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The Questions We Should Be Asking About Afghanistan

Posted by ZP Heller on April 15th, 2009

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“Can more be done to create more of a coalition so that the U.S. isn’t burdened with bearing the cost in lives and treasure alone?”
“Since over half of the citizens of Afghanistan are female, shouldn’t we ask them what kind of help they want from us, if any?”
“What would happen if we pulled out military troops and replaced them with agricultural experts, economic development experts, Peace Corps volunteers, medical corps, and specialists to help in development of strong governmental structures and other “helpers” to help Afghans obtain an improved quality of life?”
“Why don’t we try diplomatic negotiation with all involved parties, including The Taliban FIRST?”

These are some of the questions we all should be asking right now about the war in Afghanistan. They are a sampling from over 460 viewer-submitted questions Brave New Foundation received for their upcoming series of three debates between Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress and The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel. Clearly, people are starting to see that regardless of whether you oppose the war in Afghanistan, substantive debates from experts on both sides of the issues would benefit everyone. That’s why Korb, who favors more troops and resources, will go head-to-head with vanden Heuvel, who calls for regional diplomacy and military withdrawal. They will debate whether military escalation is the best method to combat terrorism, and the effect more troops will have on an already unstable Pakistan; Korb and vanden Heuvel will agree upon a third topic chosen from the hundreds of submitted questions like the ones above.

Though this war continues to intensify, we still don’t know the answers to some of the most basic questions, which is why the ultimate goal of Rethink Afghanistan and debates like these is an educational one. Raising public awareness and fostering discussion will prompt Congress to hold substantive oversight hearings that bring in experts to explain policy and offer answers.

Every single aspect of the war in Afghanistan must be opened up to debate, especially considering the fact that over 172 billion of our tax dollars have gone to this war to date. That means we should be talking about the staggering costs, about exit strategy, about the rights of Afghan women, and whether diplomacy can win over hearts and minds. And we should be ranking the importance of these issues for Congress, which you can now do with this new voting tool where you also can submit your own written questions.

Just this week, VoteVets’ Brandon Friedman wrote an interesting piece about how Gen. David McKiernan went into some of Afghanistan’s most violent areas to connect with tribal elders ahead of the 21,000 troop surge. Apparently, McKiernan said he is studying the Quran apologized for mistakes of the past, including killing civilians and arresting people based on false information in tribal fights. Now, I haven’t agreed with Friedman on a lot of issues regarding the war, and I have to wonder if McKiernan can possibly win over hearts and minds this late in the game when 21,000 more troops will likely result in more civilian deaths (and thus more “mistakes” for which McKiernan will have to apologize). But the bottom line is that whether diplomacy can be effective when coupled with a massive troop surge is a perfect topic for debate–a perfect question to post for Congress.

I wonder if Friedman would vote that one up, or if we could at least discuss it.

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