Although President Donald Trump declared talks with the Taliban “dead” this week, the reality is that even as calls for a settlement in Afghanistan gained momentum, negotiations for a deal to end America’s longest war were bound to falter. Trump’s clumsy attempt to grab the spotlight by arranging for a last-minute summit at Camp David between the Taliban and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11 rightly rankled both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
But the White House obsession with striking a grand bargain in Afghanistan in time for the next U.S. presidential election is sheer folly—and it predates Trump and his diplomacy by tweet. War runs on no one’s timeline, and history proves that peace often returns in fits and starts.
The original sin of America’s engagement in Afghanistan has always been the promise of a quick victory, prioritizing expedience over outcomes. In the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, President George W. Bush promised a swift defeat of al-Qaida and the Taliban that had sheltered it, but there was no plan for what came after American forces smashed their way to regime change in Kabul.