Opinion / Politics

President Trump is Right – Time to Push Peace in Afghanistan

peacePresident Trump is doggedly seeking a workable peace in Afghanistan. He is right to do so, but the process will be hard. In the late 1990s, work in Colombia led to a bipartisan push for stability, demobilization, and eventually peace – but backsteps were many. Later, working for Colin Powell at State, we trained law enforcement in Colombia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Peace was always the goal but often elusive.
The endgame is harder to achieve than to conceive.

Realistically, peace after a prolonged insurgency is difficult to enforce. Feelings run deep; losses loom large. Regrets constantly resurface. Once an agreement is inked, implementation begins – but participants often stumble. Getting things done is harder than agreeing to do them.

The process of making peace real involves putting down arms, stepping back from violence, asserting self-discipline and patience, suppressing natural fear. Once accustomed to war, combatants are resistant to disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.

Objectively, creating lasting peace in Afghanistan will be hard. The country suffers endemic poverty and corruption, dashed hopes, and distrust of imported ideas. Still, America’s interests are served by working to create buy-in from disparate, disconsolate, opposing parties.

Once a peace accord, complete with sequential steps, is signed – backsliding is inevitable. Jealous, angry, scared violators and agitators, warlords, and terrorists will try to undo what is done, undermine peace. We must persist, encouraging the young Afghan government, new Taliban leaders, and sources of mediation to stay with it.

Peace after war is never smooth, especially where losses were heavy. Hope seems more like naivete or fantasy. Still, those who persist are sometimes unexpectedly rewarded. In Afghanistan, the lift will be heavy, but choices are few. A strong argument exists for peace.

American prosecution of the Afghan war – in response to 9-11-01 – was necessary. This was a “just war.” Afghanistan, under Taliban and Al Qaida rule, permitted terrorist training, staging, and power-projection. George W. Bush, with bipartisan support, responded as he had to – and decisively.
The US routed the Taliban, helped secure the nation, trained security forces, and made possible elections.

Perpetual war, however, is not something Americans want or can afford. This 18-year war has exacted a terrible human and financial cost – even if necessary. We have lost 2,440 Americans, another 20,000 wounded. The United Nations estimates civilian losses at 100,000. Dollar-cost to Americans tops $1.07 trillion. President Trump is right: If peace is within reach, seize it.

From a historical perspective, peace in Afghanistan may be harder than securing the Philippines after World War II, Vietnam after 1973, El Salvador or Colombia in the 1990s. Here is why.

Whatever the peace accord, it must center on the Afghan Government and Taliban, America as surety.It must be realistic and enforceable. It must back representative government, disincentive Taliban and non-Taliban insurgents, encourage reintegration and demobilization, end entrenched human rights abuses, and – most importantly – prevent Afghanistan from staging future anti-Western terrorism.

Words are easy, actions hard – and this may be the toughest peace in our lifetimes. By contrast to post-war Philippines and Vietnam, Afghanistan’s threat is non-state actors. That makes enforcement tough.

Big questions surround any accord: Will Afghan leaders be able to stop resurgence of the Taliban, Al Qaida, or ISIS terrorists? Can Taliban leaders control outliers, non-state adversaries, and external terrorists?

Post-war, the Philippines confronted a Communist insurgency. Even recently, they have had to suppress an Islamic insurgency. Vietnam fell to communism two years after US troop withdrawal. And Afghanistan’s economy is on life support. Objectively, Afghans will continue to need training, security assistance, and a large infusion of Western aid, if any peace is to hold.

Empirically, US aid gives diffuse actors a reason to support peace. But Afghanistan possesses no infrastructure, so the climb to self-sufficiency will be steep. The country has few paved roads, no rail, or real aviation. They are without needed hospitals and schools, power grid, clean water, and – in many places – security. Legitimate agriculture is challenged by poppy cultivation, heroin traffickers, and warlord profiteering.

