KABUL (Dispatches) -- A day after President Donald Trump declared the entire Afghan peace process dead, new reports are suggesting this was a folly, as Taliban officials say they are fully prepared to go back to a war footing.
Taliban spokesmen made clear this was something of an obvious move, after Trump scrapped an apparently near-finalized peace deal, and said they always considered the war to have two avenues for them, diplomacy or jihad.
Since the Taliban have been gaining ground nationwide, they are expressing comfort with the U.S. trying to force a military solution, and the latest reports suggest the Taliban are stronger than they have been at any time since before the 2001 war began.
Reports have shown the Taliban’s strength mounting for years now, as they take more territory and gain more confidence in the ongoing conflict. The war, however, seems to be one of choice for President Trump, who decided to back out of the peace deal over a car bombing last week.
Trump on Wednesday marked his third 9/11 anniversary as president mid his growing frustration about what he calls the "endless war” in Afghanistan, where Al-Qaeda allegedly conceived the deadly 2001 attacks.
It has been 18 years since Al-Qaeda hijackers allegedly commandeered four U.S. commercial airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Like Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Trump marked the day with the war still raging.
With the American flag flying atop the White House at half-staff, Trump participated in a moment of silence on the South Lawn with first lady Melania Trump and dozens of members of the executive branch. He then headed to a commemoration at the Pentagon.
Less than a month after the terror attacks, Bush announced on Oct. 7, 2001, that U.S. and British troops had begun striking Afghanistan for harboring the Al-Qaeda terrorists blamed for 9/11. The massive air campaign initially targeted troops, training camps and air defenses of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 and hosted Osama bin Laden as he masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks.
For nearly a year, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been negotiating with the Taliban on issues including a U.S. troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees that they will not attack American interests.
It’s unclear if the U.S.-Taliban talks will resume, but Trump has said he wants to withdraw about 5,000 of the 14,000 U.S. service members still in Afghanistan. More than 2,400 American service members have been killed in the conflict.
The U.S.-led NATO combat mission ended in 2014, but the allied forces continue to allegedly train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces.
Majorities of Americans, including veterans, think the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting, according to a May poll from Pew Research Center. Fifty-nine percent of all adults said the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting, given the costs to the United States versus the benefits, while 36% said it was.
Opinion was similar among veterans specifically, with 58% saying the war was not worth fighting and 38% saying it was.
Trump campaigned for president on a pledge to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
The top Democrats vying for the nod to challenge Trump in 2020 also have called for the removal of U.S. troops, though they have offered different timetables and parameters for any such withdrawal.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have said they would ensure American combat forces return from Afghanistan during their first term, while California Sen. Kamala Harris and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have lauded that timeframe but stopped short of full commitment to it.