Conservative foreign policy expert Max Boot reacts to the newly announced “peace deal” with the Taliban in Afghanistan by pointing out that it isn’t actually a peace deal at all, just a deal to talk about a peace deal. It doesn’t even include a cease fire while those negotiations go on. He’s not optimistic about where this is likely to lead.
Taliban and U.S. representatives signed on Saturday what has been described as a peace deal. Beware the treachery of labels. Just as Magritte’s painted pipe was not really a pipe, so this vaunted “peace deal” is not really a peace deal.
It has been heartening to see a steep reduction in violence over the past week — a U.S. precondition for signing the deal — but there is no agreement on a permanent cease-fire, much less a resolution of all the issues that divide the democratically elected Afghan government from the Taliban. What was signed on Saturday is an agreement to try to reach an agreement. To get even this far, the United States had to drop its long-standing demand for intra-Afghan negotiations to precede a U.S. troop drawdown. Now the Taliban will enter the talks, scheduled to take place in Oslo, in a stronger position after having already achieved their chief demand — a timetable for U.S. withdrawal within 14 months.
Remember Trump blasting Obama for announcing the date we would withdraw from Iraq (a date actually required by the Status of Forces Agreement signed by Bush 41), saying our enemies would just wait until after we left and unleash their violent fury? Why doesn’t that apply here? Also recall that it was the Taliban that provided safe cover for Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to launch the 9/11 attack. Apparently that no longer matters.
Boot envisions three possible scenarios — good, bad and ugly. He considers ugly to be the most likely outcome:
The ugly scenario would look like South Vietnam. The 1973 Paris Peace Accords brought an end to the U.S. military presence in South Vietnam, but North Vietnam began violating its terms at once. Two years later, the weakened state of South Vietnam was overrun by a North Vietnamese blitzkrieg. America’s abandoned allies had to flee or be consigned to brutal “reeducation” camps.
If I had to bet now, I would say that the “ugly” scenario is the most likely and the “good” scenario the least likely. The “bad” scenario — with the Taliban dominating an ostensibly democratic government at gunpoint — is in the middle in terms of probability. How bad it would be depends on whether the Taliban would try to enforce their medieval mores on city dwellers, as they did in the 1990s, or whether, like Hezbollah, they would now tolerate different social systems in different parts of the country. The odds are they will be as brutal as ever — though they have promised to be more progressive in the future.
So, the greatest dealmaker in the history of dealmaking has made a deal that isn’t a deal at all and whose outcome is likely to be devastating for the people of Afghanistan. Brilliant.