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Is Peace in Afghanistan Impossible?

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Is Peace in Afghanistan Impossible?

The peace agreement reached between the United States and the Taliban is only further complicating matters. The Bible explains why this was destined to be the case.

Learn the why behind the headlines.

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s inauguration speech at his compound in the capital of Kabul was interrupted by sounds of a nearby rocket attack.

Amid the jolting sounds of explosions and missiles hitting their targets, the re-elected, second-term leader maintained composure. As those in the crowd ducked and scrambled for cover, Mr. Ghani remained on the podium. He even opened his suit jacket to show he was not wearing body armor—an obvious effort to display confidence in the face of chaos.

The wild scene was a microcosm of Afghanistan’s situation. It demonstrated the existential danger to the nation’s government as America continues to pull out of its longest war.

U.S. and Taliban officials signed a peace agreement in late February with the goal of ending a conflict so old that many Afghan and American soldiers have no memory of when it started. The “good war,” which began in October 2001 immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks, eventually became the “necessary war,” as the world’s greatest military power struggled to bring the conflict to a swift end.

Now it is dubbed “the war that won’t end.” Meant to resist and root out terrorist groups, the War in Afghanistan appears to only have succeeded in draining staggering amounts of money and spilling American and Afghan blood.

The latest deal was the culmination of 18 months of negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban leadership. President Donald Trump said American military forces have been killing thousands of terrorists in Afghanistan and it was “time for someone else to do that work and it will be the Taliban and it could be surrounding countries.”

The peace deal calls for the U.S. to begin withdrawing more than 4,000 of its 12,000 troops in the region and for a comprehensive, nationwide ceasefire to be negotiated in talks between the Taliban—a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political and military organization—and the current Afghan government, which the Taliban see as bitter rivals. The only requirement is for the Taliban to take the negotiations seriously, and continue its counterterrorism commitments, including a rejection of al-Qaida and other groups.

The U.S. has been the prime backer of the Afghan government since it invaded the country in 2001 and overthrew the Taliban. Yet the government was not a part of the latest agreement in the hopes that it and the Taliban can separately work out a path to peace.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who witnessed the signing of the agreement, said, “The agreement will mean nothing—and today’s good feelings will not last—if we don’t take concrete action on commitments stated and promises made.”

The U.S.-Taliban deal could not come at a better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) time. Violence in the region remains high. In the last quarter of 2019, the Taliban committed 8,204 attacks—the most in 10 years for the same timeframe. U.S. armed forces unleashed more than 7,400 bombs and missiles in 2019. The war, mostly forgotten by American citizens, is only becoming bloodier.

The White House hopes the deal with the Taliban is the fulfillment of a long-awaited promise made to war-weary Americans. The Trump administration, like the Obama and Bush teams before it, has struggled in its attempts to inject peace into a region where wars seem normal.

Political and military leaders cannot figure out how to stop this fight despite having every reason and desire to do so. In so many ways the problem is much bigger than they understand.

“Peace” Agreement?

What has transpired subsequent to the most recent peace agreement being signed does not signal peace. Since then, the U.S. military launched an airstrike targeting Taliban fighters. The assault was triggered by a spike in violence by the Taliban against members of the Afghan security force. The Taliban remains upset at the Afghan government’s refusal to release thousands of Taliban prisoners ahead of negotiations between the two.

The Taliban were warned repeatedly about their increased violence, and when the attacks continued to escalate and become more intense, the U.S. military determined it was necessary to take action to defend Afghan forces under assault.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the Taliban attacks unacceptable. He acknowledged that the Taliban are honoring the agreement by not attacking U.S. and coalition forces, “but not in terms of sustaining the reduction in violence.” He added that “keeping that group of people on board is a challenge. They’ve got their range of hard-liners and soft-liners and so they’re wrestling with that too, I think…”

This underscores the fragility of the U.S.-Taliban peace accord and the murky nature of Washington’s response to try to enforce it. It also justifies the fear among Afghans that an American pullout would only embolden the Taliban.

Many in the Taliban’s leadership see America’s willingness to negotiate as outright victory in the war. To them, determination and resolve have brought the world’s greatest military power to its knees. Secretary Pompeo warned the Taliban against taking such a view: “I know there will be a temptation to declare victory,” he said. “But victory for Afghans can only be achieved if they can live in peace and prosper.”

Peace and prosperity appear a long way off with such a contingent-laden agreement. Especially one in which the Afghan leadership was blocked from participating.

The Taliban and Kabul are not the only ones at odds. Even the Afghan government cannot agree. President Ashraf Ghani’s opponent in last September’s presidential elections, Abdullah Abdullah, rejected the count, and has set up a parallel government that he presides.

In an effort to get the sides to cooperate, the Trump administration decided to slash $1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan and threatened further reductions in all forms of cooperation.

“The United States deeply regrets that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have informed [me] that they have been unable to agree on an inclusive government that can meet the challenges of governance, peace, and security, and provide for the health and welfare of Afghan citizens,” Secretary Pompeo said.

Washington pays Kabul billions every year, much of it going to the country’s defense forces. Afghanistan raises barely a quarter of the revenue it needs to run the country, giving the U.S. considerable financial leverage to force the two squabbling leaders to overcome the impasse.

Speaking to reporters aboard his plane on a return flight home from Afghanistan, Mr. Pompeo said he was hopeful the two leaders would cooperate to allow the U.S. to avoid having to cut assistance. “But we’re prepared to do that,” he said.

In promoting peace, Mr. Pompeo is hoping dollars will do what weapons cannot.

