Afghanistan Impasse and Elections in the USA

At the end of November 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump made an unexpected visit to Afghanistan. This was his first visit to the country as president. He met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and during the talks Trump made it clear that the US had resumed peace talks with the Taliban (banned in Russian Federation). At first, the US-Taliban negotiations were supposed to be held on September 8, 2019 at Camp David, the rural retreat of the President of the United States, but were cancelled in connection with an explosion in Kabul, in which 12 people were killed, including one American soldier. Trump’s unexpected visit to Afghanistan, we can say, was a PR event ahead of next year’s elections.

While the Democrats in the House of Representatives are launching impeachment procedures, Donald Trump is going to one of the world’s most foreboding hot spots, meeting there with the country's leadership and demonstrating support for the American military. According to Andrei Korobkov, professor of political science at the University of Tennessee, such visits are very well received by the population, by the families of the military, and by the servicemen and women themselves.

Regarding the formalisation of the deal with the Taliban, Donald Trump, of course, would very much like to achieve this before the presidential election in November 2020, as this will be a huge plus for him. However, the Taliban are very difficult negotiators. For many years, they opposed the creation of a coalition government in Afghanistan, they wanted to take power completely. And other forces within the country are also afraid of them, for example, the Hazaras, since they remember how the Taliban literally cleansed them.

In addition, the Taliban itself is not homogeneous. It has many different sub-movements, groups that are led by their field commanders. Therefore, it may happen that there could be agreements with some, while others may declare that they did not participate in anything.

In Afghanistan itself, the positions of Taliban are quite strong. Taliban groups operate throughout the country and control a significant part of it.

The question of the future of the current regime of Ghani is rather complicated. For many years, the Taliban insisted on turning Afghanistan into an Islamic theocracy, as it had been in the 90s after it seized power in the country. The country’s leaders and a significant part of the elites in Afghanistan are against this. Representatives of the elites understand that without financial assistance from the United States, Afghanistan will not last long. These elites owe their existence to the  West and their values differ from those of the Taliban.

In addition, after the last presidential election in Afghanistan, a so-called impasse arose. Both main candidates declared victory. And now in Kabul the possibility of a second round of elections in late spring 2020 is being discussed. In any event, the administration of Ghani remains in power.

However, recently the Taliban has softened its demands; its representatives no longer advocate a ban on women getting an education, the stoning of unfaithful wives, etc. Nevertheless, we are talking about the leadership of the Taliban, and determining how to integrate several tens of thousands of ordinary Taliban fighters into Afghan society is not very clear. If many of them find no use for themselves, then they can once again take up what they know how to do well - organize terrorist groups and gangs of thieves, attack and take hostages.

In this regard, it is currently very difficult to say how the situation in the country will finally develop. It is still not clear how and with what principles the settlement can be worked out. Obviously, the parties must make concessions, but the question arises of who will make the first step.

How Soon Will US Troops Withdraw From Afghanistan?
Andrey Kazantsev
The withdrawal of American troops may be hampered by two factors, writes Valdai Club expert Andrey Kazantsev. First, there is the understanding that this could “blow up” the regional security situation and lead to a new round of uncontrolled destabilisation in Eurasia and, second, the withdrawal will damage the reputation of the US Army (why did it fight without results, leaving everything to the mercy of fate?) Therefore, if a decision on the withdrawal is made in some near future, very serious mutual accusations will follow. However, Washington has already become accustomed to them during the period of Trump's presidency.
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