Urgent – Tell Congress: Cut Pentagon Pork, End War, Don’t Start a New One!

June 18, 2014

Today, the House is taking up its version of the National Department of Defense Appropriations Act.  This is one of the few chances that Congress votes on issues we care about.  Votes may start as early as this afternoon and continue through Friday afternoon.

Please call (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Representative (or give the operator your zip code to be directed) and say:

“My name is _______ and I am a constituent.  I am calling to request that Rep. _______ support amendments to Defense Appropriations that cut Pentagon spending and that end the Afghanistan war as soon as possible.  Thank you.”

This bill gives nearly half a trillion dollars to the Pentagon.  And that doesn’t include monies for the Afghanistan war and funding from an $80 billion slush fund called the Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) account.  Nor does it include most of the budget for nuclear weapons.  Again, all combined, the U.S. spends almost as much as all other countries in the world combined on military-related programs.  Does that represent your values?

Take a moment now to call your Representative.

We expect amendments that will:

*End the Afghanistan War at the end of this year — it’s time to bring all troops and contractors home and not leave any behind after this year.
*Bar sending combat troops into Iraq — we’ve been down that horrible road.
*Cut the F-35 — the most expensive plane and Pentagon project in history.
*Cut the Littoral Combat Ship — experts say it will cost over three times the original estimate.
*Cut fighter jet research — the U.S. has already wasted enough tax payer money on over-priced planes that don’t work.

Again please take time NOW to CALL your Representative to cut the Pentagon budget so we can afford other priorities like job creation, education and infrastructure.  Use the phone number and script above.

Humbly for Peace,

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. Please call your Representative now at (202) 224-3121 and follow the above script to reduce Pentagon spending and end the Afghanistan War.  The sooner your call the better, but you can call up to Friday afternoon.


America is Tired of Afghanistan War – Peace Action Op-Ed published by USA Today

May 30, 2014

Our Policy and Political Director, Paul Kawika Martin, was asked to submit this piece to USA Today, which published it yesterday. Please like, share, forward, comment on the site, write a supportive letter to the editor, etc.

Bring the troops home as soon and as safely as possible.

 150 38 3LINKEDIN 13COMMENTMORE

President Obama announced on Tuesday that the U.S. would extend the Afghanistan War, the longest in American history, an additional two-and-a-half years. What will that get us?

For most Americans, the answer is unclear. Despite polls saying that a majority of Americans think the Afghanistan War was a mistake and not worth the blood and treasure, the U.S. will leave 9,800 troops and an untold number of contractors in the country after the end of this year.

OUR VIEW: Obama’s risky Afghanistan exit

Economists estimate that the long-term costs of being at war in Afghanistan for nearly 13 years will exceed a few trillion dollars. That’s enough tax dollars to take care of all our woefully needed infrastructure investments through 2020. So why spend more taxpayer dollars on the Afghanistan War?

The president claims that we need the troops to continue training Afghan forces for stability and to continue our fight against terrorists such as al-Qaeda.

Yet, the surge of troops in 2009 and 2010 into the country failed to quell the violence, showing that large troop numbers neglect to lead to stability or lead to a democratic or even a well-governed Afghanistan. Historically, political solutions are the best solutions to produce stability, even if difficult to obtain.

Also, history teaches us that local policing, working with the local populace, is far more likely to reduce terrorists than foreign forces that may increase recruitment by killing innocents and arousing resentments.

In 2009, senior U.S. military intelligence officials claimed that fewer than 100 members of al-Qaeda remained in Afghanistan. In contrast, nearly 15,000 operate in Syria. And remember that Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan, where experts think that al-Qaeda is led in the tribal regions.

While it’s unlikely that the Obama administration will change its mind on wasting two more years with a military presence in Afghanistan, Congress should take its war powers back and force the president to listen to Americans. Bring the troops home as soon and as safely as possible.

Paul Kawika Martin is the policy and political director for Peace Action — the nation’s largest grassroots peace group (www.Peace-Action.org). He traveled to Afghanistan in 2010.


Might Doesn’t Make Right (or even get a country what it wants)

May 12, 2014

With his essay “What you need to tell people when they say we should use the military,” Peace Action Board Member Larry Wittner makes a very succinct and persuasive case on History News Network that military might, especially as wielded by the United States, achieves little in international relations.

tags: Military Power

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Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, “What’s Going On at UAardvark?

