As the world stands appalled at the collapse of the Afghanistan Government and the rise of the Taliban it should focus on the inept and delusional deal made between President Trump and the Taliban on Leap Year day in 2020 which created the structure for the current demise of the Afghan state.
In negotiations in Doha between the U.S. and the Taliban (without the presence of the Afghan Government), the US and the Taliban signed an "agreement for bringing peace" to Afghanistan after more than 18 years of conflict. The US and NATO allies agreed to withdraw all troops within 14 months if the militants uphold the deal. President Trump said it had been a "long and hard journey" in Afghanistan. "It's time after all these years to bring our people back home," he said.
The deal was signed by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a witness. In a speech, Mr Pompeo urged the militant group to "keep your promises to cut ties with al-Qaeda". Mr Baradar said he hoped Afghanistan could now emerge from four decades of conflict. "I hope that with the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan the Afghan nation under an Islamic regime will take its relief and embark on a new prosperous life," he said.
Within the first 135 days of the deal the US agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600, with allies also drawing down their forces proportionately. The deal also provided for a prisoner swap. Some 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan security force prisoners were exchanged. The US agreed to lift sanctions against the Taliban and to work with the UN to lift its separate sanctions against the group. Under the agreement, the Taliban militants also agreed not to allow al-Qaeda or any other extremist group to operate in the areas they control.
At the White House, Mr Trump said the Taliban had been trying to reach an agreement with the US for a long time. He said US troops had been killing terrorists in Afghanistan "by the thousands" and now it was "time for someone else to do that work and it will be the Taliban and it could be surrounding countries". "I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show we're not all wasting time."
This deal depended on the Taliban stopping hostilities, talking with the Afghan Government, breaking with Al Qaeda and ISIS, and keeping its word about ending the violence. NATO troops were reduced in number and some sanctions were removed. Hostilities diminished but didn’t cease. By the end of the Trump Presidency there was only a weak military presence in Afghanistan, a fixed date when all NATO forces would be removed, and a blind U.S. belief that the Taliban would keep its promises despite its growing level of activity.
Like many, if not most, deals arranged by the Great Dealmaker Trump it was an abject failure and founded on the fantasy that the Taliban would behave as a diplomatic partner and not a raggedy-assed band of terrorists, murderers and thugs.
The options were limited for the new Biden administration; limited because the Taliban had shown that diplomatic niceties and promises meant nothing and the Afghan Government, mired in corruption and tribalism, was not a partner which could be trusted. The least awful plan was agreed and, today, even that fell apart.
The origins of that failure should be recognised as emanating from the naivety and incompetence of the Trump administration.