But the political infighting seems to be just another roadblock on the impassable path to peace, and inevitably stalls any chance of the U.S. bringing home its troops.

No Easy Exit

Madhav Joshi, research associate professor and associate director of the Peace Accords Matrix at the University of Notre Dame, studies peace agreements between nations. In a Conversation article, he expressed the perils of the U.S.-Taliban agreement.

“The U.S. approach of negotiating withdrawal first and initiate a peace process later is unheard of and has never been tested in the contemporary peace process. This nontraditional method is not necessarily doomed to fail, but it does not align with tactics of successful peace processes to date, as I know from my years of research on peace building.”

Mr. Joshi has researched nearly 200 real peace accords. He wanted to understand: Why do some agreements result in lasting peace, while others fall apart?

Using this analysis, he noted three key reasons the current Afghanistan agreement does not “conform to patterns of successful peacemaking.”

First, the agreement is silent on key ceasefire elements of successful peace deals. Examples include addressing new recruitment in security forces, weapons transportation, or a mechanism to settle disputes from ceasefire violations.

“Without these elements,” Mr. Joshi also stated, “it’s less likely that violence will diminish or that a ceasefire will hold. That, in turn, makes the peace process more difficult.”

Second, the U.S.-Taliban deal does not give a framework for how the negotiations between the Taliban and Afghans will continue.

“Without a framework like this, the proposed deal with the Taliban may or may not lead to any progress. For example, last year in Yemen, Houthi rebel fighters and Saudi-backed pro-government forces reached a ceasefire settlement but did not stop fighting. Evidence from other past ceasefires suggests that a formal ceasefire agreement alone is neither necessary nor sufficient to initiate a peace process.”

Third, the ceasefire deal is not specific enough.

“It is easier to agree on ceasefire protocols when parties are making progress in negotiating other issues. The Taliban and the U.S. deal does not touch on political issues. The current Afghan government and the Taliban have different political visions—a recipe for a stalemate.”

“Turning failure into success in a peace process takes time. It is not clear what strategies the U.S. will take, should the Taliban fail to comply with the terms of the proposed deal,” Mr. Joshi continued. “There is also a significant risk of stalemates in negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.”

Based on Mr. Joshi’s assessment, the United States and Afghanistan may be no closer to peace than they were prior to the latest agreement.

The Way of Peace

Many topics we cover in The Real Truth demonstrate how mankind cannot solve its problems. Despite incredible scientific discoveries, advances in technology, and vast stores of knowledge, the world is filled with increasing turmoil. Disease, poverty, pollution, ignorance, religious confusion, terrorism, violence, hunger, immorality, oppression, political deadlock and war—the subject of this article—are on a growing list of problems. The nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan is just more proof.

The extremely complex issues surrounding this war paradoxically illustrate a very simple premise. No matter the number killed, families broken, or money spent, human beings refuse to stop fighting against one another.

The reason why is also easy to see. The prophet Isaiah, speaking of mankind, said, “The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goes therein shall not know peace” (59:8).

Re-read that verse. Men do not know the “way of peace.” They cannot employ something they do not know. This helps explain, from a biblical perspective, the dilemma not just in Afghanistan but in all the thousands of wars mankind has fought.

Also referring to mankind, the apostle Paul repeated in the New Testament what Isaiah said in the Old, “Their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known” (Rom. 3:15-17). Seeing it twice in the scriptures should not leave any doubt as to the reason that peace has been impossible.

The greatest thinkers, leaders, educators, scientists and religionists have failed in their quest for lasting peace in Afghanistan or anywhere else. The pain and suffering of war is the result.

Hosea 4:6 also points to the fact that “people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Throughout history, world leaders, some of them well-meaning, lack the essential knowledge needed to maintain peace.

As we can see, destruction exists where knowledge does not. Yet notice it says destruction came as a result of the rejection of knowledge.

Consider. Mankind can only reject something that exists and that was taught to him. There is no other way to understand this. Therefore there is a “way of peace” and it was taught to mankind by someone.

For a clue on who gave this precious knowledge to people, go back to Hosea. The verse states: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” People belong to God. It is His people who are destroyed for lack of knowledge. God is a loving Father who does not want His children fighting and killing each other. He gave us the knowledge to avoid this. The problem is we rejected it. This is why our pursuit of peace is futile.

What is the knowledge to the “way of peace” that mankind rejected?

The answer is in Mark 12. When asked about the greatest commandment, “Jesus answered [saying], The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (vs. 29-31).

The commands to love God and to love our neighbor are tied directly to the Ten Commandments. The first four address God and the last six address our fellow man. The tie to peace should be obvious.

When individuals put God first with all their hearts, minds and strength, and love their neighbors as they love themselves, then war is impossible. It could not happen.

Most either blow off the Ten Commandments entirely or merely see them as a nice set of principles. The majority fail to understand the immense importance they carry.

The Ten Commandments form the foundation of God’s entire interaction and purpose for mankind. Unending war is just one of many negative consequences of rejecting God’s 10 laws for His children. Murder, adultery, stealing, lying, greed, jealousy, Sabbath-breaking and rejection of God—among many others—are the fruits of this global ignorance of God’s Law.

Mankind is being given the chance to see that his ways do not work. Nevertheless, a time is coming when these commandments will be enforced by a Father who has seen enough. It will happen under the greatest government the world has ever seen.

For more on the meaning and importance of the Ten Commandments, and how rejecting them has led to so many problems in the world, read our book The Ten Commandments – “Nailed to the Cross” or Required for Salvation?.

This book will shed new light on the most important set of instructions ever given to mankind and make the connection to how men following them will solve the world’s problems.

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