USA-Afghanistan: an explosive file for Donald Trump

Christian Malard (*)

On September 7th, after a series of attacks perpetrated by Talibans against Afghan population and authorities, not to mention the 14 000 American soldiers stationed in the country, American President, Donald Trump, in one of his famous tweets, decided to put an end to a year of talks with the Talibans. Talks that were supposed to terminate an 18-year-old conflict.

One question is now left: could these negotiations, that the United States were conducting with the Talibans, have lead to lasting peace and a real sharing of power between Talibans and Afghan authorities?  Or should Afghans again experience a harder conflict, with a return to the Talibanization of the country?

How can we believe the Talibans, who continue to carry out attacks, when they say they are ready to resume the so-called peace negotiations with the United States?  They always believed they were in a position of strength to put pressure on Donald Trump. They however never demonstrated that they were committed to peace. They always refused a durable ceasefire agreement, negotiated with President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which they consider to be a puppet of the United States.

The Talibans already control nearly 50% of the country’s 400 districts. It would undoubtedly be foolish and irresponsible to trust this Islamist movement, which is amongst the most violent and obscurantist. It is not surprising, in this context, that some of Donald Trump’s advisers and prominent members of Congress remind the President of the major mistake made in 2011 by his predecessor, Barack Obama, who prematurely withdrew American troops from Iraq and abandoned Iraqi troops that were not ready for combat. As a result, three years later, in 2014, Daech controlled Mossul, one of the country’s main cities.

Today, the aim of the Talibans is to overthrow the current regime and once again become the country’s main force by establishing an Islamic theocratic emirate. How can Donald Trump and Americans be so naive as to believe that the Talibans will prevent al-Qaida and Daech from using Afghanistan as a springboard to attack Western interests in the region?

Recently, a Taliban delegation, which included the political and armed wings of the organization, was received in Tehran by the Revolutionary Guards, who supported it in leading the war against US Forces on Afghan soil.

Last year, Ali Shamkhani, head of the Iranian Supreme Security Council, already visited Kabul and assured the Talibans of the Mullahs’ regime’s support. The common goal of Talibans and Iranians is to drive out the 14 000 American soldiers still stationed on Afghan soil.

Today, Donald Trump is faced with two choices: either withdrawing his 14 000 men and leaving the field open to the Talibans. The country could therefore again face the horrors of civil war. And the region would further be destabilized. Or he decides to maintain his troops in Afghanistan, with the risk of heavy casualties. This, happening a few months before 2020’s presidential election, could be extremely damaging to him.

* International policy expert and diplomatic consultant.