SIPRI Fact Sheet:  TRENDS IN WORLD MILITARY EXPENDITURE, 2013

Is overwhelming national military power a reliable source of influence in world affairs?

If so, the United States should certainly have plenty of influence today. For decades, it has been the world’s Number 1 military spender. And it continues in this role. According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spent $640 billion on the military in 2013, thus accounting for 37 percent of world military expenditures. The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively. Thus, last year, the United States spent more than three times as much as China and more than seven times as much as Russia on the military.

In this context, the U.S. government’s inability to get its way in world affairs is striking. In the current Ukraine crisis, the Russian government does not seem at all impressed by the U.S. government’s strong opposition to its behavior. Also, the Chinese government, ignoring Washington’s protests, has laid out ambitious territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. Even much smaller, weaker nations have been snubbing the advice of U.S. officials. Israel has torpedoed U.S. attempts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, the embattled Syrian government has been unwilling to negotiate a transfer of power, and North Korea remains as obdurate as ever when it comes to scuttling its nuclear weapons program.

Of course, hawkish critics of the Obama administration say that it lacks influence in these cases because it is unwilling to use the U.S. government’s vast military power in war.

But is this true? The Obama administration channeled very high levels of military manpower and financial resources into lengthy U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ended up with precious little to show for this investment. Furthermore, in previous decades, the U.S. government used its overwhelming military power in a number of wars without securing its goals. The bloody Korean War, for example, left things much as they were before the conflict began, with the Korean peninsula divided and a ruthless dictatorship in place in the north. The lengthy and costly Vietnam War led to a humiliating defeat for the United States — not because the U.S. government lacked enormous military advantages, but because, ultimately, the determination of the Vietnamese to gain control of their own country proved more powerful than U.S. weaponry.

Even CIA ventures drawing upon U.S. military power have produced a very mixed result. Yes, the CIA, bolstered by U.S. military equipment, managed to overthrow the Guatemalan government in 1954. But, seven years later, the CIA-directed, -funded, and -equipped invasion at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs failed to topple the Castro government when the Cuban public failed to rally behind the U.S.-instigated effort. Although the U.S. government retains an immense military advantage over its Cuban counterpart, with which it retains a hostile relationship, this has not secured the United States any observable influence over Cuban policy.

The Cold War confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet governments is particularly instructive. For decades, the two governments engaged in an arms race, with the United States clearly in the lead. But the U.S. military advantage did not stop the Soviet government from occupying Eastern Europe, crushing uprisings against Soviet domination in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, or dispatching Soviet troops to take control of Afghanistan. Along the way, U.S. hawks sometimes called for war with the Soviet Union. But, in fact, U.S. and Soviet military forces never clashed. What finally produced a love fest between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and ended the Cold War was a strong desire by both sides to replace confrontation with cooperation, as indicated by the signing of substantial nuclear disarmament agreements.

Similarly, the Iranian and U.S. governments, which have been on the worst of terms for decades, appear to be en route to resolving their tense standoff — most notably over the possible development of Iranian nuclear weapons — through diplomacy. It remains unclear if this momentum toward a peaceful settlement results from economic sanctions or from the advent of a reformist leadership in Tehran. But there is no evidence that U.S. military power, which has always been far greater than Iran’s, has played a role in fostering it.

Given this record, perhaps military enthusiasts in the United States and other nations should consider whether military power is a reliable source of influence in world affairs. After all, just because you possess a hammer doesn’t mean that every problem you face is a nail.

- See more at: http://hnn.us/article/155550#sthash.YqVs3dTk.dpuf


Move the Money, Crush the Slush Fund

May 3, 2014

Over 70 U.S. events and actions were held to mark Tax Day and the 4th Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS).  As you probably know, Peace Action was the US coordinator of GDAMS events for the 2nd year running.

With the 2014 elections just six months away, PAEF’s campaign to Move the Money from the Pentagon to our communities has never been more prominent in the national discourse.

Members of both parties in Congress are exploring military cuts as part of efforts to reduce deficits.  Predictably, vested interests are working overtime to preserve, and even increase where possible, the current, historically high, levels of military spending.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported the costs of major weapons acquisitions, like the F-35, have risen $500 billion above their orignial projected costs.  Congress loudly denounce cost overruns even as they look for ways to increase Pentagon funding.

Peace Action has renewed its fight against one of the ways the Pentagon hopes will permit it to restore funding for items left out – for the moment – to keep the Pentagon under budget control limits.  For example, Congress could allow the Pentagon to use funds from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), meant to fund military operations in Afghanistan, to restore eight F-35′s left out of the President’s budget.  The Pentagon has used the OCO as a slush fund to reduce Pentagon cuts this year to just $3.5 billion dollars while domestic spending was slashed by $15 billion – not exactly the shared pain sequestration was supposed to deliver.

Working with our allies, Peace Action is circulating a sign-on letter to Members of Congress from a host of organizations working in our Move the Money coalitions reminding them that: “According to the Pentagon, from FY 2013 to FY 2014, approximately 39 percent fewer personnel will be deployed to Afghanistan (with none in Iraq). Yet, in the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill, Defense Subcommittee funding in the OCO account will actually increase from FY 2013 to FY 2014.”

Call your Senators and Representative and tell them the Overseas Contingency Operations should not be used as a slush fund for runaway Pentagon spending.  Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.


Zero

February 24, 2014

Here’s an easy quiz for you. According to an article in the Washington Post over the weekend , the Obama Administration is considering four options regarding leaving U.S.  troops in Afghanistan after the end of this year. What do you think the number should be?

A.      10,000 (favored by U.S. military commanders, unsurprisingly)
B.      A somewhat smaller number, unspecified
C.      3,000
D.      Zero

Tell the president you want all our troops home, with none left behind in Afghanistan.

It’s long past time to end America’s longest war. In the words of the late, great Pete Seeger (a longtime Peace Action member):

“If you love this land of the free,
Bring ‘em home, bring ‘em home,
Bring ‘em back from overseas,
Bring ‘em home, bring ‘em home!”

Peacefully Yours,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action

P.S. After you email the president, please click here and tell your friends to do the same.


Peace Action/Peace Action Education Fund 2013 Accomplishments

January 23, 2014

Peace Action/Peace Action Education Fund 2013 Program, Policy,

Political and Organizing Accomplishments

-Stopped a U.S. attack on Syria! Peace Action played a key leadership role in convening an ad hoc coalition to activate groups on Syria starting in June, which was then quickly mobilized in late August/early September, along with our grassroots affiliate/chapter network, to successfully demand alternatives to a U.S. attack on Syria. (national office, affiliate network)

-Helped realize a modest cut in Pentagon budget (everybody!)

-Provided leadership in grassroots efforts at defense transition/economic conversion in Connecticut, Wisconsin, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Hampshire (national office, affiliates and chapters, national and grassroots allies)

-Coordinated/help lead two national days of action on cutting the Pentagon budget – Pull the Pork and Global Day of Action on Military Spending/Tax Day (national office and affiliate network, national, international and local allies)

-Effective advocacy of Diplomacy, Not War with Iran (so far!) (Affiliate network, national office, allies)

-Helped keep up the pressure to end the war in Afghanistan and for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces and bases (everybody)

-Led coalition around pressing the U.S. to participate in multi-lateral nuclear disarmament forums – 24 organizations signed letter to White House, 25,000 signed petition, pulled together a new ad hoc coalition to continue to press for progress in multi-lateral arena (national office, PANYS, allies)

-Peace Voter/PAC – helped elect longtime ally Ed Markey to U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts (Mass PA, national office)

-Launched a new “A Foreign Policy for All” campaign outlining a positive, proactive, more peaceful and sustainable U.S. foreign and military policy (national office)

-Had letters to the editor, news articles and op-eds published in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Common Dreams, Foreign Policy in Focus, CounterPunch, Huffington Post plus many in local media (national and affiliates and chapters – CA, OR, IL, MD, NJ, NC, MA, NY, WI, NY, OH, MO, KS, NE, PA and more!), as well as international outlets and radio and television interviews. Most of these are posted on our website or Peace Blog.


Afghanistan — should we stay or should we go?

November 18, 2013

While Afghanistan has not been in the U.S. news much recently, key issues are now being debated regarding a possible enduring U.S. military presence past the end of 2014 deadline for “full withdrawal.”

The Reuters article below notes the two sticking point issues, immunity from prosecution in Afghan courts for any remaining U.S. troops and the right for U.S. troops to enter and search Afghan homes, with or without Afghan troops. Won’t hazard a guess as to how this plays out, but it may well be decided over the next week.

Exclusive: U.S.-Afghan security pact hits impasse as time runs out

Click for a zoom view

Reuters

Monday, November 18, 2013 11:56 AM GMT

 

By Dylan Welch and Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai has rejected a provision of a U.S.-Afghan security pact, putting the entire deal in jeopardy just days before the country’s elite gather to debate it, a senior Afghan official and a Western diplomat said.

The question of whether foreign troops will be able to search Afghan homes after NATO’s combat mission ends next year has long been a sticking point of an agreement setting out the terms under which remaining U.S. forces will operate there.

But in a series of meetings over the weekend the enter-and-search issue emerged as the biggest roadblock facing the security pact as Karzai dug his heels in, the Afghan official, who has been close to the talks, told Reuters.

Without an accord on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), Washington says it could pull out all of its troops at the end of 2014, leaving Afghanistan’s fledgling security forces on their own to fight the Taliban-led insurgency.

Two years ago, the United States ended its military mission in Iraq with a similar “zero option” outcome after the failure of talks with Baghdad, which refused to guarantee immunity to U.S. personnel serving there.

The United States is concerned that as campaigning intensifies for Afghanistan’s presidential election next April, it will be increasingly difficult to broker a security pact.

“They want a window left open to go into Afghan homes, but the president does not accept that – not unilaterally and not joint,” the Afghan official said, referring to house raids by U.S. troops either on their own or with Afghan forces.

The U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul declined to comment, but a Western diplomat in Kabul with knowledge of the talks confirmed the two sides had reached an impasse.

“It’s a very tense time,” the diplomat said.

“NO FLEXIBILITY”

On Thursday, a five-day national gathering of the country’s political, tribal and other elites, called a loya jirga, will begin to debate the BSA in Kabul.

If an agreement on the pact is not reached by then, Karzai may tell the meeting in his opening address that he does not agree with the article about house searches, the official said.

“If the jirga becomes about that one article then it risks seeing the entire document rejected,” the Afghan official said.

Talks stalled over the house-search issue during two meetings Karzai held at his palace with U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and NATO’s commander, General Joseph Dunford.

“From our side there is no flexibility on this issue of allowing Americans to search Afghan homes, because this is more important than jurisdiction,” the Afghan official said.

Jurisdiction refers to giving all American service members in Afghanistan immunity from Afghan law, another U.S. demand that has been resisted by Karzai.

The issues of jurisdiction and unilateral military operations by U.S. forces have been the main bones of contention in the months-long negotiations over the security agreement.

The question of house searches, which have sometimes led to civilian deaths, is a highly charged one that has contributed to the rifts between Karzai and foreign forces in an increasingly fractious relationship.

The United States wants to be able to conduct such searches to continue targeting al Qaeda and other militants in Afghanistan. Karzai is concerned that the hated searches could sap support for the government and foreign troops who stay on.

Another meeting between Karzai, the U.S. envoy and the NATO commander was expected on Monday, though the official said there was little hope of a breakthrough.

(Editing by John Chalmers and Robert Birsel)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp


Here we go again – U.S. pushing for some troops to remain in Afghanistan

October 15, 2013

Published on Monday, October 14, 2013 by Common Dreams

‘Iraq Replay’: Kerry Demands Immunity for US Troops in Afghanistan

Suraia Sahar: ‘Immunity is just another extension of occupation’

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

US troops set out on a patrol in Paktika province, Afghanistan. There are currently 87,000 international troops in Afghanistan, including 52,000 U.S. troops.(Photo: David Furst/AFP/Getty Images)Secretary of State John Kerry is demanding immunity for U.S. military service members in Afghanistan as a precondition for a ‘bi-lateral security agreement,’ which would allow 10,000 U.S. troops in the country past the 2014 withdrawal date.

Critics are slamming this as another example of U.S. refusal to account for war crimes as it pushes for continuing military occupation in Afghanistan. “I don’t believe these occupiers should be protected from prosecution for war crimes,” Suraia Sahar of Afghans United for Justice told Common Dreams. “Immunity is just another extension of occupation.”

U.S. officials say that jurisdiction over crimes committed by U.S. service members in Afghanistan remains an unresolved potential deal-breaker in negotiations whose most recent round started late Friday. Karzai stated that he will refer the issue of immunity to the loya Jirga, a body of elders and leaders in Afghanistan.

