US Christians say Obama's Afghanistan surge 'a mistake'

By staff writers
December 3, 2009

An evangelical leader in the US has said that Barack Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan is “a mistake” and “the wrong direction for US foreign policy.

Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners Magazine and of the Washington DC-based Christian community of the same name, said that many faith leaders would be disillusioned with the President, feeling that they had been promised fundemantal change in foreign policy and an end to a "reliance" on military solutions.

Two weeks ago, the Sojourners community sent an open letter to the president, signed by 17,000 people, calling on him to lead with a different kind of “surge” — with strategic and focused international development, diplomacy, and targeted humanitarian assistance.

“The decision by President Obama to send additional troops to Afghanistan saddens me. I believe it is a mistake; it is the wrong direction for US foreign policy, and it is disappointing to many of us in the faith community and our friends who spearhead the on-the-ground development efforts in Afghanistan and around the world” Wallis said yesterday.

“We needed a new approach to the very difficult and complicated situation in Afghanistan, and this isn’t it. We were promised fundamental change in the direction of US policy around the world, and this isn’t it. We were promised change we can believe in, and this military escalation is not something many of us as faith leaders can believe in.

“This is still a primary reliance on military solutions and occupations to defeat terrorism — a strategy which has not succeeded. The defeat of violent extremism is a necessary goal of the international community — but old thinking, old ideas, old strategies, have failed time and time again to do that. And we have no reason to believe it will succeed this time.”

“The plan that the president announced last evening is still the wrong kind of surge” he said.

“The emphasis of this policy is still in the wrong place. The history of the troubled country of Afghanistan, the lack of a reliable governance partner, the absolute failure of every other occupation of that nation, and the consistent mistake of leading with military solutions all predict sad outcomes for this old approach. Our nation’s growing scepticism about this war is well-founded.

“Ultimately, only a whole new approach to Afghanistan will have any chance of success. And many of us will continue to call for that, in the hope that the Obama administration will eventually listen. In the meantime, we will pray for our servicemen and women who will continue to sacrifice for a tragic strategy, for more innocent civilians in Afghanistan who will die from more military escalation, for a president whose deepest instincts we still trust, and for the soul of our own nation. May God save us from our well-intentioned mistakes”.

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