For most of us, a world away, it’s been easy to ignore. The war in Afghanistan has often ceded the spotlight to other global conflicts. But for much of 8½ years now, for participants from over 40 countries, it has been an epic struggle.
Today, that struggle is about to drag our planet into a chamber of horrors.
This powder keg, which at times has seemed fairly contained, if not defused, is exploding into an unpredictable mess with nuclear potential.
Right at the center is America. The war began in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on American soil. The United States has built and helmed the coalition to eliminate the terrorist threat in this theater. The war has become a measure of America’s power. And the new U.S. president has made this fight his own: Labeling Iraq a distraction, Barack Obama has called Afghanistan the heart of the fight against terrorism and proclaimed his commitment to achieving victory there.
But, as other great powers that tried to conquer Afghanistan have learned, victory in this rugged country can be fiendishly elusive.
Complicating the situation is the fact that neighboring Pakistan is descending into anarchy. Its hardy mountain dwellers are providing safe haven to Afghanistan’s Taliban and attacking coalition supply lines, turning an unmanageable war in Afghanistan into an impossible one.
Making matters far worse, Pakistan’s native Taliban are making an alarmingly successful push at toppling their nation’s government. Like Iran in 1979, these Islamist radicals are taking a weakly governed country by the throat and preparing to shape it according to their twisted spiritual vision.
The danger is heightened exponentially by Pakistan being one of the world’s eight nuclear powers. It possesses between 60 and 100 nukes scattered throughout the country. Amid escalating chaos, some of those bombs are sure to slip into extremist Muslim hands.
Pakistan is turning into the Iranian Revolution—plus nuclear weapons.
Though the United States and other nations talk about preventing this scenario, they simply aren’t willing to take measures forceful enough. Signs suggest, in fact, that the Obama administration is beginning to realize this is a losing cause.
Brace yourself for the consequences.
Recognizing the tangled nature of the crises in these two countries, the Obama administration unveiled a new joint Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy on March 27. It focuses on encouraging Afghanistan and Pakistan to assume more of the burden of neutralizing Islamists. It commits 4,000 troops to train an Afghan military force and $1.5 billion per year for five years to Pakistan to help it fight the Taliban.
At the nato summit that began just days later, the president summoned every possible ounce of charm and influence to cajole members of the alliance into joining him in assigning troops to Afghanistan.
Just how weak America’s leadership has grown became eminently clear. Its nato allies glad-handed and smiled—and utterly refused.
President Obama said America would swell its Afghan force by 21,000 troops. Belgium responded by offering all of 35 military trainers. Spain offered 12. Gordon Brown said the UK would send 500 to 700 troops as a “temporary uplift”—meaning that they’ll return home after elections take place this summer.
(The nature of nato is becoming clear: It’s a forum for Europe to exploit America. When Europe needs U.S. muscle—as in the Balkans war—America steps up and provides it. When America asks Europe to help fight al Qaeda and the Taliban, Europe says it has other obligations.)
But the fact that America looks increasingly isolated in trying to bring the Taliban to heel is just a sliver of the problem.
Even if it had enthusiastic nato support, the strategy itself is fatally flawed. Putting faith in native forces to stop the Islamists from taking over the region may work on paper, but it will never, ever happen. Taliban infiltration and sympathy run deep in both nations.
A Flawed Strategy
America wants to train Afghan military and police forces. Realistically, this process will provide the opportunity for hostile elements to infiltrate those forces. As Stratfor reported March 30, if America recruits an all-Afghan force, it is likely to attract many Taliban sympathizers. But if it restricts its recruiting only to ethnic groups that are hostile to the Taliban, it is drawing from “a minority pool that the Taliban already defeated in a civil war.”
Even then, Obama’s goal is to train just 54,000 new Afghan soldiers and police officers in 33 months. It’s not enough. The U.S. military estimates a force of 400,000 would be needed to secure the country.
In Pakistan, the problem is worse. The government is plagued by infighting and conflicting loyalties. In fact, it has a history of supporting and exploiting Islamic militancy for its own purposes. The military and intelligence services—key to the country’s stability—are rife with Islamist sympathizers. The Pakistani military actually formed the Taliban in the 1990s. The alliance between these two forces is simple and strong. Pakistan uses the Taliban as a tool both to keep the West off balance and to ensure that, once the U.S. vacates Afghanistan (which it is sure to do eventually), India won’t move in. Meanwhile, Pakistani support and protection enables the Taliban to control a growing swath of territory in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Nothing in the U.S. plan is going to split this alliance. Evidence shows that in preparation for the U.S. troop surge, the Pakistani-Taliban bond is actually strengthening.
“Realizing that Obama means to step up the U.S. campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, the Pakistani military has recalibrated its strategic position and brought the Taliban into its fold, to serve as its proxy in a confrontation with the U.S. forces,”memri wrote (April 1, emphasis mine throughout). The New York Times reported a jaw-dropping example on March 25: Pakistan’s military intelligence agency is actually giving military supplies, funding and other help to Taliban fighters who are attacking U.S. and nato forces in Afghanistan.
This from Washington’s would-be “ally” in fighting the Taliban.
Truly, hopes of Pakistan policing its own extremists are being smothered by reality.
