Donald Trump was going for a long shot (his specialty) — face-to-face Taliban talks to end the Afghan War that began 18 years ago next month, weeks after 9/11. It didn’t happen. But he wasn’t wrong to try.
Direct negotiations with the Taliban and the Afghan government have been going on for some time — U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has just finished the ninth round of discussions. Perhaps the Camp David summit (even horridly timed with the 9/11 anniversary) was to get a final agreement signed.
That Trump prizes his self-perceived skill as the ultimate deal closer isn’t novel. He has attempted it with North Korea on their weapons programs and China on their trade policy, both without success, and is open to other one-on-ones. If it ever works, he’d be deserving of the Nobel.
Taking such big risks is his style. It allowed him to astoundingly win the White House. However the high chance of failure is exactly why others don’t try such gambits.
The president’s surprising Saturday night tweets canceling the parley blamed the Taliban for the death of Sgt. 1st Class Elis Barreto Ortiz. The 82nd Airborne paratrooper was killed Thursday in Kabul, along with 11 others in a Taliban IED attack. His death is mourned by the nation, but his sacrifice and that of thousands of other Americans in this war must not end the search for peace that will bring our troops home, leave the government of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani secure and prevent the rise of any international terror threat.
The 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, augmented by our NATO allies, serving in Operation Freedom’s Sentinel cannot depart the country without a peace plan. The conflict in Afghanistan, initially called Operation Enduring Freedom, was a just war, brought on by the Taliban’s alliance with Al Qaeda.
Eighteen years ago Americans didn’t know or care about Afghanistan, as Osama Bin Laden planned his evil plot there. We have learned with blood, on the streets of New York and in the Afghan mountains, that what happens there does matter a great deal.