If the United States is engaging in nation building in Afghanistan, what kind of nation are we building?
The current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is to combine military action with political and economic reform. The hope is that support for the Taliban will evaporate if people have confidence in the Afghan government and its institutions. But what if in the most important respect there’s little difference between the Afghani government and the Taliban? That’s the question raised by the case of Sayed Mussa.
During the civil war following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, a jet bombed his neighbor’s house, killing seven people. Soon afterward, Mussa saw two foreigners pull up to the house and help his neighbor salvage what was left of his home. They did this despite the clear danger posed by the various factions in the civil war.
Intrigued, Mussa asked the foreigners who they were and why they were there. Their answer changed his life. “They said they are the followers of Jesus Christ,” he told the New York Times. The seed having been planted, it came to fruition nine months ago when a neighbor, who had become a Christian, gave Mussa a New Testament and then after his conversion, baptized him.
Regular listeners to BreakPoint know that a Muslim convert to Christianity, especially in places like Afghanistan, can expect trouble — or even worse — and trouble soon found Mussa. A furor arose after a television broadcast showed Afghan Christians praying with each other and what it claimed were pictures of Western Christians baptizing Afghanis. Some Afghani lawmakers called for the execution of these converts.
Mussa was one of those caught up in the furor. He was arrested and jailed. He was beaten by guards and allegedly raped by his fellow inmates at the urging of Taliban prisoners.
Eventually, following the intervention of the American Embassy, he was transferred to another facility, where he has been treated better. American officials are trying to obtain his release and asylum in another country where he can practice his faith.
What apparently isn’t an option is allowing him to practice his faith in his home country, which raises an obvious question: If the Afghani government is unwilling or unable to guarantee its citizens the freedom, in the words of its own constitution, “to exercise their faith,” what’s the point?
As I have previously told you, it is difficult at best to square our presence in Afghanistan with the Just War Doctrine. If Christians are going to be treated as if the Taliban were already in charge, then “difficult” has just become “impossible.”
One expert told The Times that what happened to Mussa and other Christians is part of a pattern of “not following due process and not properly defining constitutional limits.” As he put it, “Afghanistan’s legal system has a long way to go before it can be considered up to international standards.”
All of which underscores the folly of our nation-building mission in Afghanistan. If Mussa survives, it will not be out of a newfound and sincere respect for religious freedom; it will be because of “Western intervention.”
Obviously, we cannot immediately pull out of Afghanistan. Our troops are in harm’s way. But our nation doesn’t belong in the nation-building business. And we need to end it sooner, not later.