Trump caves to Pakistan on Afghanistan

During a meeting today with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Donald Trump said that the US is working closely with Pakistan “to extricate ourselves” from Afghanistan. Trump’s acquiescence to Pakistan, which has backed the Taliban’s deadly insurgency in Afghanistan, occurs less than two years after he accused Pakistan of providing “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror” and said Pakistan returned billions of dollars in US aid with “nothing but lies & deceit.”

While the reporting on today’s meeting between Trump and Khan focused on Trump’s not-so-veiled-threat to lay waste to Afghanistan as an option to defeat the Taliban, the real story is that he has let Pakistan off the hook for its support of the Taliban.

“So we’re working with Pakistan and others to extricate ourselves – nor do we want to be policemen, because basically we’re policemen right now. And we’re not supposed to be policemen,” Trump said during his meeting with Khan today, Task & Purpose reported.

“We’ve been there for 19 years in Afghanistan. It’s ridiculous. And I think Pakistan helps us with that because we don’t want to stay as policemen,” Trump continued.

Trump’s comments are dramatically different than his belligerent stand which he took in his Aug. 2017 speech and a later tweet in Jan. 2018.

In the Aug. 2017 speech, Trump noted that “20 US-designated foreign terrorist organizations” are currently active in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and said that Pakistan “often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.”

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” Trump continued.

He attacked Pakistan for “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting” and harboring “militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials,” even as the Pakistani government received American aid.

A little over four months later, in a famous tweet on New Year’s Day 2018, Trump lashed out at Pakistan for its “lies & deceit.”

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!,” Trump proclaimed.

Eighteen months later, Trump is fêting Pakistan’s prime minister in Washington, DC and treating the country as a partner that can be trusted to help end the war in Afghanistan.

Trump is commending Pakistan despite the most recent Country Reports on Terrorism, which notes that Pakistan continues to provide safe haven and support for the Taliban and the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network. The Haqqani Network is a powerful faction that is an integral part of the Taliban; its leader serves as one of two deputy Taliban emirs as well as its military commander.

“The Pakistani government pledged support to political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban but did not restrict the Afghan Taliban and HQN [Haqqani Network] from operating in Pakistan-based safe havens and threatening U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan,” the report noted.

Trump has signaled that he seeks to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan to put an end to the “endless war” during his 2019 State of the Union address, and has made additional comments about his desire to leave several times since. It appears as though Trump is willing to deal with Pakistan, which he accused of perfidy just 18 months ago, to accomplish this goal.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Carl says:

    South Vietnam. Cambodia. Laos. The Kurds. The people of southern Iraq in the 90s. Now Afghanistan. That’s six nations we’ve betrayed in my lifetime. Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of dead because of it. Tens of millions suffer for generations. And all of our men dead and wounded.

    What price glory? Who knows? We do know what shame costs.

  • Bob Clarke says:

    Sad to see this reversal by Trump — he wants to get out as badly as Obama did in Iraq — with disastrous consequences as payment for a one day headline in the US mainstream media.
    Watch the bloodbath when the Talib come to town…

  • Pat says:

    This is the PERFECT EXAMPLE of US blindness of his approach and dealing with muslim threat. Partnering with Qatar, Saudis, the chief radical islam and jihadis funders around the world, with a double gamer and master chief deceiver Pakistan !

    What a pathetic stupidness and cowardness !

    But remember that with such attitude your security and that of free world is at risk. A very very heavy risk ! UNBELIEVABLE, UNBELIEVABLE

  • T Taylor says:

    So you don’t think it’s possible that conditions on the ground in Af/Pak haven’t changed after two years of US pressure?

  • V Kumar says:

    The point is well taken, but the indians could also give a helping hand militarily if America could guarantee a supply line path. A 100,000 indian troops could easily tilt the balance against the Taliban.

  • Dennis says:

    As unhappy as this outcome has been, it is difficult to see who lost their motivation, the American people or it’s government. Long term conflicts, wars, can’t be carried out by constantly changing administrations and political leanings. Changing course every four years with different minded commanders is confusing to allies who are here for the duration. Their is really only one way to “win” this. No one seems to want to do it. In that case, leave.

  • Jon Davies says:

    Any views on why Trump has changed his mind? Has he just accepted that he can save money as current policy is not achieving anything anyway, so why not try something different?

  • Steve says:

    It would be a mistake of epic proportions to leave Afghanistan where Afghanistan would revert to worse than pre-911 conditions and Taliban would end up in control not just partial they had pre 911.. I can’t believe leaving is even under consideration let alone being implemented. It’s actually a mistake to not support and nurture the Afghan Army and Police more with training, logistics, close air support, etc but it seems America and NATO all but given up this fight years ago and are whining about 18 years commitment, forgetting we are still in Germany and Japan to keep the peace.

  • KW64 says:

    When Obama wanted to win the 2013 election, he pulled out of Iraq and prematurely declared victory followed by a ISIS offensive there n 2014. Trump also wants to win election and a fig leaf peace agreement in Afghanistan might seem helpful; however, this time, I predict the wait for the attempt to seize the entire country will not wait three years.

  • Whisky in the Jar says:

    It is past time for the US to vamoose from Afghanistan. It’s finally going to happen, not from any grand plan of course. It will happen because the shot callers for US foreign policy now, Bolton, Abrams, Pompeo, et. al. have no interest in Afghanistan. The WH is fixated on Iran and Venezuela although Venezuela seems to have failed. Pakistan doesn’t care if the jihadis continue to fight it out in Afghanistan, they’re not invading Pakistan. India is the main focus of Pakistan as they are still fighting a low level regional border conflict.


    Don’t take Trump Literally or even seriously when it comes to Pakistan. Watch his actions. No funds were given to fight terrorism to Pakistan which it badly wants. Two Billions a year may not be much for us but to Pakistan it is the differnece like between starving and eating to a full stomach.


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