For Immediate Release
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
Veterans on Afghanistan
Reyes is recently back from Afghanistan. After enlisting in the Marine Corps, Reyes served as an infantry rifleman. He was deployed in "Operation Enduring Freedom" (Afghanistan) 2001 and then “Operation Iraqi Freedom” (Iraq) 2003. In 2008 he got involved in the Brave New Foundation's Rethink Afghanistan project and testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Video of that testimony is posted here.
Reyes is a co-founding member of Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan. He said today: "The most effective weapon we have in combating and suppressing Taliban extremists in Afghanistan is the very system we are currently systematically destroying, the tribal nature of the country. Working with and supporting rural areas and with tribal leaders directly is the best chance we have for winning in Afghanistan. Using this system is the only effective way to get anything done there. On my recent trip back to Afghanistan, I met with the UN Development Program. They've had a very successful disarmament program with which they've been able to reach out to 30,000 villages and they have disarmed 28,000 of them.
"Women for Women International-Afghanistan is undergoing a pilot program that has also proved to be very successful. They are getting large groups of men into classroom settings and teaching these men about women's rights; they are in their second batch now and these men are taking the message back to their villages.
"I also met with the minister of Afghanistan's rural reconstruction and rehabilitation agency who has also had a very successful rebuilding program. ... The village has vested interest in the reconstruction projects and allows no one, not even the Taliban, to interfere with them. They continue to stand strong today."
Chiroux, now on the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War (which includes veterans of the war in Afghanistan), was deployed briefly with an infantry unit in Afghanistan in 2005. He later refused to be deployed to Iraq. He said today: "Even in my brief deployment, I saw all kinds of problems with our operations in Afghanistan. The inequities were horrible. We're driving around in Humvees, leaving bases with Burger Kings in them and we pass by people who are literally starving, trying to sell hash to soldiers to eek out enough to live on. ... I saw preciously little actual reconstruction or development taking place. ... Crucial negative information wasn't going up the chain of command because commanders didn't want to look bad."
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