Diplomats worry Trump’s desire to withdraw US troops risks success of Afghan-Taliban talks

“The long-term success of a peace process, which will take a tremendous amount of time and effort once the parties come to the negotiating table, is at odds with short term political win for the Trump administration,” mentioned a State Department official.

Current and former nationwide safety officers say that the Trump administration kickstarted the peace course of basically, together with the intra-Afghan negotiations, as a result of most Americans agree that it’s time for the US to withdraw from the nation. A peace course of involving the Taliban is seen by many as the one means to accomplish that objective.

The intra-Afghan negotiations are a significant step for the nation which has been mired in a lethal battle for nearly 20 years.

But peace processes take time and specialists say it is extremely unlikely the method can be concluded earlier than early November.

“It is preposterous to think that there will be something that they can label a victory less than two months from now,” mentioned a former State Department official. “And I am also fearful about the improvisational planning on behalf of US heading into the intra-Afghan negotiations.”

Talks ‘are a primary step’

An Afghan authorities official mentioned the talks “are a first step” however mentioned “there must be continued support and commitment to keeping the security architecture, the institutions the civil service systems … in order to ensure that what is being discussed could be implemented and monitored.”

Other former officers who’ve labored in Afghanistan expressed optimism in regards to the talks on the entire — however careworn that the method can’t be sped up to meet Trump’s marketing campaign agenda.

“There are historical examples where the positions of the negotiating parties over time turns into something where areas of convergence starts to become clear. Two sides which appear to be very far apart at the beginning can find themselves having fleshed out areas in which they truly can live and work together,” mentioned Annie Pforzheimer, a former deputy chief of mission on the US Embassy in Kabul final yr and now a senior non-resident affiliate on the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “People should not push a peace process into some kind of early conclusion.”

Trump, who has been blunt about his desire to finish the battle and pull out all US troops since he was a candidate, didn’t put any time constraints on the negotiations when he introduced them on Thursday. He described the talks as “the result of a bold diplomatic effort,” which concerned rounds of talks between the Taliban and US officers.

The Trump administration introduced plans for an additional US troop drawdown in Afghanistan this week, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying the troop degree would hit 4,500 by late fall. This announcement lower than two months earlier than election day is seen by present and former nationwide safety officers as an effort to fulfill Trump’s marketing campaign promise of bringing house troops from Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who arrives in Doha for the opening of the talks this weekend, rejected the suggestion that the drawdown is expounded to election-year politics in an interview this week.

“I don’t know what they’re talking about in terms of politics,” Pompeo informed Fox News. “This has always been about delivering counterterrorism, protecting America, and reducing the cost both in blood and treasure to the American public.”

Some concern {that a} additional discount of US troops — from about 8,600 to about 4,500 in a transfer that has been mentioned by the administration over the previous few months, as reported by CNN — may benefit the Taliban within the intra-Afghan negotiations.

“Withdrawing more US forces right now is the single biggest factor that will undermine the peace process. Why would the Taliban seriously negotiate on anything when all political signals from Washington are that the US is going to leave, no matter how the negotiations turn out?” mentioned Seth Jones, an knowledgeable at CSIS and a former adviser to US Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan.

The Afghan official who spoke to CNN appeared to specific some concern about US troops being withdrawn through the negotiations, noting that the talks had been simply a place to begin.

“The drawdown, the way I see it, it has two sides. One side is that it might be further encouraging for the Taliban to say that we are very committed to the, to the agreement that was made with the Taliban and the drawdown is happening and it’s phased as was expected,” the official informed CNN. “On the other hand, it is also a signal for a group who is continuously using violence as an instrument and is only responding to force,” they added.

When requested in regards to the considerations, Pompeo mentioned he believes “the Taliban has every incentive to get this right,” when he spoke to reporters throughout his flight to Doha for the opening of the peace talks.

Behind the scenes scramble

The looming deadline of the US election has additionally impacted the behind the scenes techniques of high US Taliban negotiator, Zalmay Khalilizad, as he sought to pace up the method of releasing Taliban prisoners by the Afghan authorities, sources defined to CNN.

The prisoner launch difficulty has been a significant sticking level stopping the beginning of the intra-Afghan negotiations — which had been supposed to start six months in the past, in accordance to the US-Taliban settlement which was signed in February. Australia and France have publicly objected to the discharge of sure Taliban prisoners, due to assaults they carried out which killed worldwide troops in Afghanistan.

At one level in latest months Khalilzad recommended that the Afghan authorities launch the Taliban prisoners after the US election, in accordance to two sources acquainted with his suggestion. The hope was to sweep the obstacle underneath the rug for now, the sources defined.

The concept was rejected by the gamers concerned, but the proposal itself demonstrates the lengths to which the highest Trump administration negotiator has been prepared to go so as to hustle the method alongside, in hopes of making a narrative of victory earlier than Trump faces re-election.

Trump administration finalizing plan to withdraw 4,000 troops from Afghanistan

Those who’re watching the method carefully say Khalilzad has utilized a really improvisational method to the negotiations with the Afghan authorities and the Taliban during the last two years. The free-wheeling method is a pure attribute of his, notably as a result of he has been concerned on this house for many years and is aware of most of the gamers personally, however it is usually a product of him being underneath monumental stress to ship outcomes to Trump.

“I don’t think the sense of urgency and the hope for quick negotiations were really coming from Khalilzad or the negotiating team but were coming from the White House. It was the constraint the negotiators have been under. A quick turnaround on the negotiations will serve a political purpose because the election is coming up,” mentioned Jones.

Some who labored with Khalilizad voiced help for his method and reiterated the unimaginable mission he was given due to Trumps’ insistence on getting America out of the nation.

“For the time I observed him directly he was realist working with a nearly untenable set of parameters,” mentioned a second former State Department official who labored with him lately.

CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.

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