Trump's Taliban decision was smart – He's showing leadership where Obama failed

September 9, 2019
Op-eds
Published on Fox.com Sept. 9, 2019

President Trump made the right call this weekend when he decided to call off peace talks in Afghanistan. For months, the Taliban has assured the State Department it will promote “peace” and will no longer be a haven for terrorists. That couldn’t be further from the truth – and current events have made that abundantly clear.

Just last week, the Taliban committed a suicide bombing that killed at least 16 civilians and wounded 119 people, with a U.S. soldier among these casualties. In July, the Taliban killed four Afghan security forces and a U.S. service member at a hotel.

All these attacks have occurred as the Taliban sat at the negotiating table and promised peace but refused to enter into a nation-wide cease-fire.

I understand the desire to get out of Afghanistan. No one wants peace more than the veterans like me who have lived these wars, fought them and lost fellow soldiers and friends on the battlefield.

I know this feeling firsthand.

Last month marked the 10-year anniversary of the death of Green Beret Brian Woods, my unit’s first soldier killed in action in Afghanistan.

As his commander, he was my responsibility. Every day, I think of Brian – and because of losses like these, I share in America’s frustration that the war in Afghanistan has been long, costly and painful.

This frustration has led to a misguided notion growing within American politics that U.S. military presence throughout the Middle East is no longer necessary – that we should simply bring our soldiers home under the best terms we can get and let regional actors handle these conflicts themselves.

Unfortunately, the belief that U.S. military presence throughout the Middle East is no longer necessary – that we should simply bring our soldiers home under the best terms we can get and let regional actors handle these conflicts themselves – is erroneous.

We saw this misguided belief play out in Iraq, when Obama withdrew troops too hastily, leaving Iraq to fend for itself as al-Qaeda morphed into ISIS, terrorized Europe and inspired attacks across the United States.

We cannot afford to do the same in Afghanistan. The stakes there are far higher.

Not only could terrorism run rampant in Afghanistan but this agreement also doesn’t address the hotbed of terrorism on the other side of the border in Pakistan.

The deal stops at Afghanistan’s border, leaving Al Qaeda and others free to plot and plan in Pakistan.

If Afghanistan slides back into chaos and civil war it will drag Pakistan down with it, with five times the population and the potential for loose nuclear weapons. More foreign-based terrorist organizations operate along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border than any other region in the world, making it incredibly difficult for the Taliban to prevent terrorists from operating.

The 227,000-man Afghan National Army, the American military and its NATO allies all have struggled with this. And with a drawdown of U.S. troops, there will be even fewer assets to monitor and verify that the Taliban is upholding their end of the bargain — that is until it’s too late.

More concerning is the Afghan National Government’s exclusion from these negotiations. By not giving the Afghan Government a place at the table, we’ve totally undercut its legitimacy, doing so on the eve of Afghanistan’s presidential elections.

These elections – already difficult to pull off during a war – are sure to be contested. And without a strong American backing of the democratic process, the fragile Afghan society will slide toward civil war.

If President Trump does come back to the table, I hope he maintains the conditions-based strategy announced nearly two years ago to keep the terrorists on their back foot and continue to build the Afghan National Army over the long term until it can secure Afghanistan on its own.

Instead of bringing peace to Afghanistan, this deal would have risked making the situation in Afghanistan far worse – and its impacts could have catastrophic effects not only for the country but for the world.

President Trump was smart to cancel peace talks with the Taliban. He is holding the Taliban’s feet to the fire. He is leading in foreign policy where his predecessor failed.

If President Trump does come back to the table, I hope he maintains the conditions-based strategy announced nearly two years ago to keep the terrorists on their back foot and continue to build the Afghan National Army over the long term until it can secure Afghanistan on its own.

Instead of bringing peace to Afghanistan, this deal would have risked making the situation in Afghanistan far worse – and its impacts could have catastrophic effects not only for the country but for the world.

President Trump was smart to cancel peace talks with the Taliban. He is holding the Taliban’s feet to the fire. He is leading in foreign policy where his predecessor failed.

We must continue to keep America first and prevent another 9/11 by staying on offense.

We owe it to all the soldiers like Brian who made the ultimate sacrifices on behalf of this mission. This is our responsibility – for the safety of the American people and the world.

 

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/rep-michael-waltz-trump-taliban-leadership-obama-failed