torn between the hawkish views of his military advisers supported by his nominee for State Department Mike Pompeo and the actual situation on the ground.
Trump may well be contemplating an end to the war in Afghanistan. Obviously there is no hint of any exit dates and probable agreements to end the armed entanglement but Trump has been reported to have conveyed his impatience about the conflict and has asked his advisers to get ‘the hell out of there’. Trump is aware that in Afghanistan one indication of the military’s nervousness is its eagerness to open peace talks with the Taliban and try to negotiate an end to the conflict.
The ground realities in Afghanistan give a very bleak look as was evident from a recent spate of violence in the country, including two bombings that killed at least 25 people. An affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility. The Taliban is also not letting up on its aggressive attacks throughout the country that has unnerved US and allied forces operating there.
Trump’s actions belie his hawkish advisers who persuade him to pursue aggressive policies. But despite the pressure exerted by his team Trump agreed to a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without clear concessions from Pyongyang as a precondition. This was much to the chagrin of his advisers who were, at one time, advising armed action against North Korea.
Trump’s senior associates however are more
skeptical about the conflict, which
still appears stalemated
He shocked the Pentagon and State Department when he commented; “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon.” The remark caught his advisers off guard and then they struggled to devise new plans to mop up the remnants of the Islamic State as a fighting force and withdraw US troops over the next six months.
Trump’s evolving thinking on Afghanistan is cognisant of the dangers of complete pull-out from the country as his current policy is based upon mitigating the demoralising effects of drawdown of troops and also ensuring commitment to end the Obama-era withdrawal timelines and stay in the country until conditions on the ground improve.
Trump’s senior associates however are more skeptical about the conflict, which still appears stalemated. The US military faces the challenge to convince a skeptical president that despite modest battlefield success the threat posed by terror networks in Afghanistan demands a robust US investment in money and troops. The hardcore military element in the US is of the view that it understands the value of staying in Afghanistan.
The incumbent government in Afghanistan is also very keen for the US to continue its presence in their country despite the growing armed resistance to foreign deployment. President Ashraf Ghani recently proposed a very attractive peace offer to the Taliban but it was not accepted.
Trump’s current thinking emanates from the experience he got out of many of his aggressive initiatives particularly withdrawal from Climate Accord and Chinese tariffs war that resulted in inviting a lot of adverse global reaction. Despite his advisers’ optimism about the reach of the American power, the businessman in Trump goads him to realise the ultimate futility of armed interference and proxy wars.
The realist in Trump surely acknowledges that indefinite involvement in Afghanistan will yield nothing but continuous warfare and a series of reverses. As a pragmatist he also perceives that an acceptable solution to Afghanistan quagmire lies in American withdrawal. He also appears to be realising the requirement of peace in Afghanistan before US leaves it. The only way to achieve this end is to end the war in Afghanistan.
Probably under the covert direction of very highly placed decision makers in America, US policy has taken a visible turn in respect of trying to place India as a conduit for future US aims in Afghanistan. High-level US military personnel are regularly visiting India to work out the details of an appropriate framework for future cooperation. India will surely not engage itself in any armed activity in Afghanistan due to certain adverse reaction it may face from Pakistan therefore the end of war in Afghanistan is the only way India could take care of American interests there.
Nabeel Zafar works in the private sector