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Anti-War Group on Afghanistan: When You’re in a Hole, Stop Digging
Posted by ZP Heller on February 18th, 2009

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Not everyone favors the Obama administration’s announcement yesterday to commit an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan. At Rethink Afghanistan, we have been advocating the need for Congressional oversight hearings and public debate prior to military escalation. And we’re not the only ones. Take a look at what Tom Andrews, chair of the Win Without War coalition and former Maine Democratic congressman, had to say:

Clearly, U.S. policy in Afghanistan has failed, as numerous reports point to security conditions that have gone from bad to worse. That is why we applaud the president’s decision to conduct a fundamental review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. But it is also why we are concerned that the deployment of additional combat troops is being announced at the outset of the review process and not at its conclusion.

The risks are significant–particularly in light of the warnings of several analysts that the presence of foreign soldiers fighting a war in Afghanistan is probably the single most important driving force in the resurgence of the Taliban. Reducing our military footprint could, therefore, be one of the most effective measures that can be taken to weaken the armed opposition.

We hope that the president will soon provide the nation with a comprehensive plan for Afghanistan and the region that is fundamentally different from the approach which led us to where we find ourselves now.

The first principle for someone who finds himself in a hole is to stop digging. The US policy ‘hole’ in Afghanistan is not of the new administration’s making. But it is important for the president to consider if adding new U.S. combat forces in Afghanistan, without a new and comprehensive plan for U.S. policy there, might be digging an even bigger hole.

And here’s a statement from the great minds at Get Afghanistan Right:

“As Americans eager to help President Obama build prosperity at home and peace abroad, we are gravely concerned by plans to increase our military presence in Afghanistan. Without a clear strategy, benchmarks for success, and a plan to bring our troops home, this escalation will only prolong the American-led occupation – increasing anti-American sentiment throughout the region – while failing to make America any safer. In a time of economic crisis, these resources can be better used to solve problems here at home.

“We urge elected and appointed leaders to postpone troop increases in Afghanistan to allow for a robust public debate on the goals of our presence there and the strategies best suited to achieving them.

“In back-to-back election cycles, a solid majority of Americans repudiated Bush’s handling of wars waged without accountability and transparency. If we are to truly change America’s foreign policy, we must avoid the mistake of escalating a war with no end in sight.”

The following endorsers asked that their names be publicly associated with Get Afghanistan Right’s position statement:

  • Dr. Lila Abu-Lughod, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University
  • Dr. Manan Ahmed, University of Chicago
  • Dr. Judith Butler, Department of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley
  • Dr. Bob Buzzanco, Department of History, University of Houston
  • Dr. Noam Chomsky, Department of Linguistics, MIT
  • Dr. Peter Hess, Faith Project Director, National Center for Science Education, Inc.
  • Dr. Saba Mahmood, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
  • Professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Department of Justice and Peace Studies, University of St. Thomas
  • Dr. Dan Prior, Department of History, Miami University
  • Dr. Paul E. Schroeder, Department of Political Science, Case Western Reserve University
  • Dr. Margaret Jo Shepherd, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Dr. Sarah Shields, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Eric Straatsma, Peace Think Tank
  • Dr. Ronald Suny, Department of History, University of Michigan
  • Dr. Robert Thurston, Department of History, Miami University
  • William O. Walker III, author, National Security and Core Values in American History (forthcoming: Cambridge University Press, April 2009)
  • Action for a Progressive Pakistan
  • Progressive Democrats of America

I’ll be blogging more today about the pressing need for the review process Andrews mentions. If you would like to sign on to Get Afghanistan Right’s statement, you can e-mail them at

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