Baylor professors reflect on US Taliban peace agreement

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, after a joint news conference in presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. The U.S. signed a peace agreement with Taliban militants on Saturday aimed at bringing an end to 18 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan and allowing U.S. troops to return home from America's longest war. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

By Lucy Ruscitto | Staff Writer

The United States made a peace agreement with the Taliban Saturday that called for the complete removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan within the next 14 months.

This withdrawal followed an ongoing 18-year war, the longest in U.S. history, continuing through many presidential terms and causing the loss of thousands of American and Afghan lives, according to BBC.

Baylor Assistant Professor of Political Science, Dr. Peter Campbell, said he traces this conflict back to the Sept. 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks by the terrorist group, Al Qaeda.

“The Bush administration said, ‘Give us Osama bin Laden or we are going to come and take him from you,’” Campbell said. “The U.S. invaded Afghanistan, through a combination of the use of U.S. Special Forces and CIA operatives, but also through what becomes very important politically — the help of groups known as the Northern Alliance.”

Campbell said the Northern Alliance were the enemies of the Taliban, who lost to the Taliban in the Afghan Civil War in the ’90s. The U.S. years later, allied with the Northern Alliance to defeat the Taliban, contributing to the events occurring in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, for the first time in its history, invokes Article 5, which says an attack on one is an attack on all,” Campbell said.

Campbell said that throughout the 18-year war, there have been constant peaks and valleys for the US, in which they thought they were on the edge of “winning” and times of great loss and devastation.

U.S. involvement wavered and then increased through the different presidential administrations of Bush, Obama and Trump.

“One of the things that puts things in perspective, is you look at where Afghanistan is, it’s sandwiched between Pakistan and Iran,” Campbell said. “The Taliban were students from extremist madrassas inside Pakistan, who then went into Afghanistan to try and topple the Afghan government that was established after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union.”

The Taliban won the subsequent civil war and eventually sheltered Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden in their country.

Department Chair and Professor of Political Science, Dr. David Clinton, whose expertise is in the areas of American foreign policy and international relations, said he believes that the peace deal with the Taliban was reasonable.

“The American public has often demonstrated an unwillingness to persist in extended conflicts,” Clinton said. “Some sort of withdrawal agreement at some point is a necessity. And whether this will be the right agreement depends on its implementation.”

Clinton said that the success of the agreement relies upon whether or not terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda will behave under the new agreement.

Campbell concurred and said the deal does not guarantee the elimination of all future conflict in Afghanistan or U.S. engagement there, and the U.S. will most likely continue to have a presence in Afghanistan even after this “peace agreement.”

“U.S. involvement in Afghanistan will not end once the U.S. forces leave. The U.S. will still have a vested interest in making sure that Afghanistan never becomes a place to harbor terrorist groups like Al Qaeda again,” Clinton said. “Some people argue that maybe this peace agreement will lead to the separation of the Taliban from Al Qaeda. But there’s a lot of groups out there like ISIS, that also could potentially have relationships with the Taliban. And they see eye to eye on a lot of issues.”

Campbell additionally said that the Afghan people are the ones who have suffered the most from this conflict, and Taliban forces could get stronger now that they’re not as focused on fighting US troops in Afghanistan, and could turn their full attention to terrorizing Afghanis.

“This is a war being fought among people who are being terrorized on a daily basis,” Campbell said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in an interview with Stars and Stripes that the eventual coming of “peace” will take time.

“This is going to be a long, winding, bumpy road. There will be ups and downs. We’ll stop and start. That’s going to be the nature of this over the next days, weeks and months,” Esper said.

Clinton said that he believes that the U.S. being so concentrated on the war in the Middle East for almost two decades has produced some undesirable, yet necessary effects.

“[It] has taken American attention away from some other foreign policy problems… at a certain point, the more you do in one place, the less you’re able to do somewhere else. I think that the American public has become tired of the costs of the war, the casualties of the war,” Clinton said. “The American administrations have regretted that the war has prevented them from doing as much as they would like in some other parts of the world.”

Just like his predecessors, both Clinton and Campbell said that President Trump has also poured time, effort, resources and troops into the seemingly never ending hostilities in Afghanistan.

“If you look at what the Trump administration has said about foreign policy, they want to end the forever wars,” Campbell said. “There’s definitely disagreement within the administration about whether this is a good idea or not. But he seems to be determined to do everything he can to extricate the United States from Afghanistan.”

Overall, Campbell and Clinton said they believe this agreement makes sense in terms of U.S. domestic and foreign policy.

Campbell said the agreement signed between the U.S. and the Taliban appears to be a first and tentative step in ending America’s longest war.

“[Peace is] always the goal, or always ought to be the goal in these conflicts, that you get to a better place. You more approximate, a just peace,” Campbell said. “That’s really hard to do, especially in conflicts like this, these unconventional long term conflicts. This isn’t like World War II where it’s just giant armies smashing into each other. This is an unconventional war against unconventional enemies.”