By contrast to post-war El Salvador and Colombia, Afghanistan is not near big economies, has little history of trade – outside drug trafficking. Without credible security, private foreign capital will not flow into the country. Absent investment, Afghanistan will remain among the poorest nations. Afghans are not without dreams, but they are uneducated. The country is not economically integrated, trained in self-rule, or schooled in tolerance. These also steepen the climb.

In El Salvador, peace was encouraged by the Catholic Church. In Colombia, cultural aspirations blended with a foundation of education and business relationships to reinforce peace. Even in these cases, absent sustained US financial commitment, peace in El Salvador, and Colombia would have stumbled.

In short, the challenge in Afghanistan is unique. Obstacles are ideological, acculturation to violence, endemic corruption, enduring terrorist groups and warlords, little experience with democracy, minimal education, and lack of cohesion. Making things worse, no economic infrastructure, plus the drag of drug trafficking and anti-western sentiment complicate progress. Other than that, peace is easy.

In truth, Afghanistan needs peace – and we need peace for Afghanistan. Accordingly, the Trump Administration is right to aggressively push peace, including self-rule and an exit for US troops. Americans should – whatever their politics – support President Trump’s push to end this war.

That said, realism is central. The seven-day “reduction in violence” is not “peace.” The final accord must assure Afghanistan is never again a staging ground for terrorism. That outcome requires US support, allowing Afghans to find political stability, economic infrastructure, and global integration. Without realism, peace in Afghanistan will be elusive. Net-net, Trump is right – time to steer into the wind, do all we can, wrap this conflict up – for good.


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Norman Zink
2 years ago

I give peace in Afghanistan will prove elusive and ultimately failing and probably within a year. They have nothing in place to succeed against the Taliban, drug cartels, weak government officials willingness or ability to fight and overcome their native enemies. Just as well to leave them the government they deserve. I regret all of losses of USA military solddiers death and suffering and wastsed moneis in this hopeless war. Mr Trump is right, get the hell out.

Neal Christensen
2 years ago

Trump is not stupid. He knows the Taliban will not likely work for peace, but he made a promise to bring the troops home, and this is a way to do it. As long as Afghanistan does not become a projector of terrorism, we should get out and let them kill each other, as they’ve been doing for centuries anyway.

Donald Keen
2 years ago

PRAYING that’s all we can do it is in GODS HANDS.

Chuck
2 years ago

This is an unfortunate article that AMAC has chosen. A praising of pro-interventionism and hidden one-worldism. These countries need to work out their own problems. We paid dearly in Vietnam and pulled out. Yes, desirables took over but decades later it is a nation that had surfaced as a functioning entity. We may not favor what has surfaced in many countries but they work something out–one way or another. We cannot afford the blood and dollars to continue this. We simply play into one-worlders plans to weaken strong nations and build up weaker nations so all can be comfortably merged into an equal homogeneous system. Once again, AMAC, you have not convinced me to renew my membership.

anna hubert
2 years ago
Reply to  Chuck

yes and yes and yes,this is tribal,fragmented society,their loyalty is to the tribe,not to the nation,they always resisted outsiders ,

Keith H
2 years ago

Get our men and women out of those God forsaken Muslim countries. Let them kill each other. That’s what that religion does. There is no help for those death cult fanatics over there. Bring our troops home to protect our Great Country !! We have lost way to many good kids, fighting for these stupid welfare bum politicians !! Send back all of those who have come here from those countries. Get Them Out !!! Stop all immigration to our Country for at least 10 years. Finish the wall !!! Those people aren’t worth the time of day !!! I’ll tell you something else, we need to figure out a way to send all of our America hating politicians back with them !!!!!!!!!

Rick J.
2 years ago

Have to give President Trump credit for trying. However, I believe a snowball in hell has a better chance of survival

JohnH
2 years ago

I would love to see this country go peaceful. But the USA was warned by many people of the dangers of fighting in this area & the other counties that were not successful in past history. But US needs to get out somehow………..

anna hubert
2 years ago
Reply to  JohnH

I agree and somehow it needs to get out of UN and somehow it needs to stop pouring money into every sinkhole .

