Security, Middle East
Using U.S. leverage to craft an Afghan settlement demands incredible deftness in both Washington and Kabul.
Now or Never: America is on the Clock to Remove Troops from Afghanistan
Afghanistan has entered a period of intense political uncertainty. In December, President Donald Trump reportedly ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for drawdown options including a complete troop withdrawal from the country. By March, bilateral talks between the United States, led by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Taliban had “agreed in draft” on counterterrorism assurances the Taliban will provide to the United States and on U.S. troop withdrawal, addressing Washington’s key objectives. Kabul is not at the table, and its needs (an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire) were much more loosely “agreed in principle.” An informal intra-Afghan dialogue planned for Doha in April was canceled, and a Loya Jirga to demonstrate non-Taliban unity in Kabul instead laid bare deep divisions, with most opposition leaders refusing to attend.