By Jon Dougherty

(TNS) U.S. intelligence officials say they have persuasive evidence that the Taliban never intended to abide by a recently signed peace agreement with the United States, but it’s not clear yet if that will delay an American military withdrawal.

“They have no intention of abiding by their agreement,” one official briefed on the intelligence told NBC News.

Two others described the intelligence as explicit evidence shedding light on the Taliban’s intentions.

President Trump on Friday even acknowledged the difficulty of getting a rock-solid agreement, noting that the Taliban could “possibly” overrun the Afghan government when American and NATO forces leave.

But then again, that has always been a consideration, and the president appeared to acknowledge that as well.

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“Countries have to take care of themselves,” he told reporters at the White House. “You can only hold someone’s hand for so long.”

Asked if the Taliban could eventually seize power, the president said it’s “not supposed to happen that way, but it possibly will.”

NBC News noted that the intel U.S. officials have described aligns with with Taliban leaders are saying near neighboring Pakistan. They say they’re simply waiting for the American “occupiers” to depart the country before the launch an assault against the current Afghan government in a bid to retake power after being deposed in October 2001, shortly after the U.S. invasion.

“We will ask the Afghan leadership and other political factions that since the U.S. has accepted us and recognized our position, it is time for you to accept us and give us the country peacefully,” one Taliban representative said who wasn’t authorized to talk to the media, NBC News reported.

But the agreement signed last weekend says something different. It calls on the Taliban to refrain from harboring terrorist elements and to enter into peace talks with the existing Afghan government.

“Look, we all hope they follow through with their side of the agreement, but we believe we know their true intentions,” one intel source told the network.

U.S. officials familiar with the talks say they are trying to avoid another “Vietnam.” The last American forces hastily withdrew from Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, in 1975 as Communist forces from North Vietnam closed in. South Vietnam quickly fell to the North.

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But then, again, that’s always been what’s likely to happen in Afghanistan and anyone with any degree of knowledge about the situation there has long known that. Yet, that mentality is what has led to a nearly 20-year occupation.

U.S. policy has, for years, been to train and arm an Afghan military capable of defending the country and the government against the Taliban, let alone another outside invader. And still, we’re told, after hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars and a decade-plus of training, the force isn’t ready?

It’s difficult to imagine that anyone in the Trump administration attempting to arrange a ‘peace deal’ with the Taliban has gone into the negotiations with eyes wide shut. It’s hard to imagine the White House seriously expects the Taliban to honor any agreement once American forces leave. This latest intelligence, if accurate, makes that point.

But then, the president seems adamant; he’s not at all ready to go back to the status quo of ‘wash, rinse, repeat’ in Afghanistan for several more years. And he’s not going to authorize the kind of force that would ultimately be required to ‘wipe out’ resistance completely.

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Knowing all of this, then, the mission moving forward is how best to prepare the Afghan forces to meet what will surely be a Taliban invasion even as we cover our withdrawal.


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