Charles Hurt: Promise Kept — Trump Drawing Down Troops in Afghanistan

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Presidential candidates won the past three elections by promising to end the longest war in American history. Only President Trump has taken concrete efforts to make good on that promise.

By Election Day, Mr. Trump wants to reduce American troops in Afghanistan to 8,600, down from 12,000.

The fact that his administration is tying that reduced number to Election Day audaciously highlights the simple fact that Mr. Trump aims to keep the promise he made back in 2016.

It is certainly true that the process will not be pretty and it will not be easy.

Otherwise, former President Barack Obama might have tried to keep the very same promise that got him elected. Twice. And earned him the Democratic nomination in the first place back in 2008 despite having zero experience running anything other than his mouth.

Unlike Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump faces a fierce headwind from the media.

“Can you imagine if it was President Obama instead of President Trump who offered this kind of deal with the Taliban to withdraw from Afghanistan?” the media hyperventilates today.

It is an utterly stupid question.

The problem with Mr. Obama was that nobody could be certain he had America’s interest at heart in the first place. That is how you wind up with the absurd deal he struck that gave Iran several billion dollars — hundreds of millions in pallets of cash from the U.S. — and a pathway to a nuclear bomb.

No one doubts Mr. Trump’s insistence about “America First”; Mr. Obama’s allies accuse Mr. Trump of being racist for putting America first.

Secondly, Mr. Obama was simply a dumb negotiator. That’s how he wound up breaking the law to release five hardened terrorists in exchange for a U.S. soldier who had been captured by Taliban after deserting his post in Afghanistan.

The main reason Mr. Obama was such a terrible negotiator is that he constantly operated from a point of weakness. As soon as he got elected, he traveled the globe, groveling the world over and apologizing for American power.

Mr. Trump believes in always negotiating from a point of strength. Last September, the Trump administration was on the cusp of reaching a deal with the Afghan government and the Taliban to reduce violence in exchange for talks about prisoner releases and a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

When the Taliban launched a series of attacks on the eve of those talks that killed dozens of Afghan citizens, Mr. Trump scrapped the whole deal and walked away. And then went right back to killing Taliban fighters.

That is how you operate from a point of strength.

Six months later, we are back at the bargaining table. The Taliban have demonstrated a reduction in violence. Afghan officials, meanwhile, are understandably queasy about releasing thousands of Taliban fighters in exchange for a continued reduction in violence.

There is no doubt that there are still problems and bloodshed to come for Afghanistan. Over the past 18 years, Afghanistan has seen little other than problems and bloodshed.

But those are problems and bloodshed that Afghanistan — not America — must resolve. Just ask American voters.

• Charles Hurt can be reached at or @charleshurt on Twitter.


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