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Afghanistan After 8 Years: Should Illinois Troops Come Home?

October 5, 2009

CHICAGO - The war in Afghanistan began eight years ago this week, and Illinois residents who have sons or daughters in the military are wondering whether the troops will be coming home anytime soon, or whether more will be sent. Meantime, peace activists are planning demonstrations in Illinois and around the nation.

Mary Zerkel, Chicago peace-building program director for the American Friends Service Committee, says her organization would like the President to set a time line for withdrawal from Afghanistan, and concentrate more on things like building schools - and facilitating diplomatic talks to improve the situation in Asia.

"Development and diplomacy are much more likely to lead to a positive resolution for the region than military involvement."

Zerkel says military action is not working.

"We can't say that the policy that we've pursued there has actually led to either a stable government or to peace in the region."

Recent opinion polls show support for the war is waning, and Zerkel says she has noticed that in her travels around the country.

"There are more and more people who are finding this to be futile. We really do need to think about how we prioritize our budget, the lives of our young people over the long haul."

Some people have been warning that Afghanistan could turn into President Obama's Vietnam, and while current anti-war protests have not approached the level of the Vietnam era, peace activists are making their voices heard. Columbia College student Madeline George says she and her friends plan to lie under sheets on the ground and have names of those who have died in the war read aloud in downtown Chicago.

"It's not a protest. It's just a commemorative event. We are remembering lives that were lost."

The NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has reportedly said that without 40,000 more troops there's no chance of winning the war. The President continues meetings with top military advisors this week.

More information is available from afsc.org

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL