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WJLA News - ABC News (Washington)

Protesters Try to Influence Afghanistan Policy


A protestor is arrested as he participates in a demonstration against torture, detentions in Guantanamo Bay and the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, in front of the White House in Washington on October 5, 2009. UPI/Kevin Dietsch.

In the wake of terrible news out of Afghanistan, there is renewed debate at the Pentagon and White House over the future of the war.

In the first five days of the month, there have been more deaths of U.S. service members than in all of October in 2008. And the calls for an end to the war were increasingly loud outside the White House Monday afternoon.

In a defiant display with hopes of influencing the president's plan on Afghanistan, hundreds of people marched from McPherson square chanting and holding signs. Some chained themselves to the White House fence, demanding we leave Afghanistan now and wondering aloud, where's the "change" they were promised.

"I hope he's not in the business of ignoring us because if he's about the business of ignoring, it's going to spell his downfall," said Bill Dyson of Connecticut.

Wayne Young and his wife came all the way from Denver.

"We shouldn't be the world policemen. We're not authorized to do that, that's what the U.N. is for."

Their pleas, and cheers fro group leaders like Cindy Sheehan, come amid increased violence in Afghanistan. Eight U.S. service members were killed over the weekend, 16 so far this month. And now, the White House must consider General McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops.


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Monday morning, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, "With violence levels up some 60 percent from last year I believe the decisions the president will make for the next stage of the Afghanistan campaign will be among the most important of his presidency."

Late Monday afternoon, insight from White House spokesman Robert Gibbs: "No part of the conversation involved leaving Afghanistan. That's not something that's ever been entertained."

The White House will hold several top-level meetings on the direction of the war this week with officials from the Pentagon and Congress. Meanwhile, there's also concern the insurgency is intensifying.

"Americans are infidels," one rebel recently told ABC News in Afghanistan. "My house is destroyed, my father and two nephews killed. God willing, I will fight to the last."

But so, too, will protesters; more than 50 today, willing to be arrested if it can help their voices be heard.

"We haven't been successful in the past you know," said Cindy Sheehan. "We've been out here with hundreds of thousands of people. That was a different time. We're hoping if we do create a mass movement that we can affect policy."

Moments later, she was handcuffed and carted off with a bus load of other protesters.

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