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What Next on Afghanistan

December 8, 2009

Following his speech at West Point last week, President Barack Obama’s top civilian and military advisors have spent the last week laying out for Congress the details of his strategy in Afghanistan.

The hours and hours of new testimony, however, have led me to the conclusion that the president and his advisors are certain that at least 30,000 more U.S. military troops will go to Afghanistan but not at all certain that any significant number of troops will begin withdrawing by the July 2011 date articulated by the president.

Now admittedly, I didn’t attend the hearings, and I’ve only read a few of the transcripts. But after reading a good bit of the press reports and chatting with several Hill staff, I’ve reached the conclusion that the president’s new strategy isn’t all that much different from what the military had proposed last August. Lots more guns, expanding the war, and very little evidence of incentives for the kinds of negotiations, clear timetable for withdrawal, and regional engagement that will ultimately be necessary to stop the killing.

Today, in Congressional hearings the president’s top military leader in Afghanistan  said he does “ not anticipate” the need for additional forces beyond the current expansion, but he wouldn’t rule it out.  Last week, many of the president’s top civilian advisors confirmed that there is no firm date to begin a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Many of you have joined FCNL in arguing that this is exactly the wrong U.S. strategy Afghanistan. In the Congressional hearings and in polls of public opinion around the country we are seeing evidence that the president’s strategy doesn’t have much support. Yet we don’t see any evidence that Congress is willing to cut off money for the president’s expansion of the war.

Although we at FCNL oppose any new money for war, if there was a vote in Congress today to fund the presidents troops increase in Afghanistan we suspect Congress would approve the troop increase. In fact, if Congress wanted to cut off funding for the Afghanistan troop increase, they could added it to the military spending bill for fiscal year 2010 which as of today still hasn’t been sent to the president. I don’t think that is going to happen.

In the next few months, we at FCNL will be working to build support for a new strategy in Afghanistan that focuses on cutting off funding for this war and building support for a new policy based on four principles

  • Beginning a withdrawal of U.S. troops;
  • Halting offensive operations against the Taliban and concentrate on improving living standards in areas not under Taliban control;
  • Supporting negotiation and reconciliation among all Afghan groups, including the Taliban;
  • Improving and expanding development aid and diplomatic efforts to achieve regional security.

Changing U.S. policy will not be easy and it probably will not happen overnight. But you can start to build support for a new policy by

None of this legislation by itself will stop the troop increase. But by asking real questions and inviting the people who represent you into a conversation you can help to change the direction of the discussion and ultimately build support for a new policy.

You can stay updated on this strategy by subscribing to Jim Fine’s excellent Great Middle East listserv

  1. Judith Monson permalink
    December 8, 2009 7:16 pm

    Only the afghan people can dictate their thinking standards and way of life and only their sacifice can make it happen.
    this is not our war! Can anyone hear us ? Help them learn to to listen to each other and STOP trying to control ,who runs these Nations

  2. BJ Le´Tourneau permalink
    December 8, 2009 11:46 pm

    Instead of war, invest this money in education and healthcare. I would love to see the “armies” of the world work together after natural disasters, and to develop natural energies for use to slow the global warming. We need to use less so all can have some.

  3. Judith Monson permalink
    December 9, 2009 11:37 am

    BJ Le’Tourneau,What a wonderful concept;the leaders of the world,working together for the good of all peoples,and the planet.
    Be Well Judi M.

  4. joan devlin rykiel permalink
    December 9, 2009 12:02 pm

    It is a moral outrage that this country is willing to have less than one percent of our citizens fight these two wars. Their families are continuing to suffer with two, three, four, and even five deployments. The rest of us sit back with platitudes of support for our troops. But we are unwilling to even entertain the thoughts of a war tax or a draft. If Afghanistan is “necessary” for our survival than we all ought to be willing to take on these burdens. How many of us would still support these wars if we had to fight as well as pay for them?

  5. Judith Monson permalink
    December 9, 2009 1:26 pm

    Joan Devlin Rykiel How right you are, how about that congress,and no loop holes for your familes,many who joined to get college help,will never know that joy Regards Judi

  6. Marian Fuson permalink
    December 11, 2009 2:20 pm

    I heard the author of “Three Cups of Tea” on radio say that what the US needs to do is ask and listen to the elders in Afghanistan. What a different approach! Ibelieve that anyone in a US military uniform now becomes a target. There has been too much suffering by the citizens of Afghanistan. Somehow our culture has become so militarized anything but “win” or “lose” is considered “strength” or “weakness” that thinking out of that box never occurs alas.

  7. Paul Diamond permalink
    December 12, 2009 12:07 pm

    Afghanistan is not a country. Afghanistan is not a nation. Afghanistan is a string of valleys strung together by a harsh, rugged mountain range. Afghanistan is scattered villages of tribal and familial groups loosely connected by trade, a common language and a common religious tradition.
    If you are not of their village, if you do not speak their language you are a foreigner, an outsider, a stranger. If you are a stranger with a gun you are an enemy. As long as there are foreigners with guns on Afghan soil there will be Afghans to fight them.
    Military action is a failure of diplomacy.
    Perhaps it is not being reported. I am hearing nothing about anyone getting out of their cushy embassy offices and going out to the valleys, villages, marketplaces and neighborhoods sitting down over a cup of coffee or tea, to ask the Afghan people what they want for their country. Instead of telling them what we think they should have.
    They need roads. Are we building roads? How many Afghans are employed building those road?
    Most Afghans walk, ride donkeys and camels. What is being done to improve the tracks, paths and trails between villages that Afghans have used for millenia.
    They need and want electricity. Why are we not contracting with American companies to provide windmills, solar panels and small generating plants that run on biofuels to provide that need, village by village, particularly in their remote mountainous regions. Train Afghans to install, service, repair and run them. Afghanistan is the perfect laboratory for developing local green alternative energy. Not just for use in Afghanistan, but also for use in the United States and for export to many third world and remote locales.
    It will give a major boost to our alternative green energy industry. Give the Afghans the power they need. Provide jobs for Afghanistan and the United States.
    It will provide profitable alternatives to the poppy production. They can grow cash crops for their biofuel industry, as well as food, in the poppy fields. We can also provide alternative fuel buses and cars so they won’t be dependent on foreign fossil fuel products as we are.
    They need education. Let Afghan labor build Schools find and train Afghans to teach in them. Train local Afghans to protect their schools and their children.
    Find moderate and liberal clerics to serve as alternatives for the fundamentalists male bovine excrement that dominates in many parts of Afghanistan. As well as to teach in the madras’.
    If this kind of effort is going on I am not hearing any of it in the mainstream media or even in the alternative press and internet. Is it because it is not being reported? OR is it because it is not happening.
    The approach I propose requires humility rather than arrogance. This, so-called ‘christian’ country has never been very big on humility.

  8. Pastor Ed permalink
    July 21, 2011 3:26 pm

    There is an easy solution to “going to war”.

    The people simply say to Congress, “You want to go to war? There is no invasion coming at us, but you want to go to another country to go to war? Well, then, GO AHEAD. Senators, Representatives, Administration, you want to go to war?….YOU go. We will stay here and defend our country if invaded.

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