Mr. Trump’s patience with the conflict has been steadily waning in recent months, and he was particularly angry after two U.S. soldiers were killed when a member of Afghanistan’s security forces opened fire on American troops during a joint patrol in early February. Days later, Mr. Trump, who has often remarked on the burden of writing military condolence letters, traveled to Dover Air Force Base to witness the return of the soldiers’ remains, a somber nighttime ceremony chillingly punctured by a widow’s desperate screams.
The recently published book by Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser John R. Bolton confirms what has become increasingly obvious. Mr. Bolton recounts numerous instances when Mr. Trump, making liberal use of expletives, asked his exasperated advisers when he could be finished with the country. “We’ve got to get out of there,” Mr. Bolton recalls Mr. Trump saying in March 2019.
Mr. Trump took a key step in that direction on Feb. 29, when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a Taliban leader signed an agreement in Qatar under which the U.S. would begin a phased troop withdrawal in exchange for a halt in Taliban attacks on American forces and the beginning of political talks between the insurgent group and the Afghan government.
The signing came just days after officials say intelligence about the Russian bounties appeared in Mr. Trump’s daily intelligence briefing. Some Trump officials were concerned that the intelligence could jeopardize the Taliban deal. Whether for that reason or others, officials say Mr. Trump was not verbally briefed about it at the time.
That agreement has been plagued with setbacks, including an unwelcome increase in Taliban attacks on Afghan targets, an exchange of prisoners between the Taliban and the Afghan government that has taken months longer than expected, and an Afghan election with disputed results that paralyzed the country’s government.
In one sign that Mr. Trump is determined to press ahead, Mr. Pompeo spoke by video conference on Monday with the Taliban’s deputy and chief negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, “to discuss implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement,” according to a State Department spokeswoman.
“The secretary made clear the expectation for the Taliban to live up to their commitments, which include not attacking Americans,” added the spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus. (There is no indication that U.S. intelligence has tied Russian bounties to any attacks on Americans since the agreement was signed, or that the Taliban’s senior leadership was aware of them.)