Trump is making good on his campaign promise to end the war in Afghanistan


For almost a decade, President Trump has been complaining about America's war in Afghanistan.  When he ran for president, Trump promised to stay out of foreign wars, saying, "I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V."

The media were therefore excited when Trump not only did not pull out of Afghanistan, but actually sent more troops there.  CNBC rubbed Trump's nose into the escalation by digging up his tweets going back to 2012 in which he insisted that the Obama administration bring American troops home.

It seems, though, that Trump had a strategy.  This strategy was consistent with "hav[ing] a plan for victory," or at least avoiding an ignominious retreat or, worse, creating a vacuum such as that left in Iraq after Obama's precipitous withdrawal.

Because Trump understood that it's best to negotiate from a position of strength, he didn't slink away, but instead made the Taliban hurt.  He also didn't set artificial deadlines.  He made it clear that while he dislikes foreign wars, he was not going to destroy America's strength with another Vietnam-style drawdown.

Only when Trump had all the pieces in place, including cooperation with neighboring Arab states, did he invite the Taliban to the table.  On Friday, his efforts finally bore fruit when Pompeo released a statement that America and the Taliban would sign a reduction in violence agreement on February 29:

The United States and the Taliban have been engaged in extensive talks to facilitate a political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan, reduce United States and Allied Forces presence, and ensure that no terrorist group ever uses Afghan soil to threaten the United States or our allies.

In recent weeks, in consultation with the Government of National Unity, U.S. negotiators in Doha have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan. Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward. We are preparing for the signing to take place on February 29. Intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter, and will build on this fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan. The only way to achieve a sustainable peace in Afghanistan is for Afghans to come together and agree on the way forward.

Challenges remain, but the progress made in Doha provides hope and represents a real opportunity. The United States calls on all Afghans to seize this moment.

The United States thanks the State of Qatar and all other allies and partners for their support of peace in Afghanistan.

That last sentence spells out what's behind America's ability safely to withdraw its troops: Afghanistan's neighbors have agreed that they will be responsible for policing that state.

Trump kept his campaign promise, but he had the patience to wait until the right time.  That is one of the signs of a statesman rather than a politician.  It's also consistent with Trump's repudiation of the Wilson Doctrine.  Back in 1917, in order to justify getting America into World War I, Wilson explicitly said that it was America's responsibility to make "the world safe for democracy."  Bush's war in Iraq and Obama's bombing raids in Libya represented the last gasp of that doctrine.

Trump's "America First" doctrine, rather than being the imperialist nightmare Democrats imagine it to be, is actually the opposite: Trump said America's responsibility is first to herself.  She is no longer the world's policeman, although Trump understands that, in an interconnected world, America must be vigilant and form alliances — both of which we see playing out in Trump's approach to Afghanistan.

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