National Security Advisor John Bolton has been fired by President Trump, who cited strong disagreements. The news came as a shock to many in the media who likely received their first clue via Trump’s favored delivery method. He tweeted: “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration.”
But what does this mean for America’s national security: Does it signal a less hawkish approach, or is there something more at play?
The Taliban Trauma
Earlier this week, the president announced that his surprise talks with the Taliban on ending the conflict in Afghanistan fell through and that he cancelled the meeting. Many are already suggesting that actions taken by Bolton could have led to the breakdown of communication. Whether it was Bolton’s firm position on Afghanistan and the need for a heightened military presence or some other factor, it’s difficult not to see a connection.
Afghanistan and a workable peace process appear to be something that Trump has been working on through back channels that likely cut Bolton out of the loop. It has been reported that Zalmay Khalilzad, the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the State Department, even went so far as to not allow Bolton to remove a draft agreement from the conference room where they were meeting to discuss possible peace solutions.
The president had arranged to meet with Taliban representatives to discuss the withdrawal of US troops on the understanding that Afghanistan would not become a safe haven for terror groups. This plan was firmly opposed by both Bolton and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Apparently brokered with the help of Khalilzad, this deal has been almost a year in the making. Despite opposition from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the news that a recent suicide car bomb had killed 11 people, including an American soldier, encouraged President Trump to move ahead.
Ghani believes the Taliban can’t be trusted and that a withdrawal of US troops might put his leadership in question — a position firmly shared by Bolton.
A Peace President
Trump wants to be all things to all people. He wants to be the Economy President, the Jobs President, and perhaps, most of all, the Peace President. Since his inauguration, he has reached out to countries across the globe in an effort to broker peace. We have seen it in North Korea, we have seen it with Russian outreach, and now it appears he has set his sights on the troubled Afghan region.
If he doesn’t have the right team in place – one that backs peace – none of this will be possible. Perhaps this latest firing will mark a new chapter in the Trump administration, one that seeks to make the world a safer place for us all.
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