John Karkalis
2 years ago

Thank you, Patriot Will. My earlier suggestion that clueless Bernie might take his next honeymoon in Kabul, Afghanistan doesn’t sound so nutty after all.
Would that be marriage #3 or #4?

John Karkalis
2 years ago
Reply to  John Karkalis

I see a glimmer of possibility here, Patriiot Will.
Since a rational approach to Afghanistan is clearly irrational, Mr Trump could do worse than to appoint fuzzy minded Bernie Special Ambassador Plenipoteniary, abbreviated SAP, to Afghanistan with full power to negotiate with the mullahs. Several minutes in the same room with Bernie and the Taliban will agree to anything just to get rid of clueless old guy.
It also gets Bernie out of the USA, at least temporarily .

Joe Mchugh
2 years ago

Afghanistan is known for being the graveyard of any foreign government that ever attempted to control it. That the author of this article, Robert B. Charles, fails to see the salient problem, is typical of Western thinking.

The clans and tribes of Afghanistan are captive of the murderous cult called Islam. The Afghans are not a cohesive people, their mentality is the same as it was in the seventh century. Thanks to Mohammad, they are used to, even comfortable living in a loose society that functions exactly like it did when Mohammad introduced his “religion of the sword”.

Islam only benefits when Western cultures refuse to see it for what it is, i.e. an organization bent on conquest and subjugation. Now that many Muslim theocracies have revenues from oil production, (and the drug trade), they can once again engage in the war called jihad. The Muslim countries that have oil wells, finance the “Warriors of Allah” in Muslim countries that lack that commodity.

The solution? If the Western powers are reluctant to crush all who submit to the teachings of Mohammad, they are left with the only remaining choice of “shunning”. To shun someone, or some group, is to exclude them from normal interaction. No trade, or cooperation can be contemplated for a people bent on the conquest of infidels, (non-Muslims). Muslims are pariahs who must not be encouraged to engage in their jihad. When they try to use warfare, or terrorism, those Muslims must be dealt with immediately, and with whatever force is required to compel the Muslims to cease and desist their uncivilized behavior. Such a truce is the only sane protocol besides genocide concerning all Muslims. Anyone who thinks that these cult members can be controlled by “talks” and “negotiations” is suffering from world-class naivete’. Islam is by its organizational Koran, (Bible), a
rogue cult of predators. It has been so for fourteen centuries.

John Karkalis
2 years ago
Reply to  Joe Mchugh

One of the great ironies, one of the greatest jokes of the 20th century, Joe, is that Western technology and Western know how discovered and recovered the very oil that is enriching the jihadists.
Declaring these Muslim reactionaries
International pariahs works only if our feckless European allies are on board.
I wouldn’t hold my breath here.
You give a very comprehensive, if grim, account of the conundrum we find ourselves in.

Brenda Blunt
2 years ago

Praying for an end. Those that want peace will see it done and those that don’t will do everything they can to prevent it.

anna hubert
2 years ago
Reply to  Brenda Blunt

where are their women in all this insanity should they not demand peace and security for their children or do they prefer death and destruction to please allah

John Karkalis
2 years ago
Reply to  anna hubert

Sadly, Anna, women in these cultures have nothing to say.
They are expected to produce children, wear the burka, and keep silent.
Women who do not conform may pay a terrible price.

anna hubert
2 years ago
Reply to  John Karkalis

you are righr John,but I disagree,because whenever there is a mischief or other devilment on the Israeli border or against the soldiers many times you see bunch of brats throwing things,women right behind them and men hiding,thinking surely they would not hurt a child,sometimes they do and then there is much screaming and crying,only when kid dies a martyr blowing him or herself up there is a parade on and much celebration.This is a culture of death and destruction

L T Gronberg
2 years ago
Reply to  anna hubert

Mostly keeping their heads down I should think, it’s very dangerous for them to make much of a fuss!

