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Afghanistan: War of Necessity? Or Opportunity for Peace, Reconciliation and Development?

President Obama has repeatedly called the US occupation of Afghanistan a "war of necessity", in contrast to the war of choice his predecessor waged (and of course is still ongoing) in Iraq.

While I am no mind-reader, I'm not sure the president really still believes that, or he may want to come up with a different way to describe the situation in Afghanistan and the region. Certainly there are grave problems in Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan that deserve attention and resources from the US, other countries in the region and the global community.

But, as my colleague Michael Beer of Nonviolence International said to me recently, if it really is a "war of necessity," why is the president taking so long to decide whether to send more troops? Shouldn't it be a no-brainer? Why is the Administration apparently preparing to try to persuade a war-weary public that more troops, maybe tens of thousands, need to deploy to Afghanistan?

My sense is the president's deliberation (for which I think he deserves some credit) and his Administration's desire to explore a broader range of issues (governance, aid, development, education, women's rights, local policing and judicial systems as well as others) than just troop levels indicates there is serious doubt about how "necessary" continuing and escalating the war really is. At least it is a confirmation of the many statements from military and diplomatic leaders, both within the Administration and outside it, that there is no military solution in Afghanistan.

Clearly the US public doesn't think Afghanistan is a war of necessity, as a majority of Americans now oppose the war or at least its escalation.

Another way to think of this is the "Just War" test, not the official Catholic doctrine, but the real definition of a Just War - one you'd send your kids to fight in.

Clearly this war fails that test for the overwhelming majority of Americans, and many veterans of Afghanistan and military families are now speaking out for an end to the eight years and counting US occupation, just as so many of them have regarding the Iraq war and occupation.

My children, at ages 12 and 15 a little older than President Obama's daughters, think the US is always at war, and why wouldn't they? The US has been involved in wars almost their whole lives. Of course the children of Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Palestine, Sudan, Congo and too many other countries know the horror of constant war much more personally. We, their parents, are failing them, aren't we? They deserve peace, and we all need to demand it for them.

Instead of a military escalation, we need a transition to non-military solutions in Afghanistan, and a plan to withdraw US and NATO forces as soon as possible. Support for comprehensive peace negotiations between the various parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, including some Taliban leaders, and a surge in economic development and humanitarian aid to grassroots programs led by Afghans are the key steps to the new direction we need for Afghanistan, and for the U.S.

Many national and local organizations are organizing Call-In days to the White House next week to oppose the escalation of troops and call for an end to the war. Please call the White House between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time next week at 202-456-1111, and urge your friends, family and colleagues to do the same. Afterward, please call your Member of Congress with the same message, and go to to find out more about our congressional pressure campaign, and you can report on what you learn from your representative on that webpage.

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Kevin Martin

Kevin Martin

Kevin Martin is President of Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund, the country’s largest peace and disarmament organization with approximately 200,000 supporters nationwide.

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