In November 2009, President Obama announced a surge of U.S. troops to Afghanistan with the commitment that the U.S. troop withdrawal from that country would begin in July of 2011. As that date approaches, the president has yet to clarify at what pace the pullout will occur. Our faith convictions, our national economic situation, and our concern for the Afghan people all lead us to the same conclusion: it is time for the U.S. to end the war in Afghanistan and turn its attention to building up Afghan civil society through diplomacy and development.
Our faith tells us that violence begets violence and that war is not the answer. We are guided by Catholic Social Teaching and the Christian peacemaking tradition, and we know that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. The last ten years have demonstrated that the U.S. cannot broker peace in Afghanistan – only the Afghan people can do this.
Our nation cannot sustain the financial costs of this ongoing war. The U.S. plans to spend over $100 billion in Afghanistan in 2012. At the same time, important domestic and foreign aid programs are being slashed in the name of fiscal responsibility. We simply cannot afford to continue this expensive and misguided war.
The Afghan people need the freedom and ability to build the society they want. The president was right in 2009 when he said that the way to encourage Afghanistan to step up was for the U.S. to transfer responsibility to the Afghan people. Our most meaningful investment in Afghanistan will be development assistance to create opportunities and build a stable civil society. We need a timeline for handing over responsibility and a commitment to support Afghanistan with civilian development professionals.
The U.S. initiated its mission in Afghanistan in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, but it has mutated into an open-ended war against a Taliban insurgency that is now largely motivated to drive out foreign troops. Nearly two-thirds of Americans think that the war is no longer worth fighting. Our faith principles demand that we work to build peace and not war. Our domestic fiscal situation requires that we invest in smart and cost-effective initiatives here and abroad. The Afghan people deserve to take responsibility for building their society. All the factors point to one conclusion: For the sake of both our nation and the Afghan people, we need to end the war, transfer responsibility to Afghans, and invest in development and diplomacy for that war-torn nation.