Juniper
2 years ago

Ask the Jews about lasting peace with Muslims. They have no morals compared to the rest of the world because their Koran says it is OK to do anything at all to infidels. We should go back to paying off the war lords as we were doing before Jimmy Carter decided that was not nice. It has been nothing but misery since then. We also need to get them OUT of our government at all levels.

Josephine pooley
2 years ago

Yes, yes and yes!

Pete from St Pete
2 years ago

Peace is certainly a worthy goal. However, when negotiating with Islamic extremists you can never forget that is perfectly acceptable for them to lie to infidels as long as it is forwarding the goal of Islam: the eventual elimination of all infidels (by conversion or force) to establish the ultimate aim of total world acceptance as Allah as our god. Whatever we agree upon DO NOT BRING ANY OF THEM INTO OUR COUNTRY. Obama welcomed in 80,000 Ethiopians on a utopian ideal of multiculturalism and all we got is two members of the House of Representatives who hate us and work against our democratic principles at every turn.

anna hubert
2 years ago

Chamberlain negotiated with Hitler,remember?

Bob L.
2 years ago

Peace in Muslim countries is either a pipe dream or at best short-lived. When not warring among the different factions, they wage war against infidels, a fact as old as Islam itself. The Soviets came to realize it and backed out, licking their wounds. Now, we have wasted numerous American lives and billions of dollars in yet another unconstitutional, globalist intervention.

anna hubert
2 years ago

good luck with that one,if they wanted to live in peace they would not need us.look at Palestinians,Golda Mair said it…as long as you hate us more than you love your children there never be peace. The age of reason has not reached them yet ,unless there is reformation and an honest discussion about that religion which directs every aspect of their lives all is but vanity. There is one thing that can be done, turn off the spigot.They’ll fight as long as we continue feeding their kids,not only Afghans.

John Karkalis
2 years ago
Reply to  anna hubert

Very good point, Anna.
The age of reason has not arrived there. Tribalism, hatred, fanaticism are very hard to dislodge after many centuries.
If anyone truly believes such fanatics will take off their head rags, put on tie and suit, and sit peacefully at a table? Well, I hear that bridge in Brooklyn is still available, cheap.

PaulE
2 years ago

From the very beginning, our involvement in Afghanistan should have been one thing and one thing only. Go in and get Bin Laden and his followers encamped in the country and get out. A surgical strike of overwhelming force to guarantee the job gets done quickly and then leave. Very little, if any, need for massive boots on the ground. Where we went horribly wrong is the neo cons of the Bush administration were into nation building and the ludicrous idea that we could bring 21st century western values to a country and a people hopelessly mired in 7th century Islamic culture and norms.

The whole nation building exercise only works if the people of a country, like Afghanistan, have the honest will and deep desire to want to change. After 19 years, over a trillion dollars wasted and thousands of our American troops either terribly injured or outright killed, it should be apparent to anyone capable of critical thinking that the people of Afghanistan lack both qualities. They are perfectly content to live as they have lived for centuries being ruled by one form of warlord or Islamic dictator or another. From everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve met who has been over there interacted with the Afghanistan people, the people of the country don’t care if the Taliban is running the show or the current government is in charge. They are used to being ruled by someone and they apparently don’t aspire to any other kind of life other than what they have always know. So I have to honestly ask those thinking we should remain there “What exactly is the credible end goal, other than wasting more tax dollars and having more American lives lost for no good reason?”

So whether we want to call it a peace treaty or a surrender or anything else, the reality is that President Trump is right to end this endless, wrong-headed war. There will be sufficient troops left behind in country and the region to deal with any terrorist groups that envision using Afghanistan as a staging ground from which to plan another attack against our country. If that proves insufficient, which is highly unlikely, then we can always just evacuate our in country military personnel and just level the areas of the country where such terrorists have set up shop. The Taliban have no doubt been made fully aware of what our response would be if they let another terrorist group set up shop in their country.

