As promised, Waging Nonviolence editor Eric Stoner is spending his Christmas in Kabul. Part of what he put under the tree for those of us back home is an op-ed in his hometown paper, the Peoria Journal Star. It’s another reminder, from close-up, that the continued military occupation of Afghanistan is untenable. He also points toward alternatives:
Unfortunately, violence is only one of many threats faced by the Afghan people. The country is plagued by corruption of the elite, too often fueled by U.S. money, and desperate poverty for nearly everyone else. As a westerner, you can’t walk more than a block or two on Kabul’s dusty streets without being approached by a small child begging for money. Tragically, one quarter of these Afghan children won’t make it to their fifth birthday; life expectancy for those who do survive is an abominable 44 years.
If the Obama administration is truly concerned with rooting out the Taliban and undermining terrorism, it must rethink its goals in Afghanistan and dramatically change gears. Rather than pointing to an ever-higher Taliban body count as a sign of success, the U.S. should stop backing the warlords that currently dominate the Afghan government, remove our troops from the country, and redirect the money currently being dumped on the war to meet the basic needs of everyday Afghans — food, clean water, education, jobs and access to decent health care. Only when the people of Afghanistan have a functioning, democratic government and real hope for a better life will the lure of the Taliban and extremism fade.