Finding the Way Out

The clock is ticking toward a July decision by President Obama to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, as he has promised. The White House will face pressure from military commanders and Republicans in Congress to postpone the decision or to remove only a token force. The president should proceed with the July timetable, sooner if possible, but the U.S. also has an obligation to support the Afghan people, especially women, and to help them build a more secure and stable future without war. The challenge is to achieve a military exit in a manner that enhances security, development, and human rights. It’s a tall order, but I believe it is possible.

The logic of withdrawal. The withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops is necessary because the current militarized strategy is not working. Violent incidents in Afghanistan have increased 70 percent in the last year, according to the Pentagon's November 2010 progress report, and are up more than 300 percent since 2007. The number of districts with "good" security has remained unchanged despite the deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. troops. The percentage of Afghans rating their security as “bad” is increasing.

Nearly every independent study of the war concurs that the presence of American and other foreign troops is a major cause of the insurgency. The number of Taliban fighters has increased in proportion to the expansion of foreign military forces. Insurgents are motivated by a desire to end military occupation and rid their country of foreign forces. As the scale of the military intervention has increased, the insurgency has become stronger and the influence of the Taliban has spread. Reversing this perverse dynamic will require a new strategy of demilitarization.

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Sojourners Magazine February 2011
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