By the way, I fully expect the Taliban will over-throw the existing Afghanistan government within 6 months of our leaving. Either that or the existing leaders of the current government will simply flee of their own accord, after emptying the Treasury of course, to live out their lives in regal splendor in some friendly nation. The Afghanistan army that we spent 19 years and billions of dollars training and equipping will simply either cut and run or most of its people will defect to the Taliban at the first sign of a real fight.

anna hubert
2 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

The voice of reason if only thus was in Washington ,sometimes I think what would the world be like if Patton was in the WH instead of Ike,with Churchill as PM t’would be a different kettle of fish

John Karkalis
2 years ago
Reply to  anna hubert

A very good overview of the intractable nature of ANY involvement there, Paul E.
I truly would be surprised if the current hapless government lasted anywhere close to six months.
Tribalism, warlords, vendettas –hardly consistent with “nation building”.
You are so right! Western rationalism simply will not gel with a 7th century world view.
Sadly I blame our recent leaders for thinking nation building is a rational approach to the irrational.
I believe Mr Trump understands this.

Randy Geiger
2 years ago

We seemed to learn nothing from Vietnam (I am a veteran of that conflict) nor from the Russians when we supported the Mujajhideen against them. I don’t see any road to peace there until they uncorrupt their government and the people truly decide they want to run their government. Most importantly, these multiple deployments of our troops do nothing but add to the PTSD, and suicide problems our troops face and to the disruption and pain of their families. Lets go all out to win or get out of there if we are not. Tough decisions need to be made and they need to be made now.

anna hubert
2 years ago
Reply to  Randy Geiger

you are right Randy,go to war you must not win,must not fight and most of all mind the civilians,women and children .Catch 22 anyone?

D. James
2 years ago

Countries like Afghanistan have been at war for centuries. It is in their culture. Pouring American lives and count dollars is not going to change a thing. I have served two tours in Vietnam and witnessed the failure of American occupation in support of a feeble an corrupt government. We all know the outcome of 10 years that. We need to leave that place and secure our own borders.

John Karkalis
2 years ago

“Elusive” is an understatement.
Afghanistan has been a quagmire, a hornet’s nest, a bottomless pit for any Western nation that has been involved there. The responses from Amac members so far appear pessimistic for any meaningful settlement.
It’s “East meets West”, generally an unhappy collision of Western pragmatism vs Eastern radicalism.
My fellow Vietnamese veterans can appreciate this. The other side, Ho Chi Minh and general Giap simply waited us out, knowing America’s limited patience and concern for the safety of our young American fighters.
In short, we value human life. The other side does not. If we choose to remain there in any capacity we had better be willing to accept this unbalanced equation.
If we choose to remain, then we da*n well better have a coherent strategy and a clear exit plan.

William H Fry
2 years ago

The author failed to mention radical Islam and the goal of that religion. Their goal is not peace, their goal is to kill all infidels. To approach that mindset with a peace plan based on western ideals is a fool’s errand. Military Strength in country and a preparedness for war is the way to achieve peace. Afghanistan has been at war for over 2,000 years. This will never be “wrapped up”

Sue
2 years ago
Reply to  William H Fry

I wish I did not have to agree with you, Mr. Fry, but the proof is in the pudding, and you reminded us of that proof in your comment. The militant Islamic religion is the thorny problem that every nation on earth is struggling with, and none have found the answer for. My concern is that the world stage is being set for the introduction of the Antichrist, and very shortly. The Scriptures also tell us that the nations of the earth would be promised, “Peace, peace”, when there is no peace. Please do not misunderstand, Mr. Trump is NOT the Antichrist, nor is he trying to work with him — he is too much of a nationalist for that! However, Bible prophecy will come to pass, and is already in the process of doing so. Christians who love their God and their country need to be intreating God for their nation and our leadership, now! And continue to do so.

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