A US military helicopter flies near the site of a massive explosion the night before near the Green Village in Kabul on September 3, 2019.
SEPTEMBER 18, 2019
On 18 September 2019, an organization backed by billionaire Charles Koch calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan. Americans for Prosperity and Concerned Veterans scheduled the start of a two-week advertising campaign designed to put pressure on Washington and on President Donald Trump’s to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, where the United States continues to fight its longest war in its history.https://americansforprosperity.org/americans-for-prosperity-and-concerned-veterans-for-america-launch-television-ad-campaign-to-end-endless-wars/
The President of Americans for Prosperity, Tim Phillips said. “President Trump is right to pursue his promise to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. We need to focus our foreign policy on what is necessary to keep America safe, prosperous and free.” American and foreign diplomats have spent almost a year in talks with Taliban leaders over what Afghanistan would look like if troops were to leave.
Under consideration was a withdrawal of 5,400 of the 14,000 U.S. military members currently there over the next five months and bring most conventional service members home around the time Trump faces re-election.
It appeared a deal was close, but earlier this month, Trump announced via Twitter that he was scrapping secret peace talks at Camp David with the Taliban, who had given safe haven to al-Qaeda ahead of its Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
President Trump announced via Twitter that he had canceled a secret meeting with Taliban leaders. The president said the meeting was canceled following an attack that killed a U.S. service member last week
President Trump announced over the weekend on twitter that secret discussions with Taliban and Afghanistan leaders at Camp David have been canceled.
The announcement, delivered on Twitter, astonished much of Washington and raised questions about the future of the U.S. in Afghanistan if the peace talks do not get back on track. But the fact that a Camp David session was in the works at all underscored Trump’s belief that he’s a master one-on-one negotiator and can strike great deals with even the toughest of U.S. enemies.
The Koch groups want to refocus the Trump administration on those talks’ potentials.
“A full and speedy withdrawal from Afghanistan is supported by a solid majority of veterans and military families, and it will allow the United States to refocus our resources on more pressing national security concerns,” Concerned Veterans for America executive director Nate Anderson said.
The pivot away from Koch-backed groups’ typical goals of lower taxes and fewer regulations offers yet another proof point that the network is easing away from the hard-nosed conservative politics and toward a more civic-minded posture that values compromise.
The shift away from partisan fights follows the retirement of David Koch, who was the more political of the pair of siblings known by the shorthand of “the Koch brothers.” David Koch died in August. Charles Koch’s tendencies tend to lean more cerebral and less overtly political. The brothers were no fans of Trump’s style but their groups worked with his administration on issues like criminal justice reform and tax cuts while disagreeing on others like trade and immigration. Ultimately, the network decided in 2020 to repeat 2016, when they did not use their organizations to help Trump’s presidential campaign.
Charles and David Koch were longtime backers of Mike Pompeo, a former member of Congress who represented the Wichita, Kans., district that Koch Industries calls home. Pompeo is the current U.S. Secretary of State and a leading negotiator of a withdrawal from Afghanistan. Pompeo is also considering moving back to Kansas to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Pat Roberts in a race that has the Koch orbit’s close attention.
The deal doesn’t ensure several crucial things, those familiar with the discussions tell TIME. It doesn’t guarantee the continued presence of U.S. counter terrorism forces to battle al Qaeda, the survival of the pro-U.S. government in Kabul, or even an end to the fighting in Afghanistan.
That may explain why Pompeo declined to put his name on the deal. The Taliban asked for Pompeo to sign an agreement with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the government founded by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1996, four U.S., Afghan and European officials familiar with the discussions tell TIME. Having the Secretary of State sign such a document would amount to de facto recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political entity, and he declined to do so, the Afghan officials say.
A major hurdle remains, however: the Taliban continue to refuse Khalilzad’s demand that a U.S. counterterrorism force would stay as long as a terrorist threat remains. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, has told international officials that if his mission is confined to hunting al-Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan fighters, he can do that with elite special operations units and close air support, according to Afghan and European officials.
The Taliban’s Pakistan-based Quetta Shura leadership, however, had given Baradar a deadline of one year for all U.S. forces, including counterterrorism and intelligence assets, to withdraw, a Taliban source briefed on a meeting of high-ranking Taliban officials tells TIME.
There are other hurdles to overcome. If a withdrawal began next month, a late November 2020 deadline would give the U.S. 14 months, not the 12 the Taliban has demanded, to complete it. Further, while the Taliban has agreed to guarantee that there will be no foreign fighters in the areas they control, they have not said they will repudiate al-Qaeda, as Khalilzad has demanded. And they have agreed to a ceasefire only with U.S. forces as they withdraw, not Afghan government troops.