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Archive for September, 2019

One cheer for Trump?

We can all feel a bit safer now that John Bolton has been fired. Trump did the right thing in getting rid of the belligerent war monger, but of course one has to ask why he hired such a maniac in the first place. It’s not like Bolton’s extreme views were a secret. Just a few months before his appointment last year he had published an op ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for the overthrow of the Iran government and had urged action to end the regime in North Korea.

The firing of Bolton was probably Trump’s way of diverting attention from his latest high pro-life diplomatic disaster, the collapse of negotiations with the Taliban. After months of talks to reach an initial agreement, the deal collapsed when the White House proposed to bring Taliban leaders and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani together at Camp David. Trump’s gambit for a dramatic high-level photo op at the famous presidential retreat failed miserably.

Not that the deal being negotiated was much to cheer about. From what is known about the draft text, it was certainly not a ‘peace agreement’. The deal was merely an understanding between the U.S. military and the Taliban for American troops to start withdrawing, in exchange for unspecified Taliban assurances that Afghan territory would not be used to launch terror attacks against the U.S. It reportedly included “localized truces” but no cease fire, and had no clear pathway for engaging the Kabul government or assuring the involvement of civil society.

But the talks with the Taliban were at least a beginning, and could serve as a future foundation for broader and deeper dialogue to end the killing and negotiate an eventual power-sharing formula. Trump said the talks are dead, but hopefully the dialogue can resume in the months ahead and evolve into a genuine peace process. That may be easier now that Bolton is out of the picture.

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