By: Ken Hanly
Even though the Trump administration has not yet signed the peace deal with the Taliban on Afghanistan, there are signs that he will do so the most recent being a new interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Some US officials have been optimistic about a peace deal with the Taliban and reportedly a deal has been agreed upon in principle. It remains for Trump to sign off on the deal and also the Taliban’s Shura Council.
Pompeo takes a very positive view of the results of US intervention in Afghanistan saying in an interview recently: “If you go back and look at the days following 9/11, the objectives set out were pretty clear: to go defeat al-Qaeda, the group that had launched the attack on the United States of America from Afghanistan. And today, al-Qaeda … doesn’t even amount to a shadow of its former self in Afghanistan,” Pompeo told The Daily Signal in an exclusive interview. We have delivered.”
Pompeo said that the US Afghan operation had been a real achievement in that it had greatly reduced the risk of an attack on the US originating from Afghanistan. Pompeo argued that al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is just a shadow of its former self and defeated in Afghanistan.
US narrative shows shifting goals in Afghanistan
America and allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 not long after the September 9/11 terrorist attacks. While the original goal was toppling the Taliban regime and bringing Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to justice, the situation quickly changed. The Taliban mounted a strenuous struggle against the US and the Afghan government that has kept the US in a counterinsurgency campaign lasting about 18 years now. The US has not defeated the Taliban insurgency at all. Quite the opposite.
Taliban stronger than ever
A recent article notes: “The Taliban has been gaining territory and is now stronger than ever since the start of the war. Its manpower has also been expanding. Estimates given by US officials have risen from 20,000 fighters a few years ago to 60,000 in 2018. “
Even the new US estimate is claimed to be far too low by Dr. Antonio Giustozzi of Kings College London who has done several research projects on the Taliban and is writing a book on them. Giustozzi estimates the Taliban has about 150,000 fighters of which 60,000 are full time while the rest are part-time local militia and reserves in Pakistan.
US changes the narrative to portray a positive result
Instead of admitting that the US has in effect lost the war with the Taliban in a costly 18 year struggle, Pompeo ignores this and instead portrays the war as a great victory over Al Qaeda that has made the US much safer. This narrative makes the peace deal that will include a phased US withdrawal sound much more palatable and could go over well with the US public. However, hawks within the Trump administration may do their best to sabotage the agreement. No doubt there will be a split within the administration as well as within Congress members about the agreement.