U.S. President Donald Trump convened his top national security advisers this afternoon at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey to discuss a draft peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban insurgent group. Talks between the United States and the Taliban are in their final stretch, with CNN reporting on Thursday that a deal between the two is “99 percent complete.”
Trump took to Twitter this evening to describe the high-level meeting on Afghanistan as “very good.” He struck an optimistic note, stating that many within the insurgency “are looking to make a deal” to end the war that has lasted nearly eighteen years, though he also included the caveat of “if possible.” As of Friday night, there has been no indication of whether the president assented to a final agreement.
Some observers, including officials in the administration, expect Trump to reveal his decision first on social media. He did exactly that with respect to Syria last December.
Thomas Joscelyn, a researcher at the neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told the New York Times that several U.S. government officials have shared with him their belief that Trump will eventually make his announcement on an Afghanistan withdrawal via Twitter.
And it is through Twitter that Senator Lindsey Graham urged the president throughout the day to not agree to a full U.S. withdrawal, which he claimed would strengthen the hand of transnational jihadist networks, like al-Qaeda.
In the morning, Graham called on Trump to learn from what he described as the “mistakes” of President Barack Obama and avoid a “bad agreement.” Graham also said that any deal with the Taliban should be “vetted” by the U.S. Congress—indicating that he would use his standing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to create problems for the administration should it seek to fast-track a withdrawal from Afghanistan.
And this evening, after Trump tweeted about the meeting, Graham once again asserted that the United States must maintain “a robust counterterrorism force with intel capability” in Afghanistan.
In addition to Trump’s Twitter feed, all eyes are on Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the administration’s special envoy in charge of talks with the Taliban. He is expected to return to Doha, Qatar, to resume dialogue with the Taliban. Even if Trump says nothing about his plans for Afghanistan in the coming days, Khalilzad will fill in the blanks with his itinerary and public statements, including through Twitter.
Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News and host of The Pivot podcast. He's contributed to publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, and POLITICO Magazine, and has appeared on broadcast outlets such as Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio. Rafiq is also a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC.