Afghanistan "strategic partnership" is bad news

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The initialing of a draft strategic partnership agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan April 22 foreshadows American military involvement stretching at least a decade beyond the Obama administration's projected 2014 withdrawal of combat troops, and perhaps indefinitely.

The reportedly sketchy agreement was concluded ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago next month. There, the U.S.-led military alliance is expected to make decisions about its support for Afghan security forces after 2014.

The pact now goes to Presidents Obama and Karzai, and to Congress and the Afghan parliament. A follow-on agreement with details about the U.S. security presence is expected within the next year.

This agreement is very bad news both in Afghanistan and here at home.

Over a decade of U.S. military involvement in the country, many thousands of civilians have been killed by U.S. and NATO forces as well as by insurgents. Masses of civilians have been uprooted from their homes, their livelihoods destroyed. The refugee children who froze to death last winter are symbolic of the situation.

U.S. soldiers have committed crimes, both known and untold, against the Afghan people.
Over 1,900 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan, and many thousands more have been wounded. And here at home, hundreds of billions of dollars that could have helped jump-start recovery from the economic crisis and aided millions driven into poverty have been drained away to pay for the conflict.

Polls show over two-thirds of Americans think the war should end.

A fightback against the threat of perpetual military engagement in Afghanistan has been under way in Congress and beyond for years. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., last year introduced HR 780 to limit military spending there to what's needed to bring all the troops and contractors home. The measure now has 70 co-sponsors.

A bipartisan group of 24 senators led by Max Baucus, D-Mont. and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., last month told President Obama in a letter: "It is time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan."

Last year the Senate passed, and the House of Representatives almost passed, measures requiring a plan to speed up withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

A counter-summit in Chicago, May 18-19, will let all participants in the NATO summit know we demand all U.S. and NATO troops leave Afghanistan speedily.

Now's the time to let our representatives in Congress know we support all these efforts, and to tell President Obama we want U.S. troops home from Afghanistan as soon as possible!

Photo: An Afghan street boy collects plastic bottles and other items as a firewood substitute at a garbage dump in the city of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, April 21, 2012, Rahmat Gul/AP