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November 17th, 2009

Open letter to President Barak Obama Urging Cessation of U.S. Military Action in Afghanistan

Dear Mr. President,

Strongly do I support your careful weighing of options for continuation of United States engagement in Afghanistan. I am, of course, appalled by the civilian deaths resulting from our ground and air military action. It is noted that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has himself acknowledged the counter-productive effects of civilian deaths resulting from military engagement. He described the killing of civilians as “one of our greatest strategic vulnerabilities” (‘New York Times,’ June 13, 2009). It is significant that  Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that senior officers must work to prevent the militarization of American foreign policy (‘New York Times,’ January 12, 2009). Former First Lady Laura Bush on her return from Afghanistan made the point on Meet the Press, November 30, 2008, that there were so many Afghan widows.

For humanitarian reasons and in our national interest I would urge the scheduling of military combat forces draw-down, establishment of a United Nations short-term security force mission, and re-direction of U.S. engagement in Afghanistan to the development of non-military programs for reconstruction and rehabilitation, in collaboration with the Government of Afghanistan.

In your speech last week at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, you told a military audience that you would only commit more forces to Afghanistan if it is vital to U.S. interests and receives public support and that “I will not risk your lives unless it is necessary to America’s vital interests” (‘Staten Island Advance,’ November 13, 2009). It is my understanding that the interests now considered vital are (a) rendering al-Qaeda unable to pursue its operations and (b) weakening the Taliban’s influence. In this regard I noted and quote the following [Cato (Institute) – “Recognizing the Limits of American Power in Afghanistan” by Doug Bandow; the article appeared in the ‘Huffington Post’ on October 31, 2009]:

“The critical issue is Washington’s objective. The U.S. long ago achieved its goal of displacing and weakening al-Qaeda (despite the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden) and ousting the Taliban government which gave the organization refuge. That success persists despite recent Taliban gains. National Security Adviser James Jones estimated fewer than 100 al-Qaeda members are operating in Afghanistan, and said they have “no bases, no ability to launch attacks on us or our allies.”

I was indeed pleased to learn that General Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, supports the assignment of civilian personnel to Afghanistan in fields such as agriculture, and that the State Department has attempted to accommodate his requests (‘New York Times,’ November 12, 2009). Certainly, expenditures for humanitarian aid, community development, and reconstruction should replace military expenditures for programs designed to meet needs identified by Afghan agencies and organizations. A relevant example of such a program was recently described (‘New York Times,’ November 13, 2009) – community participation in a Village Council in Jurm resulted in the village obtaining a grant which enabled local workers and an engineer to carry out a clean water development project – a small but important project.

Authorization for continuation and intensification of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan would, I believe,  severely lessen the potential for your administration’s success in drawing support for domestic programs and for your other foreign policy objectives.

I hope that revisions in U.S. policy with regard to Afghanistan would include, inter alia, the following:

– cessation of military action in Afghanistan and in Pakistan

– establishment of just system of reparations for civilian casualties and for local destruction

– removal of land mines

– withdrawal of military forces

– negotiations with all parties concerned (including the Taliban, as it is a significant part of the
citizenry and will not be ignored)

– provision of financial aid for programs identified by Afghan authorities/agencies/local councils,
to be executed by local workers and Afghan organizations to the extent possible;
if necessary, civilian personnel of other institutions/organizations to be identified by the Afghan authorities/agencies/local councils

– support for establishment of a United Nations short-term security force mission

In my end-the-war activities, I often meet people who have lost loved ones in this conflict and family members of posted military personnel who are struggling emotionally/financially. This is indicative of the dreadful vortex –

‘died as part of the Afghan war and related operations:
BROCHU, Jordan M., 20, Pfc., Army.
WALSHE, Tyler R., 21, Specialist Army.
WELCH, Jonathan D., 19, Specialist Army.’
This should be unacceptable to all.

Respectfully submitted,
– Barbara Walker
for the Granny Peace Brigade

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