On the U.S. side, in contrast, the agreement does not have to be run by the Senate, because it is made with executive powers, Al Jazeera America reports.

If the agreement is not decided by its late-October deadline, the U.S will have no legal basisfor keeping troops beyond the 2014 pullout date. There are currently 87,000 international troops in Afghanistan, including 52,000 U.S. troops.

The issue of immunity for U.S. troops has long been a point of contention for the Afghan people in a U.S.-led occupation characterized by a staggering civilian death toll and high-profile atrocities. The 2012 Panjwai massacre, in which 16 Afghan civilians were gunned down and killed, and 6 wounded by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, added fuel to calls from within Afghanistan for those accused of war crimes to stand trial in Afghanistan. Despite these demands, Bales was whisked out of Afghanistan to face trial in the U.S.

“This has been brewing for a while,” Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action, toldCommon Dreams. “This is what they were trying to do in Iraq, but the U.S. couldn’t get Iraq to agree. This is almost an exact replay.”

Kerry sought to assure the Afghan government that the U.S. will thoroughly prosecute war crimes, drawing on similar agreements in South Korea and Japan where immunity exists.

Yet, critics scoffed at these examples. “These are not very good agreements,” Martincontinued. “The people of Okinawa are furious at rape and sexual assault by U.S. troops.”

“This is part of our country’s sickness and addiction to militarism,” he added. “There is no reason the people of Afghanistan should accept immunity.”

Many hope that the disagreement over immunity will hasten a U.S. withdrawal from an occupation that continues to bring death and destruction to the people of Afghanistan. “It’s in the best interest of Americans and Afghans for US troops to withdraw as soon as possible. The Afghan people must have the space to decide their own future,” Rebecca Griffin from Peace Action West told Common Dreams. “The disagreement about jurisdiction over US troops may help speed along that process.”

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Prestigious International Peace Prize Awarded to Courageous Whistleblower Bradley Manning

July 22, 2013

IPB AWARDS MACBRIDE PEACE PRIZE 2013 TO US WHISTLEBLOWER BRADLEY MANNING

Note: Peace Action is a longtime member of the International Peace Bureau and strongly concurs with this award’s much deserved honoring of Bradley Manning.

manning19 July 2013 Geneva

 

The International Peace Bureau is delighted to announce that this year’s Sean MacBride Peace Prize is to be awarded to Bradley Manning, the US whistleblower whose case has attracted worldwide attention, for his courageous actions in revealing information about US war crimes. His trial is likely to be concluded in the coming days.

 

Read-IPB-Press-Release

Manning was arrested in May 2010 after allegedly leaking more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, 400,000 U.S. Army reports about Iraq and another 90,000 about Afghanistan, as well as the material used in the “Collateral Murder” video produced by WikiLeaks: videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Garani airstrike in Afghanistan. At the time, it constituted the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public. Much of it was published by WikiLeaks or its media partners between April and November 2010.

 

Manning has so far been detained for three years  — first in Kuwait, then in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps Brig in Quantico, Va., and finally at a medium-security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. —before being charged with 22 offenses, including communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy. He pleaded guilty in February 2013 to 10 of the 22 charges, which could carry a sentence of up to 20 years. A full life sentence is now also possible.

 

IPB’s Co-President Tomas Magnusson comments: “IPB believes that among the very highest moral duties of a citizen is to make known war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is within the broad meaning of the Nuremberg Principles enunciated at the end of the Second World War. When Manning revealed to the world the crimes being committed by the US military he did so as an act of obedience to this high moral duty”. It is for this reason too that Manning has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In more general terms it is well known that war operations, and especially illegal ones, are frequently conducted under the cover of secrecy. To penetrate this wall of secrecy by revealing information that should be accessible to all is an important contribution to the struggle against war, and acts as a challenge to the military system which dominates both the economy and society in today’s world. IPB believes that whistleblowers are vital in upholding democracies – especially in the area of defense and security. A heavy sentence for Manning would not only be unjust but would also have very negative effects on the right to freedom of expression which the US claims to uphold.

