UCC Head Promotes 'Engagement Over Escalation' Strategy in Afghanistan

The United States should consider changing its strategy in Afghanistan from "winning the war" to "finishing the job," said the head minister of the United Church of Christ in a statement released Wednesday.

Responding to President Obama's announcement Monday to deploy 30,000 additional troops and 4,000 trainers to Afghanistan, the Rev. Geoffrey Black said the commitment "asks far too much of our already strained military forces at this time," and that a strategy emphasizing "engagement over escalation" would be more promising.

"Many are concerned that a strategy relying so heavily on military escalation will not achieve the lasting peace that we are called to seek," Black stated. "An approach that more heavily invests in developmental efforts that will address the root causes of violence, corruption, poverty and injustice, and provide leadership for intensified regional diplomacy seems a more promising path to the de-escalation and eventual ceasefire of this long and deadly conflict."

The UCC minister also noted "serious concerns" about recent corruption during elections in Afghanistan and the lack of trustworthiness of President Hamid Karzai's government.

"These concerns offer legitimate reasons to question any expansion of U.S. military involvement in this insurgent and likely un-winnable war," Black said.

The denomination head also challenged Obama's announcement that he would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan starting in July 2011, saying that more definite plans need to be put in place.

"Although the President's pledge to begin a drawdown of forces in 2011 is promising, a U.S. plan for withdrawal needs real timelines that will hold the Afghan government accountable and assure the Afghan people that our military does not intend to stay in their country indefinitely," Black said.

Over 60,000 U.S. troops are currently active in Afghanistan. The eight-year conflict has cost an estimated $228 billion in government funds since its beginning.

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