US House Members to Obama: Rethink Afghanistan Surge (by John Nichols, The Nation)

Ook Amerikaanse parlementariers waarschuwen president Obama dat zijn strategie voor Afghanistan en Pakistan (‘Af-Pak’) contraproductief zal uitwerken.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans are signing on to a letter urging President Obama to reconsider his plan to surge tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops into Afghanistan…

The full letter from the House members reads:

Dear Mr. President:
We have noted with some concern your announcement that an additional 17,000 US troops would be sent to Afghanistan. As the goals of our seven year military involvement remain troublingly unclear, we urge you to reconsider such a military escalation.
If the intent is to leave behind a stable Afghanistan capable of governing itself, this military escalation may well be counterproductive. A recent study by the Carnegie Endowment has concluded that "the only meaningful way to halt the insurgency’s momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element d riving the resurgence of the Taliban."

The 2001 authorization to use military force in Afghanistan allowed military action "to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States." Continuing to fight a counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan does not appear to us to be in keeping with these directives and an escalation may actually harm US security.
In a tape released in 2004, Osama bin Laden stated that al Qaedas’ goal was to "bleed.. .America to the point of bankruptcy" in Afghanistan. He continued, "All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note…"

We would do well to pay attention to these threats and to avoid falling into any such trap through escalation of our military presence in Afghanistan. We are also concerned that any perceived military success in Afghanistan might create pressure to increase military activity in Pakistan. This could very well lead to dangerous destabilization in the region and would increase hostility toward the United States.

Mr. President, in reviewing the past history of Afghanistan and the nations that have failed to conquer it — Russia spent nine years in Afghanistan and lost many billions of dollars and more than 15,000 Russian soldiers– we urge you to reconsider the decision to send an additional 17,000 troops and to resist pressure to escalate even further
. In addition to the House members who have signed on, the letter has also been endorsed by religious, political and policy advocates from across the ideological spectrum, including:..

House Members to Obama: Rethink Afghanistan Surge (by John Nichols, The Nation)

Obama’s Coalition of the Unwilling (Amy Goodman in Truthdig)

..U.S. policy in Afghanistan includes a troop surge, already under way, and continued bombing in Pakistan using unmanned drones. Escalating civilian deaths are a certainty. The United Nations estimates that more than 2,100 civilians died in 2008, a 40 percent jump over 2007.

The occupation of Afghanistan is in its eighth year, and public support in many NATO countries is eroding. Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, told me: “The move into Afghanistan is going to be very expensive. … Our European NATO partners are getting disillusioned with the war. I talked to a lot of the people in Europe, and they really feel this is a quagmire.”

Forty-one nations contribute to NATO’s 56,000-troop presence in Afghanistan. More than half of the troops are from the U.S. The United Kingdom has 8,300 troops, Canada just under 3,000. Maintaining troops is costly, but the human toll is greater. Canada, with 111 deaths, has suffered the highest per capita death rate for foreign armies in Afghanistan, since its forces are based in the south around Kandahar, where the Taliban is strong.

Last Sunday on CNN, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “We’re not going to win this war just by staying … we are not going to ever defeat the insurgency.” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine: “The United States cannot kill or capture its way to victory.” Yet it’s Canada that has set a deadline for troop withdrawal at the end of 2011. The U.S. is talking escalation.

Anand Gopal, Afghanistan correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, described the situation on the ground: “A lot of Afghans that I speak to in these southern areas where the fighting has been happening say that to bring more troops, that’s going to mean more civilian casualties. It’ll mean more of these night raids, which have been deeply unpopular amongst Afghans. … Whenever American soldiers go into a village and then leave, the Taliban comes and attacks the village.” Afghan Parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai, a woman, told Gopal: “Send us 30,000 scholars instead. Or 30,000 engineers. But don’t send more troops—it will just bring more violence.”

Women in Afghanistan play a key role in winning the peace. A photographer wrote me: “There will be various celebrations across Afghanistan to honor International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8. In Kandahar there will be an event with hundreds of women gathering to pray for peace, which is especially poignant in a part of Afghanistan that is so volatile.” After returning from an international women’s gathering in Moscow, feminist writer Gloria Steinem noted that the discussion centered around getting the media to hire peace correspondents to balance the war correspondents. Voices of civil society would be amplified, giving emphasis to those who wage peace. In the U.S. media, there is an equating of fighting the war with fighting terrorism. Yet on the ground, civilian casualties lead to tremendous hostility. Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, recently told me: “I’ve been saddened and shocked by virulent anti-American responses to those wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan]. They’re seen as occupations. … I think it’s very important we learn from mistakes of sounding war drums.” She added, “There’s such a connection from the Middle East to Afghanistan to Pakistan which builds on strengths of working with neighbors.”

Barack Obama was swept through the primaries and into the presidency on the basis of his anti-war message. Prime ministers like Brown and Harper are bending to growing public demand for an end to war. Yet in the U.S., there is scant debate about sending more troops to Afghanistan, and about the spillover of the war into Pakistan.

Obama’s Coalition of the Unwilling (By Amy Goodman in Truthdig)

America’s Proxy "War on Terrorism" in Pakistan Lahore Attack: Dress Rehearsal for The Horrors to Come (by Tom Burghardt in Global Research)

A War Fought in Ignorance (William Pfaff in Truthdig)

US drone attacks violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty: Rabbani (Daily Times)

Pakistan seen reluctant on US agenda (Daily Times)

‘Aanpak Afghanistan moet ouderwets vastberaden zijn’ (Commentaar de Volkskrant)

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