“Our message is that the Americans should draft a policy not to take away the independence and sovereignty of other nations,” the militant group said. “Most importantly, they should withdraw all their troops from Afghanistan.”
President Barack Obama has pledged to keep 8,400 U.S. troops in the country until the end of his term in January as part of a NATO mission to support the government there against the Taliban and other extremists.
But the Taliban seems to be betting on Trump’s stated aversion to using U.S. force to help partners like the democratically elected Afghan government and his skepticism of the NATO alliance, which rushed to help the U.S. in its invasion of Afghanistan after Al-Qaeda members who had safe haven there succeeded in killing thousands of Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.
The movement has tried to play on America’s political mood before. The group has used references to the Iraq War to tell Americans they should not be fighting it, saying U.S. citizens are regularly drawn into conflicts because of government conspiracies rather than their own interests. In September, Taliban leaders announced that they had watched the first presidential debate and been unimpressed with the candidates’ views.
Giving the group more leeway to operate in Afghanistan would be a mistake, analysts warn, because of their potential to bolster instability by massacring U.S.-friendly Afghans and minority communities, aid other militants targeting the West and reverse progress on human rights. Some Taliban figures seem to be open to moderating and reaching a U.S.-backed peace with the elected government, but it is unclear how much of the movement shares that view. As the group has achieved major successes in recent years, its hardliners may be more emboldened and less likely to negotiate ― or, conversely, keen to lock in gains with a deal while they can.
Trump has not outlined a detailed Afghanistan policy, and he has flip-flopped on whether he believes the U.S. attack on the al Qaeda-supporting Taliban government that ruled until 2001 was even a good idea.
However, contrary to the militants’ wishes, he has said he wants to keep American troops there.
“That thing will collapse in about two seconds after they leave,” he told CNN last month.
Ten U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan this year.