On Extending the Combat Mission in Afghanistan

In Anti-War, International, Interpretive Editorial, Veterans on February 11, 2015 at 11:38 am

Syracuse anti-war activists Barbara Humphrey and Dave Kashmer joined Veterans For Peace (VFP) to express extreme dismay upon learning that President Obama recently extended and expanded the US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and that the timing of these two actions precluded the opportunity for meaningful public discourse. Shortly after the mid-term election, the President announced that the US would be sending an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq. The following week, the President signed a classified order giving US troops a direct role in combat in Afghanistan despite his promise to the contrary in May, 2014 that “American’s combat mission will be over by the end of the year.” This new Afghan mission, labeled “Resolute Support,” authorizes American troops to carry out missions against the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the Haqqani network and other militants; allows US jets, bombers, and drones to bolster Afghan troops on combat missions; and permits US air strikes in support of Afghan military operations throughout the country. The classified order was signed on a Friday night and leaked to the New York Times, where it appeared on a Saturday shortly before the holidays.

We believe that the US wars in the Middle East, being played out as the “war on terror,” have been an utter failure. After spending billions of dollars to invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, databases kept by the US government and University of Maryland document increased numbers of terrorist attacks in these countries and elsewhere in the world. Yet, the US continues to mislead themselves and the US public that we can win these wars if only we allowed one more “surge.” The Department of Defense has requested $58.3 billion for FY15 for the war in Afghanistan alone, and an additional $7.8 million to beef up airports in Kandahar and Kabul to support night raids (now being called night operations) and drone operations. Imagine if these funds could be directed to repairing deficient highway bridges and fully funding public education here at home!

But we know it isn’t just about the money wasted on military operations, corrupt leaders and defense contractors. The suffering caused by the US war on terror is horrific—civilian deaths at the hands of US forces, thousands displaced from their homes living in squalid refugee camps as winter hits, mothers who cannot feed their children. Afghanistan is devastated after four decades of war. In 2014, more than 8,000 Afghans have committed suicide through self immolation and ingestion of poison. In Kabul, Kathy Kelly, Co-Coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence, reports that 6,000 children are in the streets as child laborers. The recent release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program” further documents the extreme brutality inflicted on others by the US war on terror.

Veterans for Peace issued a statement dated 11/14/14, immediately following the President’s announcement of increased troop deployment to Iraq, comparing current military action to Vietnam 50+ years ago, “The US government claims that its current occupations are necessary and its objectives clear and winnable while lying about its progress.” Thus far, the achievements of the war on terror have been the strengthening of the Taliban in Afghanistan; creation of the fundamentalist army ISIL in Iraq and Syria; the eruption of bloody, sectarian civil wars in the Middle East that will persist for years to come; and increased terror attacks throughout the world.

Anti-war activists and VFP also take issue with the timing of the announcement of increased deployment of troops to Iraq and issue of the classified order expanding the role of the US military in Afghanistan. A 2013 CNN poll reported that 82% of the American public disapproved of the continued war in Afghanistan. Yet, neither the increased troop deployment nor the classified order were made public until after the election, precluding any meaningful discourse about military operations in the Middle East between the public and Congressional candidates.

It is time for a full public debate on the role of the US military in the Middle East and throughout the world followed by the implementation of policies that offer alternatives to military options that respect the sovereignty of other nations in their struggles to make peace. Perhaps a first step could be renaming the Department of Defense to the Department of Peace.

This statement is issued jointly by anti-war activists, Barbara Humphrey and Dave Kashmer, and Veterans for Peace striving to build a culture of peace in the United States. Veterans For Peace, founded in 1985, is a global organization of military veterans and allies dedicated to exposing the true costs of war and militarism and working to end all wars. Its mission is to inform the public of the true causes and enormous costs of war, with an obligation to heal wars’ wounds. More than 140 VFP chapters educate and advocate for a dismantling of the war economy and providing services to veterans and victims of war. More information about VFP can be found at


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