Trump’s bluster about “obliterating Iran” hides a fundamental truth: if he wants a deal with the Taliban (to pull 14000 troops out of Afghanistan) then he must be softer on Iran. It almost makes his ‘bluster’ idiotic (as Iran’s President pointed out recently).
Over 45,000 Afghan troops and countless civilians have died since 2014 (yes, the past 5 years) combating the Taliban! The two deaths bring the total number of US service members killed in Afghanistan in 2019 to nine. The US has had a military presence in Afghanistan since October 7, 2001, and since then, more than 2,000 US military personnel have been killed. This past week, 2 more US servicemen were killed in a fierce battle with the Taliban. The Trump administration desperately wants to withdraw most of its roughly 14,000 combat soldiers. It also wants to assure that Afghanistan does not become a new base for Al-Qaida and ISIS activity.
But it’s no secret, there is and has been cooperation between Iran and the Taliban. The Taliban are Iranian allies in helping the ‘regime in Tehran’ force the U.S. out of the region. This is a strategic goal for BOTH Tehran and the Taliban!
The involvement of Iran in Afghanistan is nothing new, but recently it has developed broad ties with the Taliban to build a defensive wall against possible ISIS attacks on its territory and to ensure the safety of the Shi’ite Hazara minority that lives in central Afghanistan near the Iranian border. The choice of Qatar to host the negotiations was made in consultation with Iran, after the Taliban refused to conduct the talks in Saudi Arabia, which is pressuring them to reconcile with the Afghan government. The cooperation between Iran and the Taliban confounds the theory of the Shi’ite axis that threatens the Middle East, since the Taliban are radical Sunnis while Iran is a Shi’ite state. It seems that on both sides, interests can overcome religious ideology.
So, until recently, Iran has been quietly working with the Taliban to establish a draft peace deal framework, to potentially ending an almost two-decade conflict, that would result in US troop withdrawal.
But it would be appropriate to hold one’s breath (as one analyst reported). Trump’s bluster and withdrawal from the JCPOA has made Iran deeply suspicious. While Iran is also motivated to ‘expel’ U.S. troops; it can also use its influence with the Taliban to retard this whole process.
You must ask yourself, if you are a neutral observer, can the U.S. be trusted to honor its part of any agreement? Could a new administration change its mind?
Mr. Pompeo was in Kabul recently and announced the imminent withdrawal of 7000 US troops. This is meant to send a direct signal to the Taliban that the US can be trusted to do its part – not just with words, but specific actions. But after making the announcement, he then delayed the withdrawal.
Everyone knows, this process is reversible. Only last week, the US decided to send 1000 more troops to Iraq (where the US also has an agreement to withdraw troops). Let’s not forget that the US landed literally 100,000 troops in the region after 2001 in a matter of months.
As one analyst correctly reported, an agreement is in fact a long way off. After nine rounds of meetings, besides the issue of US troops in Afghanistan, there are many issues that have not even been discussed such as Taliban’s involvement in the governance of the country.
Much like China, North Korea everyone is humoring the Trump administration, finding some way to maintain a truce, but nothing of substance will be signed with Trump. In Iran’s case, they are even refusing to talk to the Trump administration. Everyone is simply waiting for the moron to leave office in a year or so. No one trusts him or his administration. It’s all political theatre, without an underlying strategy or substance …. With a lot of influence from other capitals instead of deep, sage, insightful, and well thought out analysis. There is no consistency in policy or rhetoric.
If he wants to deal with the Taliban, North Korea or even China, he needs to hold true to U.S. agreement with Iran. Trump has so polarized the situation, that it’s virtually impossible for him to back track. And if he back tracks, can he be trusted?
By the time Trump figures this out, he will be out of office.