March Toward the Capital
Having already taken over the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban are violently expanding their control inward toward Pakistan’s heartland. After more than a year of fighting in the Swat Valley region, the outgunned government found it had little choice but to concede the area, forming a “peace” agreement with the Taliban in February. The Taliban now has official authority to enforce its signature cruel sharia law system in a huge chunk of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province. (The deal was called “sharia for peace”—but just ask those victimized by Taliban rule what a sick joke that is. To take one example, the Taliban forbids girls to be educated; schools in the Swat Valley that have refused to comply have been bombed.)
The Taliban promised to end the insurgency at the time—but that quickly proved a sham. Within a week of Islamabad signing the deal in April, the Taliban broke its promise and sent its army into Buner, a strategic area just 60 miles from the Pakistani capital. It recruited local madrassa graduates to establish a new government there and began implementing sharia. It’s spreading like an aggressive cancer.
When Pakistan’s army reacted by issuing a threat, the Taliban announced that it would soon sack Islamabad. “If a man or woman is working with the government, or they are supporters of the government or of the foreigners, we want to kill them,” the Globe and Mail quoted one Taliban organizer as saying. “And we want to dissolve the government” (May 4).
The Taliban’s ambitions and confidence are growing as fast as the territory it governs.
The movement is gaining momentum with the populace. First, it is tapping into the rich supply of young men who received free Islamic education at one of Pakistan’s 12,500 madrassas—men who view the Taliban as God’s army.
Second, it is intimidating others who recognize that the government can’t stop it. Since the insurgency is taking over, people don’t want to be seen as resisting it. The Taliban is notoriously brutal to its detractors. It uses terrorism with devastating effectiveness. When Islamists strike civilian targets, the people’s confidence in the government and in coalition forces drops—as does their motivation to defy the up-and-coming dictators.
Although Pakistan’s military still makes strikes against the Taliban, evidence suggests that these are intended more to preserve the flow of cash from America than to attain victory. Islamabad is always eager to accept those billions in aid. However, the Obama administration shouldn’t expect much of a return on the investment. The same strategy has failed for the past seven years.
Western powers want a neutral, al-Qaeda-free Afghanistan. Their hope is that, in the long run, this can be guaranteed not by America and nato, but by Afghanistan’s primary neighbors: Pakistan, Iran and even China.
This is not really a plan. It is a fantasy perched on a dream within an illusion.
As America plans a troop surge into Afghanistan, the Taliban are planning a bloody response. They are eager to send a hard message to the new American president and to test his reputation for weakness. They know he doesn’t want to remain in AfPak indefinitely. They, by stark contrast, are there to stay.
Thus, in the months ahead, expect ugly.
Repeating the Same Mistake
Another comparison with Iran in 1979 bears mentioning: America’s responsibility—not this president’s, but his predecessor’s.
In 2007, U.S. officials inexplicably drove Pakistan’s military leader Pervez Musharraf from office, opening an enormous power void that radicals rushed to fill. Our own editor in chief warned at the time that this is just what would happen. “American leaders are telling Musharraf to take off his military uniform and give real freedom to that country. However, the military is the only institution that gives stability to that extremely divided country! This is another example of how little our leaders know about Pakistan,” Gerald Flurry wrote. “America’s problem is even worse than a weak will. We even help push our allies into the hands of radical Islam. That is a dangerous kind of ignorance.
“We helped get rid of Iran’s ‘corrupt’ shah in 1979. He was replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini, who began state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East. Are we about to see another ayatollah rise to power? This time in nuclear Pakistan? And will America be mostly to blame?” (Trumpet, January 2008).
These questions ring loudly today. We’re hearing a lot of official assurances not to worry. At the end of April, President Obama said he was “confident that the nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.” Considering Pakistan’s rickety government and the Taliban’s shocking gains, this is impossible to guarantee.
And these assurances are being drowned out by the chorus of intelligence, defense and diplomatic voices saying that, for all practical purposes, the devil has already slipped his leash.
Watch Islamabad. A coup is probable. Nuclear weapons escaping the government’s control is virtually assured. Where they go from there is the stuff of nightmares.
Why America Will Not Win
As we are highlighting in this Trumpet issue, Jesus Christ specifically forewarned of this age of nuclear proliferation and peril. Though He promised that God would cut it short to prevent human extinction, we are about to experience untold suffering because of the irresponsible and malicious use of weapons of mass destruction. Events in Afghanistan and Pakistan are chilling vindication of the power of Christ’s prophecies.
We should also recognize that these disasters are unfolding despite America’s vigorous efforts to prevent them—and actually, to no small degree because America’s efforts have been so misguided and unintentionally damaging. Why? Because this too fulfills biblical prophecies in a remarkable way.
The reason for America’s inability to secure a positive outcome in AfPak is actually spelled out in detail in Scripture. You can prove it by reading Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Request your own free copy to get a true perspective on America’s current foreign-policy challenges—and to preview the outcome.
In this book, originally written in 1967, Mr. Armstrong actually foretold the end of the conflict in these two countries. “Today America finds herself heir to just about all the international problems and headaches in this post-World War ii, chaotic, violent world,” he wrote. “And the United States has won her last war …. Many other nations sap America’s national strength, ‘and he knoweth it not,’ as God long ago foretold!”
Mr. Armstrong based his forecast on a collection of stunning biblical prophecies that show America being besieged by curses in our day, including humiliating military defeat.
Don’t be fooled by talk—not even by the U.S. sending billions of dollars and thousands more troops into Afghanistan and Pakistan. The warning signs of America’s failure are clear.
Just as the Bible said.