Is modern 'Anti-Zionism' really just 'antisemitism'? 2-21-19
Those wild and crazy 1500s: 2-23/24-19

Can the U.S. bargain with Afghanistan's theological thugs? 2-22-19

Given at least a small glimmer of hope for peace in Afghanistan now, it's instructive to go back to 2001 when the country was host to Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaida terrorists carried out the deadly 9/11 attacks on the U.S.

AfghanistanAt the time, the Taliban, a fiercely hard-line organization that bent Islam to serve its geopolitical ideology, essentially ran the country and allowed Afghanistan to be host to al-Qaida training camps.

In short, the Taliban represented what was wrong with Afghanistan and made itself an enemy of the U.S. by its refusal to separate itself from the radical extremists who murdered nearly 3,000 people on 9/11. When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan after its leaders refused to hand over bin Laden, it marked the beginning of a war that is pushing toward being two decades old.

As the Council on Foreign Relations piece to which I linked you in the second paragraph here notes, "Though the Taliban appears unlikely to dismantle the Afghan government and revive its emirate, it poses the most serious challenge to Kabul’s authority even as the United States winds down the longest war in its history and NATO scales back its largest-ever deployment outside of Europe. The insurgents’ resilience calls into question a state-building project that has cost its international backers hundreds of billions of dollars.

"The U.S.-led military coalition has suffered nearly 3,500 dead and more than ten thousand wounded. Since 2001, at least twenty-one thousand Afghan civilians have been killed in conflict, and three million people have been displaced, according to the UN refugee agency. Afghan troops and police are dying at their highest rates ever."

So given all of that blood and darkness, rooted in a simplistic, monochromatic interpretation of Islam, what are we to make of peace talks that now involve the Taliban and that could lead the U.S. to withdraw its 14,000 troops still there?

This Christian Science Monitor piece does a pretty good job of giving us a picture of the difficulties of trying to negotiate with the Taliban. As the piece by staff writer Scott Peterson notes, ". . .a fledgling peace process in Afghanistan involving direct talks between the US and Taliban insurgents has created the most optimism in years.

"But serious concerns abound, not least due to reports the Taliban are preparing for a new fighting season even as they negotiate."

As we're thinking about this, let's remember what kind of theological gangsters we're dealing with in the Taliban. As Peterson reports, "During Taliban rule, Afghan women were not allowed to work. Nor were they allowed to leave their home without wearing an all-enveloping burqa. Girls were forbidden from going to school."

And there was much more to Taliban rule that was injurious to the Afghan people, even if some of its oppressive (to western eyes) views about women could be seen as tied into an ancient patriarchal culture that approved of such views in ways that western minds cannot conceive.

We don't yet know where these negotiations with the Taliban will lead or when. But we're fools if we think there's any quick answer here. Afghanistan is broken. Americans are far from the first ones to help break it, but in many ways we're now responsible for what happens there. For the sake of the Afghan people, Americans can't simply close up shop and go home. Rather, our diplomats must do something Americans aren't good at -- be patient and meticulous about a path forward.

If that seems like an impossible task for people in the untethered Trump administration, I agree. But we must tell our elected officials that they must insist on it and not simply trust the terrorist-encouraging Taliban to do the right thing.

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Do faith communities know what to do with people who are grieving? Sometimes, yes. But sometimes they drive people to grieve alone in church restrooms, as described in this interesting commentary. What about your congregation?


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