Trump was right to invite the Taliban to Camp David, and then right to cancel on them – Washington Examiner
President Trump was right to invite the Taliban to Camp David in the pursuit of a lasting peace. And Trump was right to suspend peace negotiations when the Taliban proved themselves deceitful.
On Twitter, Trump explained that he canceled talks planned for Sunday after learning of the Taliban’s responsibility for an attack in Kabul this week. The attack killed 12 people, including an American soldier. While it is not clear why Trump waited until Saturday evening to cancel the talks (the attack occurred on Thursday and the Taliban’s responsibility was clear) it is likely a result of last-minute pushing from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Regardless, Trump made the right call. The Taliban proved they are currently unwilling to negotiate seriously. In turn, the group must know that the president won’t sacrifice America’s security and its allies for a campaign narrative. Trump’s decision, in the context of a tough reelection fight, thus stands in stark contrast with President Barack Obama’s 2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
This does not, however, change the crucial importance of diplomacy in Afghanistan.
We cannot fight our way to victory in Afghanistan. A peace deal with the Taliban will ultimately be necessary. But Trump’s decision reflects a recognition that peace requires more than words. True peace requires the shared goodwill of both parties to sustain it. Until the Taliban changes its mind, American must continue to defend our interests in Afghanistan.
That’s what our Afghan strategy entails.
American and NATO efforts in Afghanistan are now centered on counter-terrorism and supporting Afghan security forces with logistics, training, planning, intelligence, and aviation support. The Trump administration is also employing a long overdue pressure strategy toward Pakistan. But the bloody days of 2009-2012, where hundreds of Americans were killed in action each year, have passed. We are focused on securing major population centers rather than patrolling Taliban heartlands such as Helmand and Kunar provinces.
But yes, this remains a war.
Afghan security forces suffer thousands of casualties, but 20 Americans have also been lost this year. The most recent, Sgt. Elis Ortiz, was killed in Thursday’s attack. We must remember his life and those of the other Americans who died in Afghanistan this year, and in years prior. We must also remember our allies, such as Cpl. Ciprian-Ștefan Polschi of Romania, who died alongside Ortiz.
As we seek a real peace, we cannot delude ourselves.
An unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan would inspire Salafi-Jihadist confidence around the world, and invite the Taliban to help rebuild al Qaeda. It would betray our allies abroad and endanger us at home. Maintaining military pressure on the Taliban while strengthening the Afghan government is a far better course. It strengthens us while incentivizing the Taliban to pursue what is most needed: a serious peace.