 

About the MacBride Prize

The prize has been awarded each year since 1992 by the International Peace Bureau (IPB), founded in 1892. Previous winners include: Lina Ben Mhenni (Tunisian blogger) and Nawal El-Sadaawi (Egyptian author) – 2012, Jackie Cabasso (USA, 2008), Jayantha Dhanapala (Sri Lanka, 2007) and the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2006).It is named after Sean MacBride, a distinguished Irish statesman who shared the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize, and is given to individuals or organisations for their outstanding work for peace, disarmament and human rights. (details at: http://ipb.org/i/about-ipb/II-F-mac-bride-peace-prize.html)

 

The (non-monetary) Prize consists of a medal made in ‘Peace Bronze’, a material derived from recycled nuclear weapons components*. It will be formally awarded on Sept. 14 in Stockholm, at a special evening on Whistleblowing, which forms part of the triennial gathering of the International Peace Bureau. See brochure at:http://www.ipb.org/uploads/tbl_events_web/172/documents/Stockholm_brochure.pdf

 

 

*IPB is deeply grateful to the manufacturers of the medal:  http://www.fromwartopeace.com/


Zero Option for Afghanistan – Needed ASAP, not the end of 2014

July 15, 2013

The news that the Obama Administration is considering a “zero option” – leaving no troops behind in Afghanistan after the end of 2014 – got some coverage last week but not a lot. I wrote a letter to the editor to the New York Times based on its article on this issue. It didn’t get published (no surprise there, they get a lot of letters), but here it is, feel free to crib from it and send a letter to your local paper. Below my letter is the Times article.

July 10, 2013

To the editor,

I had two thoughts upon reading about the contentious negotiations between Presidents Hamid Karzai and Barack Obama over a possible continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan past the supposed end date of December 31, 2014 (“U.S. Considers Faster Pullout in Afghanistan,” July 8).

 

The first thought, with a bow to Casey Stengel, was “can’t anybody here play this game?,” the game being diplomacy. Yes, it is good news President Obama is considering a “zero option,” not leaving any U.S. troops behind in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, and perhaps even accelerating their withdrawal. However, it appears this is at least as much a threat to force President Karzai back into negotiations as it is a serious policy option. Both presidents need to come together in an earnest way to help figure out Afghanistan’s post-war future, with the strong involvement of Afghan civil society leaders, particularly women’s organizations, as well as other national and regional forces. The stakes are too high for threats and posturing; we need to see some genuine leadership from the two presidents.

 

My second thought was how could either president possibly explain to the families of Afghan or U.S. soldiers who will perish in fighting over the next year and a half what in the world they died for? The “zero option” needs to be implemented as soon as possible, not at the end of next year. U.S. support for Afghan-led reconstruction, development and reconciliation is the key issue for the future, not residual U.S. forces or a long-term military aid agreement.

 

Sincerely,

 

Kevin Martin

Executive Director

Peace Action

July 8, 2013

U.S. Considers Faster Withdrawal from Afghanistan

By MARK MAZZETTI and MATTHEW ROSENBERG

WASHINGTON — Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a “zero option” that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.

Mr. Obama is committed to ending America’s military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and Obama administration officials have been negotiating with Afghan officials about leaving a small “residual force” behind. But his relationship with Mr. Karzai has been slowly unraveling, and reached a new low after an effort last month by the United States to begin peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.

Mr. Karzai promptly repudiated the talks and ended negotiations with the United States over the long-term security deal that is needed to keep American forces in Afghanistan after 2014.

A videoconference between Mr. Obama and Mr. Karzai designed to defuse the tensions ended badly, according to both American and Afghan officials with knowledge of it. Mr. Karzai, according to those sources, accused the United States of trying to negotiate a separate peace with both the Taliban and their backers in Pakistan, leaving Afghanistan’s fragile government exposed to its enemies.

Mr. Karzai had made similar accusations in the past. But those comments were delivered to Afghans — not to Mr. Obama, who responded by pointing out the American lives that have been lost propping up Mr. Karzai’s government, the officials said.

The option of leaving no troops in Afghanistan after 2014 was gaining momentum before the June 27 video conference, according to the officials. But since then, the idea of a complete military exit similar to the American military pullout from Iraq has gone from being considered the worst-case scenario — and a useful negotiating tool with Mr. Karzai — to an alternative under serious consideration in Washington and Kabul.

The officials cautioned that no decisions had been made on the pace of the pullout and exactly how many American troops to leave behind in Afghanistan. The goal remains negotiating a long-term security deal, they said, but the hardening of negotiating stances on both sides could result in a repeat of what happened in Iraq, where a deal failed to materialize despite widespread expectations that a compromise would be reached and American forces would remain.

