November 23, 2009

US faith leaders demand Obama rethinks Afghanistan

by David Masters

Over 20 religious leaders and activists in the United States have written to President Barack Obama calling on him to rethink the country’s military strategy in Afghanistan.

The ongoing campaign in Afghanistan should be based on Obama’s own mantra of “build and not destroy” rather than a display of military might, the faith leaders said in their letter.

Thousands of US citizens have also signed the letter, which calls on Obama to take “a whole new approach in Afghanistan”.

“Many of us as religious leaders are deeply involved with the people and organizations who know places like Afghanistan the best; and they are neither the military nor the private contractors who increasingly dominate U.S. foreign policy in war-torn regions,” the letter says.

“Rather they are the NGOs, both faith-based and secular, doing relief and development work which have been there for years, have become quite indigenous, and are much more trusted by the people of the country than are the U.S. military.

“Let the non-military strategies lead the way, rather than the other way around.”

The letter also calls for a “diplomatic surge” to promote stable governance in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We humbly suggest it is time for a meeting at the White House with both American religious leaders and the heads of the leading international development agencies, some of whom have been in Afghanistan for years, with many indigenous employees and partners, who are trusted by the people of the country,” the letter concludes.

“Mr. President, we assure you that in taking the approach of effective aid and development, and real engagement with the moral issues that confront us in Afghanistan, you will have our support.”

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