President Donald Trump’s efforts to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan keep hitting a major roadblock: his own proclamations that he wants to get out.
Trump has repeatedly made it known he wants to remove all U.S. troops from the 18-year-old Afghan conflict, a topic he returned to Friday afternoon as his advisers briefed him on the status of peace talks with the Taliban.
But his public statements and leaks of his closed-door demands have weakened the hand of his negotiators by making it clear just how desperately the president wants a deal, according to multiple current and former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the deliberations.
His top negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, is preparing for the ninth round of talks with the Taliban, seeking to reach a settlement that would allow the 13,000 U.S. troops still deployed to the country to come home.
Trump’s “known impatience and desire to get out have effectively forced Khalilzad to negotiate with one hand behind his back and given the Taliban an incentive to delay and harden their demands to see if they can get what they want for free,” said Christopher Kolenda, a retired Army colonel and Afghanistan veteran who has interacted unofficially with Taliban representatives.