“There’s always been a zero option, but it was not seen as the main option,” said a senior Western official in Kabul. “It is now becoming one of them, and if you listen to some people in Washington, it is maybe now being seen as a realistic path.”

The official, however, said he hoped some in the Karzai government were beginning to understand that the zero option was now a distinct possibility, and that “they’re learning now, not later, when it’s going to be too late.”

The Obama administration’s internal deliberations about the future of the Afghan war were described by officials in Washington and Kabul who hold a range of views on how quickly the United States should leave Afghanistan and how many troops it should leave behind. Spokesmen for the White House and Pentagon declined to comment.

Within the Obama administration, the way the United States extricates itself from Afghanistan has been a source of tension between civilian and military officials since Mr. Obama took office. American commanders in Afghanistan have generally pushed to keep as many American troops in the country as long as possible, creating friction with White House officials urging a speedier military withdrawal.

But with frustrations mounting over the glacial pace of initiating peace talks with the Taliban, and with American relations with the Karzai government continuing to deteriorate, it is unclear whether the Pentagon and American commanders in Afghanistan would vigorously resist if the White House pushed for a full-scale pullout months ahead of schedule.

As it stands, the number of American troops in Afghanistan — around 63,000 — is scheduled to go down to 34,000 by February 2014. The White House has said the vast majority of troops would be out of Afghanistan by the end of that year, although it now appears that the schedule could accelerate to bring the bulk of the troops — if not all of them — home by next summer, as the annual fighting season winds down.

Talks between the United States and Afghanistan over a long-term security deal have faltered in recent months over the Afghan government’s insistence that the United States guarantee Afghanistan’s security and, in essence, commit to declaring Pakistan the main obstacle in the fight against militancy in the region.

The guarantees sought by Afghanistan, if implemented, could possibly compel the United States to attack Taliban havens in Pakistan long after 2014, when the Obama administration has said it hoped to dial back the C.I.A.’s covert drone war there.

Mr. Karzai also wants the Obama administration to specify the number of troops it would leave in Afghanistan after 2014 and make a multiyear financial commitment to the Afghan Army and the police.

The White House announced last month that long-delayed talks with the Taliban would begin in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban opened what amounts to an embassy-in-exile, complete with their old flag and a plaque with their official name, “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

But the highly choreographed announcement backfired, with Afghan officials saying the talks gave the insurgents undeserved legitimacy and accusing the Obama administration of negotiating behind Mr. Karzai’s back.

To the surprise of American officials, Mr. Karzai then abruptly ended the negotiations over a long-term security deal. He has said the negotiations would not resume until the Taliban met directly with representatives of the Afghan government, essentially linking the security negotiations to a faltering peace process and making the United States responsible for persuading the Taliban to talk to the Afghan government.

The Taliban have refused for years to meet directly with Afghan government negotiators, deriding Mr. Karzai and his ministers as American puppets.

There have been other points of contention as well. Meeting with foreign ambassadors recently, Mr. Karzai openly mused that the West was to blame for the rise of radical Islam. It was not a message that many of the envoys, whose countries have lost thousands of people in Afghanistan and spent billions of dollars fighting the Taliban, welcomed.

The troop decisions are also being made against a backdrop of growing political uncertainty in Afghanistan and rising concerns that the country’s presidential election could either be delayed for months or longer, or be so flawed that many Afghans would not accept its results.

Preparations for the election, scheduled for next April, are already falling behind. United Nations officials have begun to say the elections probably cannot be held until next summer, at the earliest. If the voting does not occur before Afghanistan’s mountain passes are closed by snow in late fall, it will be extremely difficult to hold a vote until 2015.

Of potentially bigger concern are the rumors that Mr. Karzai, in his second term and barred from serving a third, is trying to find a way to stay in power. Mr. Karzai has repeatedly insisted that he plans to step down next year.

The ripple effects of a complete American withdrawal would be significant. Western officials said the Germans and Italians — the two main European allies who have committed to staying on with substantial forces — would leave as well. Any smaller nations that envisioned keeping token forces would most likely have no way of doing so.

And Afghanistan would probably see far less than the roughly $8 billion in annual military and civilian aid it is expecting in the coming years — an amount that covers more than half the government’s annual spending.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Washington, and Matthew Rosenberg from Kabul, Afghanistan. Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.


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