AFGHANISTAN - The US might withdraw from Afghanistan in the next 18 months as part of a peace deal with the Taliban, which would amount to more of an ignoble retreat than the glorious victory that Trump promised.

This tantalizing report emerged after the end of the latest talks between the two sides and quickly made rounds all across the global media, encouraged by Taliban sources themselves who supposedly said that this would be a quid-pro-quo for them fighting international terrorist groups and not allowing their country to be used by others to attack America or its allies, while US officials also seemed to vaguely hint that something of the sort is secretly in the works. The two sides are expected to resume their talks on 25 February in Doha, meaning that there’ll be approximately a full month for further details to emerge and for the world to analyze what this geopolitically earth-shattering development would mean if it comes to pass.

The Taliban has recently staged a spree of surprisingly successful attacks over the past few months that took observers off guard given that they occurred prior to the traditional onset of the “spring fighting season”, which might have combined with the US military’s ineffective years-long and ultra-costly campaign against the group as well as the Republicans’ loss of the House last year to shape the military-political conditions whereby an American withdrawal finally became a realistic prospect.

Trump could capitalize on this move by portraying himself as a “president of peace” as part of his re-election campaign, though critics might point out the hypocrisy of him potentially recognizing the Taliban as a legitimate political force in Afghanistan and then retreating from them despite previously vowing never to back down in his crusade against what he’s consistently insisted are “radical Islamic terrorists”. He might “compromise” with his critics by replacing US troops with mercenaries, positioning some “rapid reaction” forces in a neighboring country like Uzbekistan, and retaining the right to cruise missile strikes, all the while possibly clinching profitable mineral extraction deals with the Taliban in order to uphold the peace.

Though nothing has been confirmed thus far, the topic is still very pertinent to tackle on Trendstorm. Andrew Korybko is joined by Zeeshan Muneer, assistant editor at Global Village Space, a Pakistani online news and opinion website and Syed Ali Zia Jaffery, Research Associate at the Center for Security, Strategy and Policy Research at the University of Lahore and Associate Editor of Pakistan Politico.