The Taliban, one of America’s most important allies in the war against ISIS, is set to abandon their partnership with Washington and instead focus on combating Islamic State militants. This comes as a result of President Trump’s decision to increase troop presence in Afghanistan.
As it stands now, there are roughly 12000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan and Mr. Trump has said that he will deploy an additional 4000 soldiers by the end of this year. The Taliban have responded by saying they won’t cooperate with US forces any longer because they oppose American interventionism and occupation.
From now on, we will prioritize the fight against ISIS in Afghanistan. The US policy of engaging us that was adopted by previous administrations caused us to put aside differences with them to focus on a common threat, said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. Mr. Mujahid further stated that The Islamic Emirate is fighting ISIS for the benefit of all Muslims, and not to please any particular state or non-state actor.
In their statement, the Taliban also urged ISIS fighters in Afghanistan to unite against the US presence in the region. They argued that Islamic State militants’ approach to resisting America’s occupation will prove more effective than a continued insurgency against Afghan forces under direct Taliban command.
The Taliban’s statement represents a critical blow to Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy, which is predicated on the idea of strengthening existing counterterrorism efforts to annihilate ISIS’ presence in the country. If US officials are aware of this development they have not yet commented on it publicly.
Furthermore, if the Taliban refuse to cooperate with the US in Afghanistan, it is unclear how President Trump will be able to accomplish his stated goal of destroying terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Some experts have argued that the US should instead focus on bringing an end to hostilities with the Taliban and cooperating with them in order to achieve long-term stability and peace. Unfortunately for America, if the Taliban were to do this they would have to withdraw from foreign affairs in the region, which is not likely.
The Afghan War is already the US’ longest military engagement, and it seems that it will soon be drawing even with World War II for the most expensive military campaign after Trump’s new defense budget was approved by Congress. The cost of keeping troops in Afghanistan is expected to rise by $1 billion this year and another $1.1 billion next year, so Trump’s decision on how to handle the Afghan War will have a significant impact on Pentagon spending for years to come.
The conflict in Afghanistan has been ongoing since 2001 and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.