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Giving Afghans the tools to resist repression

A peace agreement signed between U.S. officials and representatives of Afghanistan’s Taliban organization is long overdue, as far as Americans are concerned. We have spent far too much and lost too many lives in what has become the longest armed conflict in our nation’s history.

What about the Afghan people, however? Is the peace agreement good for them?

That remains to be seen. When troops from the United States led a multinational coalition in ousting the Taliban from control of Afghanistan many years ago, it was cause for rejoicing by many Afghans. The Taliban had operated a brutal regime. One aspect of it was that women had virtually no rights.

Now, after nearly a generation of life under a U.S. military umbrella, many Afghans have become accustomed to a large amount of freedom. For example, women need no longer worry that they will be beaten merely for appearing in public without a male escort.

It would be unrealistic to assume the Taliban have softened their outlook since being ousted from power. Beyond any doubt, their goal in gaining an agreement for U.S. withdrawal is to regain the control they lost.

The question is whether the Afghan people, having enjoyed a taste of liberty and tolerance, will allow the Taliban to take up where they left off in 2001. It is to be hoped they reject Taliban extremism forcefully.

What if they do not? What if the Taliban take full control of Afghanistan, then go back to extreme, violent repression?

Sadly, Americans cannot intervene again militarily unless the Taliban once again host a terrorist organization such as al-Qaida. If that occurs, all bets are off, of course.

But Uncle Sam simply cannot act as the world’s policeman. There are too many countries where brutality and repression are official policy. In Afghanistan, we have given the people tools with which to resist such a regime. It is up to them to use those tools.

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