April 6, 2009

MADRE Talking Points: Seven Reasons to Oppose a Troop Surge in Afghanistan

We know that elements in the military and Congress exerted great pressure on President Obama to ratchet up the war on Afghanistan. To achieve a more rational and peaceful outcome, we need to exert a counter-pressure. MADRE calls on the Obama administration to chart a whole new course in US-Afghan relations, based on the understanding that the US needs to engage with the rest of the world, not just occupy it.

Seven Reasons to Oppose a Troop Surge

1. More troops will mean more civilian casualties.

Each year that the occupation drags on, more Afghan civilians are killed. In 2008 alone, more than 2100 civilians were killed, a 40 percent jump over 2007.
The Taliban is known to attack villages where US soldiers have been. More US troops will make more civilians vulnerable to reprisal attacks.

2. More troops will not resolve the crisis.

President Obama says the main goal is to stop al-Qaeda and prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base to launch attacks against the US. But he hasn’t explained how a troop surge would further that goal or produce any positive results for people in Afghanistan.
Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates has written that, "The United States cannot kill or capture its way to victory."
Intensifying the war will not address the underlying reasons for the resurgence of the Taliban, namely:
popular outrage and fear of US attacks on civilians,
the corruption of the Karzai government,
and the support given to the Taliban by Pakistan.
These are political problems that cannot be solved by force.

3. A troop surge has already been tried—and it failed.
In 2007, the number of US/NATO troops was increased by 45 percent. During that surge, more civilians were killed than in the previous four years combined.

4. Rampant abuses of Afghan women’s rights cannot be eliminated by force.
The Bush Administration justified the invasion of Afghanistan by pointing to the Taliban’s systematic abuse of women. But subsequent US policies in Afghanistan did not uphold women’s human rights. As a result:
1 in every 3 Afghan women experience physical, psychological or sexual violence
70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages in Afghanistan
Every 30 minutes, an Afghan woman dies during childbirth
87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate
30 percent of girls have access to education in Afghanistan
44 years is the average life expectancy rate for women in Afghanistan

5. US troops are backing an unpopular, corrupt government
The US hand-picked Afghan President Hamid Karzai, betraying many Afghans’ hope for genuine democracy. Karzai’s government is seen as somewhere between inept and predatory.
In its efforts to defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the US has brought to power notorious warlords, drug lords, and brutal militia leaders.
60 percent of Afghanistan’s Parliament are either warlords or have ties to warlords. One MP, Mohammad Mohaqiq, is accused of nailing prisoners to walls.
Other government officials also stand accused of war crimes, but are protected from prosecution by a general amnesty.
Fear of US-allied warlords and militias leads to increased support for the Taliban, which promises to restore law and order.

6. US Troops are Undermining Humanitarian Operations
The US has militarized humanitarian aid by creating “provincial reconstruction teams” (PRTs) that blur the line between combat operations and aid delivery.
The PRTs use humanitarian aid as a bargaining chip to extort information from civilians. The practice turns urgently-needed aid into a weapon of war and endangers recipients by associating them with the US military.
Aid operations are already threatened by the occupation. Half the country is now inaccessible to UN aid workers. Attacks on aid workers have risen 400% since 2005, leading many agencies to scale back their programs.

7. Most Afghans Want the US Out
Afghans have a long and proud tradition of resisting foreign occupation. The current US troop build-up is no exception.
Afghan community groups, women’s organizations, and student movements have protested the occupation, but their voices are rarely heard in US media.
More than 90 percent of Afghans polled by the BBC say they oppose the Taliban, but less than half see the US-led occupation as a positive alternative.

Afghan women want a surge in diplomacy, development and democracy, not troops. Here are 10 things we want to see on Obama’s to-do list for Afghanistan:

Set a timetable for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops.

End US missile strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  

Demilitarize aid operations and fund reconstruction efforts that benefit Afghans, not US corporations.

Promote peace talks between all parties involved in the conflict. Negotiations should include women’s organizations and other progressive forces and uphold the principle that human rights, including women’s human rights, are non-negotiable.

Compensate families and communities hurt by US military operations and pay war reparations.

Support local models of governance, such as the Loya Jirga, not a charade of procedural democracy that empowers war criminals.
Support demands of the Afghan women’s movement to end violence against women, ensure women’s access to critical services such as healthcare, education, food and water, and give real meaning to hard-won legal reforms meant to protect women’s rights.  

Create a fund to meet Afghans’ urgent humanitarian needs. After 30 years of intervention and war, the US owes Afghanistan nothing less.

Support Afghan civil society, particularly women’s organizations, which are a crucial counter-force to warlordism, terrorism and government corruption and a key to rebuilding Afghan society.

Recognize that ultimately, decisions about what happens in Afghanistan should be made in Afghanistan, not Washington.
-thanks to MADRE
 Demanding Rights, Resources and Results for Women Worldwide

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