Trump boosts Afghan peace talks, citing cost of America’s ‘endless wars’

Trump boosts Afghan peace talks, citing cost of America’s ‘endless wars’

By Luke Vargas   
Published
U.S. soldiers and soldiers from the Czech Army conduct a patrol in eastern Afghanistan. July 25, 2018. Courtesy: Staff Sgt. Lerone Simmons / U.S. Army

President Trump used his State of the Union address to decry a purported $7 trillion spent waging wars in the Middle East.

UNITED NATIONS – President Trump made it clear in his State of the Union address  Tuesday that he’s taking a new approach to evaluating America’s foreign wars.

Citing the “more than $7 trillion” spent on recent military campaigns in the Middle East he argued that, “great nations do not fight endless wars.”

“I did find it notable that he tied this idea of endless wars or foolish wars to the strength of the economy here in the U.S.”

Elizabeth Threlkeld is the deputy director of the South Asia Program at the Stimson Center.

“I think that does give a sense of the lens through which he views the wars or his messaging on the wars.”

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Though he cited campaigns in Iraq and Syria, Trump’s primary focus was on the Afghanistan, which recently became the longest war in American history.

After spending his first 18 months in office to focus on the fight in Afghanistan, Trump shifted tone dramatically last fall and began to focus on talks with the Taliban to bring the war to a close.

“Our troops have fought with unmatched valor and thanks to their bravery we are now able to pursue a possible political solution to this long and bloody conflict.”

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Laurel Miller is the Asia Director at the International Crisis Group and disagrees with that assessment, saying that far from being bombed into submissions, the Taliban is talking because Trump wants out of Afghanistan and is willing to discuss the terms of that withdrawal upfront, instead of saving that for last.

He’s also agreed to talks without first insisting the Afghan government gets a seat at the table, a formerly rigid American precondition.

“There is cost in the negotiating dynamic to be giving the Taliban a process win here, and there’s cost in terms of further eroding the appearance of legitimacy and the hold on power of the Afghan government, but there is definitely an argument that you can make that the cost is worth it in order to get a peace process jump-started.”

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