Barack Obama turned to Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghanistan war veteran, for support in Afghanistan. He asked him to start a peace process. Khalilzad returned to the country after being asked by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai to talk to the Taliban. What could he gain from this new challenge, and was it worth the gamble?
Only Trump can answer that, but he recently asked for a comprehensive evaluation of all US involvement in Afghanistan. After allegations that ISIS may be setting up terrorist bases inside Syria and Iraq, Trump asked for a report on what the US is achieving in the fight against Islamic State. He seemed disappointed by the analysis that largely concluded the US is losing the war against ISIS, with a report highlighting the cost of the fighting and asking him to reconsider his position in the region. This immediately led to additional doubts and questions by experts, politicians and military commanders alike.
In recent interviews, both Obama and Trump have expressed their doubts about whether a negotiated settlement with the Taliban can work. Each one said that his military would end any negotiations if there was a chance that talks were being sabotaged by Russian attempts to influence the talks and the talks in their favour. Both men worried that the talks were at a crossroads and asked for clarification of those areas to be a part of any agreement. The US is looking for answers from Khalilzad and he seems determined to make them. Is it his audacity to start yet another peace process in Afghanistan that is what has set the new US president off and ignited these doubts? And was it him who, by returning to Afghanistan under these new circumstances, forfeited his own credibility as a credible negotiator with the Taliban and other armed groups? Is that what Obama wants?