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How Not to Leave Afghanistan

After nearly two decades, the United States may at long last extricate itself from Afghanistan, after signing a peace accord with the Taliban. But will the Taliban abide by the agreement, or is US President Donald Trump's deal akin to the "peace with honor" by which America doomed South Vietnam a half-century ago?

NEW YORK – After nearly two decades, 2,400 soldiers killed, another 20,000 wounded, and as much as $2 trillion spent, the United States is understandably eager to withdraw from Afghanistan. President Donald Trump wants to be able to claim in advance of the November 2020 election that he fulfilled his campaign promise to end the country’s longest war, and his Democratic challengers share his desire to extricate the US from the conflict.

Toward that end, following a one-week period of relative calm, the US and the Taliban – the “students” whose Sunni fundamentalist political and military movement has been fighting for power or ruling Afghanistan for a quarter-century – signed an accord. One imagines it took as much time to settle on what to call the pact as on any of its provisions: it is the “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America.”

As the accord’s name suggests, the government of Afghanistan is not a party to it, although the agreement does call for a political dialogue between the government and the Taliban to start by March 10. The agenda for this intra-Afghan dialogue includes arranging for a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire as well as “the completion and agreement over the future political roadmap” of the country. No details about a roadmap are set forth.