Count me very skeptical about the Afghan deal that President Trump has just signed–“an agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan”. I agree that it’s the best deal with the Taliban we have seen and I like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s thinking and bearing on the deal, but I would have liked to have heard former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s thoughts on it (pardon me if I am showing my bias as a hawk). Do we really want to give the Taliban a 14-month definitive timetable for withdrawal to zero troops? Do we really believe that the Taliban will throw down arms and join the Afghan forces? Will they now for the first time agree to talk politically with the Kabul government? Have they ever fully kept a commitment? The Reagan Rule has never been more applicable than here–trust, but verify–and I would go lightly on the trust part and heavier on the verify part.
I repeat myself: I know that one of Trump’s most meaningful promises was to end the “endless wars” and that it has been part of his core belief system for much longer than he has been President. But I believe it will be a big mistake to completely withdraw U. S. troops and that it is likely that we will be back in that country within five years to contend again with the Taliban and allied forces. We’ve been in South Korea for 67 years and Germany for 75, so a police force of 8-10 thousand is not unreasonable for Afghanistan to watch over what will continue to be an unstable polity for quite awhile. Again, and finally, does Donald Trump want his legacy in the Middle East to be the President who vacated leadership there to Russia/Iran and ISIS?