On November 28th, US President Donald Trump made a surprise Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan to greet and give a speech to the US troops stationed there.
He furthermore met Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, and spoke alongside him at the Bagram Airfield.
The entire trip was shrouded in secrecy, and there were absolutely no information leaks prior to the 13-hour flight to the war zone in Afghanistan.
12 reporters that were allowed to reflect the visit were taken from the roof of a parking garage near Joint Base Andrews, outside of Washington. The journalists were barred from reporting on the trip until just before they and Trump began travelling back to the US. For three hours the journalists watched the US President serve Turkey in a cafeteria, pose for photos and deliver remarks in a hangar to 1,500 military personnel.
This marked Trump’s first visit to Afghanistan and he pledged that he would be resuming ceasefire discussions with the Taliban.
“The Taliban wants to make a deal — we’ll see if they make a deal,” he said during brief remarks to reporters following his meeting with Ashraf Ghani. “If they do they do, and if they don’t they don’t. That’s fine.”
He did also admit that a victory against the Taliban was unlikely and striking a deal was the best option.
“We’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal or we have total victory, and they want to make a deal very badly,” Trump said.
Trump, further admitted that the war “will not be decided on the battlefield.” Instead, he said, “ultimately there will need to be a political solution,” one that will be “decided by the people of the region.”
“As you know,” Trump said, “for a period of time we’ve been working to make a deal. We’ve made tremendous progress over the last six months. We’ve made tremendous progress and at the same time we’ve been drawing down our troops.”
The talks with the Taliban were making stable progress, before they came to a standstill in September. Plans to host the Taliban at Camp David, in Maryland, fell apart after the death of a US soldier, allegedly killed by the group. Sgt Elis A Barreto Ortiz, 34, who was killed in a suicide bomb attack in September, shortly before Trump ended talks.
Trump said talks had been “close” to a deal but “we pulled back because of what they did. It was not a good thing they did with killing the soldier. An American soldier, from Puerto Rico.”
“We’re saying it has to be a ceasefire and they didn’t want to do a ceasefire and now they do want to do a ceasefire,” Trump said. “I believe it’ll probably work out that way.”
Trump also repeated calls to reduce US presence in Afghanistan to 8,600 troops, which means an approximately 5,000 personnel reduction.
Both sides underscored that if the Taliban are sincere in their commitment to reaching a peace deal, they must accept a ceasefire. We also emphasized that for any peace to last, terrorist safe havens outside Afghanistan must be dismantled.
— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) November 28, 2019
Currently, the situation in Afghanistan for the US is not between winning the fight against the Taliban or striking a deal, but rather between losing and finding a political solution.
The Taliban’s principal demand to the US and Co. is that all foreign troops depart from Afghanistan, and while the withdrawal is a move in that direction, there would still be thousands of US and NATO troops present in the country. In such a situation, it is unlikely that the Taliban would agree to any lengthy ceasefire or a peace deal.
Trump repeatedly declared a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and promised reducing the nearly 14,000-strong U.S. military contingent in Afghanistan. On both fronts there’s clearly been not so much progress.
So, despite Trump’s rhetoric that he wants withdrawals from the Middle East, for now, it all remains empty rhetoric that will not lead to anything conclusive in Afghanistan, since defeating the Taliban, in the current situation is unlikely.
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