This past Monday, March 22, I was in DC to lobby my elected officials with FCNL. For the US Senators, I talked to them about the CLEAR act - which I wrote up below.
At 4:15 on Monday, I went to Shuler's office in the Cannon Building. Rep. Shuler and his Senior Advisor, Ms. Fishman were running a bit late - and I had to pick up my luggage from the FCNL office before 5 PM (when they closed) - so it was a short meeting. The subject of the meeting was Afghanistan, and I was specifically asking Rep. Shuler to push for an exit strategy.
I started by thanking Rep. Shuler for voting to follow the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. And basically, I would like to see an Afghanistan Study Group and a detailed plan for starting to exit that country. This will have the advantage of signaling that the US does not intend to develop an empire and use Afghanistan as part of it's overall strategy. I believe the SOFA that we developed with Iraq is helping to stabilize Iraq and helping Iraq develop into the country that they wish to become. (Now, the SOFA says that we will leave Iraq totally at the end of 2011, and I have some doubts that they will actually do that, but I certainly will push to see that outcome.)
I mentioned how two major Afghan Taliban were captured in Pakistan recently, and on the surface one would thing that was a good idea - but those Taliban were supposed to be involved in a peace jerga with the Karzai government, and there is talk out there that Pakistan arrested those two to have some control over the political processes inside Afghanistan. Pakistan is fighting a bit of a proxy war with India inside Afghanistan. I also pointed out how our troops are fighting for the Karzai government, which is very corrupt. In Marjah, we are fighting drug lords outside the Karzai government, and making the drug trade better for the drug lords inside the Karzai government. In Helmand province last year, the locals told the Brits they did not want the Afghan police there if they continued to kidnap and rape young boys - they preferred the Taliban who did not allow that to happen. There is also ongoing fighting between various fractions inside Afghanistan, and the US troops were not bring peace by joining up with one side over another in a developing civil war.
I shared with Shuler that bombing Pakistan to get the Taliban or al Qaeda was like bombing Murphy NC to get Eric Rudolph..... it might work, but at what cost? I am sure the people of Pakistan feel the same way about their lives and their kid's lives as the people of Murphy do. We also discussed the suicide bombing of the CIA, and how they seemingly do not know what they are doing there in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They don't even realize when they have a double agent.
I also said that I felt the story of Pat Tillman was the story of America's "war on terror". Our best and brightest volunteer to protect our country, we send them off to fight mainly against poor people that have nothing to do with the terrorists, and in the process kill off our best and brightest by friendly fire and then lie to the family (or country) about it. It is stupid and sickening.
I also shared an op-ed written by the president of the local Vets for Peace group (on their blog). In it, McChrystal talks about the tragic loss of innocent lives (which happens on a regular basis in both Iraq and Afghanistan) and the a local County Commissioner makes a joke about "when in doubt, empty the magazine" to local troops going to Iraq. If they were to follow that advice, there will be more killing of innocent people and probably killing of fellow troops too.
I fell, overall, that this was a productive meeting. I am sending off some articles to Ms. Fishman, his Senior Advisor, about Afghanistan and what is happening in the area. It is a complicated situation - with few real innocents there - but it is a situation that requires a non-military solution and a solid exit strategy. I know it is more complicated that I can convey in a blog post, but I do feel we need to work on reconciliation between various fighting fractions, and develop a jobs program for the Afghan men in the short term. In the long term, we need to educate the girls to improve Afghanistan and bring peace to the area.
McChrystal has stated that there is no military solution - I wonder when he will realize that military intervention only makes finding a peaceful solution more difficult?