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Opinion: Trump's war games 

LowDown

click to enlarge The president tried to save face with negotiations to end war with the Taliban. - ARMY MASTER SGT. ALEJANDRO LICEA
  • Army Master Sgt. Alejandro Licea
  • The president tried to save face with negotiations to end war with the Taliban.

It’s over. On Feb. 29, Donald the Dealmaker grandly announced that he had negotiated an end to America’s long nightmare in Afghanistan, finally terminating 18-plus years of grinding war — the longest in U.S. history.

Only… he hasn’t. His “deal” with a group of Taliban officials is just a cynical, face-saving device to withdraw a few troops so Trump can claim in his re-election campaign that he’s fulfilling his 2016 promise to “end endless wars.” The deal is so weak that Trump’s own secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, could muster nothing but weasel words to describe it: “We are now on the cusp of having an opportunity [for peace] which may not succeed,” he mumbled.

The hiatus in hostilities was violated just three days after it was signed. On March 3, the Taliban mounted 43 attacks on security checkpoints run by the U.S.-backed Afghan military, killing at least 25 of our allied soldiers.

What happened is that poor Donald is simply in over his head in dealing with the complex and perplexing collection of regional warlords who make up the Taliban’s fierce and treacherous fighting force. Indeed, just hours before his peace accord blew up in his face, Trump bragged that he had talked personally with “the leader of the Taliban” and been assured that they wanted peace. Our wheeler-dealer-in-chief called it “a very good talk.”
But it turns out that the guy our president called was not the leader of that fractious group of warriors, but a career Taliban politician who had long ago had a falling out with the warlords.
As the CIA’s former chief of counterterrorism could have told Trump, if asked, the contingent of dealmakers he was talking to “are largely disconnected from and disrespected by the Taliban’s senior leadership.” But, as we’ve learned, it’s not this president’s style to listen to people smarter and more knowledgeable than he is. So that’s why his peace deal lasted three days.

Far from withdrawing from Afghanistan, Trump’s hoked-up agreement actually extends U.S. entanglement by specifically committing our troops and taxpayers to keep backing and financing the weak Afghan military indefinitely — while also pledging to continue paying for and propping up this wobbly nation’s notoriously corrupt, deeply divided and hopelessly incompetent government.

The larger lesson, though, is that brute military force by an outside power — whether in Afghanistan, Vietnam or wherever next — is not a path to victory, much less peace. For years, even as Bush, Obama, Trump and their political enablers were bragging that they were bringing democracy to Afghanistan, they were outright lying. As one strategic Army planner has now admitted: “We didn’t know what we were doing.”

Tell that to the thousands who’ve died from the ignorance and lies of our so-called leaders.

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