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By David Bachelor, PhD
On Monday the American media celebrated the return of an American held captive in Afghanistan. The Washington Post headline was, “U.S. Hails Release of Taliban Captive Following Prisoner Swap.” Mark Frerichs was exchanged for an Afghan warlord held by the U.S. since 2005. The repatriation of this warlord “. . . comes weeks after the United States conducted a drone strike in downtown Kabul that killed al-Qaeda’s top militant.” It appears the Taliban may be allowing their country to be a haven for extremists. America is not the only country concerned about where terrorists can thrive. As this week’s headlines illustrate, many nations share this concern.
Indian ejournal TheWire featured the headline, “SCO Plans Single List of Banned Terrorist, Separatist and Extremist Groups.” The SCO is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which recently held their Summit 2022. The SCO summit consisted of representatives from Russia, China, India and five former Soviet republics. An SCO goal is to combat “. . . the spread of terrorist ideology and eliminate sleeper cells and places used as terrorist safe havens.” Indian newspaper The Economic Times had the headline “Afghanistan Must Not Be Used as Launch Pad for Terror Activities.” At the SCO summit India’s Defense Minister addressed India’s fear that Afghanistan would provide “safe havens and training” for Kashmiri separatists.
Another journal from the subcontinent, ThePrint, announced, “FATF Must Tread Cautiously, Terrorism Ingrained in Minds Of Pak Foreign Policy Eagles.” The article advises the FATF, which tracks the money that funds terrorism, that “Pakistan has nurtured and given safe havens to various terrorist outfits and leaders” since the nation’s inception. A former prime minister of Pakistan admitted that 30,000-40,000 guerillas from the wars in Afghanistan and/or Kashmir were living in the sanctuary of Pakistan.
On Sunday the American blogsite Lawfare had a foreign policy essay entitled, “The Importance of Terrorist Founders and the Role of Safe Havens.” The article looks at two Kashmiri extremist groups. The article states, “In the Sunni jihadist movement, few well-established organizations still have their founding leaders.” The authors concluded the two featured groups “…benefit from the continued survival of their founding leaders, who endure due to the protection afforded them by their safe havens.” For over twenty years in the case of one leader and forty years in the case of the other, their lives and their causes have been protected by Pakistan.
Nations in the Bible faced similar threats to their security. King Solomon was a mighty military leader who built Israel into a geographic hegemon. However, neighboring countries provided safe havens for groups hostile to his kingdom. God allowed these enemies to be established because Solomon strayed from his relationship to God (1 Kings 11:11). One of the opposition groups consisted of the survivors from the kingdom of Zobah which King David (Solomon’s father) had destroyed. Their leader was named Rezon. In 1 Kings 11 the Bible says, “Rezon and his men went to Damascus, where they settled and took control. Rezon was Israel’s adversary while Solomon lived, adding to the trouble caused by Damascus’ king” (1 Kings 10:24-25).
As the Washington Post article showed, America has eliminated some key leaders of opposition groups. However, the Lawfare blog article reminds its readers that, “other terrorist leaders in South Asia reside in areas that ‘over the horizon’ counterterror capabilities cannot reach.” U.S. strikes have lessened but not eliminated the threat from Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Maybe the solution to our security issue is the one option not chosen by Solomon or the members of the SCO. Maybe we need to repent of our idols and return to total dependence on God.