According to journalists who have read leaked copies of President Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s new book, Bolton says the president’s first priority in foreign relations is his own reelection. Bolton says he witnessed the president offering to do important favors for such tyrants as Xi Jinping of China and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in exchange for moves to boost his own chances in November.
In Afghanistan, pressure from President Trump to fulfill his 2016 campaign promise and remove all American troops from the country has been well documented. According to America’s agreement with the Taliban, American forces are to be gone by next May, but Trump has made it clear, he’d like the withdrawal to be complete before Election Day. But that depends on several conditions, including the Taliban breaking all ties to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
A recent report by United Nations’ investigators says, in reality, Taliban connections to Al Qaeda “remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy and intermarriage.”
America’s top negotiator with the Taliban, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, told the Washington Post, the United Nations report may be out of date. “We believe that there is progress,” he said. “They have taken some steps,” he said, without naming any of them. Then, he added, “They have to take a lot more steps.”
Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of the U.S. Central Command, doesn’t go into details, but he does flatly state, the Taliban have not met the requirements needed to validate a complete withdrawal of American ground forces.
And, again, without providing any details, General McKenzie hints that he and other military commanders dissent from Trump’s desire for a quick pullout. And they aren’t the only dissenters. Gen. McKenzie told the Associated Press the Trump administration is engaged in “very robust dialogue” internally and with NATO and coalition partners “as we evaluate the way forward” in Afghanistan.
Like Trump’s announced cutbacks of American forces in Germany, the presidential promises are unlikely to be fulfilled before November…and unless he is reelected…may not occur at all.
So how does all this play in Afghanistan? What do Afghans think about Mr. Trump’s lust for a quick U.S. exit? Do they believe they have a chance at peace?
Ilias Alami is an Afghan journalist, preparing a new online news venture called Kabuul Insider. He was the Operations Manager of Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC), which he helped to found. Throughout his career in AJSC, Ilias Alami has developed and led many campaigns to end violence against journalists, promoting good and balanced journalism and ending impunity against crimes against journalists in Afghanistan. Alami started the research and analysis section of AJSC in 2013 that has constantly monitored and produced in-depth analysis and repots on the overall situation of freedom of expression, media and violence against journalists. Ilias has also been a keen advocate of building the capacity of journalists in different fields of personal safety, digital security and the use of new and online media. He has also developed several training manuals on the topics and have conducted numerous training around the country.
Ilias Alami holds a Bachelors of Arts in Political Sciences and Public Administration from American University of Afghanistan. He was a Seeds of Peace GATHER 2016 fellow. He also participated in Afghan Voices, a one-year journalism program in 2010 in which one of his instructors was Dave Marash who is very proud of his former student.