United States President Donald Trump’s surprise trip to Afghanistan for Thanksgiving may have been an unexpected treat for the American troops stationed there, but for regional stakeholders it had been long overdue. Months away from the end of his first term, the US President has yet to fulfill his most prominent foreign policy agenda; bringing an end to the nearly two decade long military intervention in Afghanistan.
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This is not for a lack of trying. US officials immediately opened communication channels with the Taliban when Trump came to the White House. However, his bellicose, take it or leave it style of negotiation has further weakened the already weak US bargaining position. The Taliban have been fighting for 18 years, and by their estimation, they are finally starting to change the tide of the conflict in their favor. The battle-hardened militant in the mountains can eke out another two years the way they have for so long; it is the US military that is desperate to find an end to this expensive and dangerous invasion.
As such it is high time that it realizes that it cannot indulge in brinkmanship considering its precarious position.
Donald Trump’s visit seems to indicate that he, and the US administration, has finally arrived at the same conclusion. His tone was much more conciliatory and his assurance to the assembled troops that a peace deal is imminent indicates that trust building measures – such as the mutual release of held prisoners – have borne fruit.
It is hoped that US President sticks to his current stance this time. Pakistan and regional stakeholders – such as China, Iran and Russia – for their part should facilitate this renewed peace initiative with full vigor. Foreign policy concerns aside, on a humane level, it is time that this war be bought to an end and two decades of devastation can be reversed.