An eventual peace deal in Afghanistan? It's complicated

This analysis was excerpted from the February 13 edition of CNN's Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Sign up here to receive it every weekday morning

(CNN)The war in Afghanistan has lasted so long that kids born after it began are now old enough to fight in it. Now, news that US President Donald Trump could approve the first step to a US peace deal with the Taliban may herald a fragile but significant foreign policy breakthrough -- and bring some American troops home in an election year.

The roots of US involvement in Afghanistan stretch back to 2001, after the Taliban offered a haven for 9/11 attack mastermind Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda fighters. "They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate," then-President George W. Bush said, launching a war that would far outlast his presidency.
Cue 20 years of bloodshed, lost focus, costly offensives, troop surges and withdrawals, busted new plans and corruption that swallowed efforts to build Afghan democracy over three US presidencies. Bin Laden is dead -- but so are tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, and more than 3,500 US and allied troops. American voters have every right to ask: What is the point of staying any longer?
But hopes for withdrawal must be tempered. The first anticipated step toward peace -- an agreed "reduction of violence" -- is so shaky that US military top brass won't even call it a ceasefire. Taliban leaders may not be able to control commanders on the ground. Rushing to get US troops home could leave Kabul vulnerable to another Taliban takeover, and make the countr