By Invitation

Afghanistan: The elusive end game

President Donald Trump wants US troops out of a seemingly endless, costly war. This would likely draw more external players to the arena in a battle over strategic interests.

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Every American military intervention in a distant land, it is said, begins as a great crusade and ends in a chaotic search for the exits. After 17 years, US$2 trillion (S$2.7 trillion) and thousands of lives lost in the Afghan war, US President Donald Trump wants out. Soon.

Mr Trump has reportedly decided to withdraw about half of the 14,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan. Last September, he appointed a special envoy, Mr Zalmay Khalilzad, to look for an early political settlement. In pursuit of that quest, Mr Khalilzad has been shuttling between different capitals - from Abu Dhabi to Beijing, Qatar to Delhi, Riyadh to Islamabad and Kabul.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2019, with the headline Afghanistan: The elusive end game. Subscribe