Todd Dennis, Iraq Veterans Against the War, 715-533-2887, Liz Klainot, Peace Action - Wisconsin, 414-964-5158, Paul Moriarity, Milwaukee Veterans for Peace, 414-801-7679, Josh Harvey, Sheboygan Veterans for Peace, (920) 208-4345, Steve Burns, Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, 608-332-3717
As President Obama prepares to speak to the nation about his plans for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Wisconsin veterans and peace activists are responding to reports that the President intends to withdraw 10,000 troops by the end of this year and a total of 33,000 troops by September 2012.
Todd Dennis, a U.S. Navy veteran and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, said, "It is good to see that Mr. Obama is keeping his promise of removing the 30,000 surge troops by the end of 2012, but with the recent assassination of Osama bin Laden this seems like an insufficient action. The stated goal of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is to rid the country of Al-Qaeda. The intelligence community from many countries have stated that Al-Qaeda number less than a few hundred but yet President Obama wants to keep more than 2000 U.S. troops for each Al-Qaeda and in addition to the NATO forces there."
Liz Klainot, Program Director at Peace Action-Wisconsin, said, "I applaud the President's decision to withdraw troops, however, like Senator Barbara Boxer and Congresswomen Barbara Lee, I do not think it goes far enough. There are currently 100,000 troops on the ground and removing five to ten thousand this year would only be a drop in the bucket. At current costs of more than $1 million per soldier per year, we should not continue this expensive occupation while the American people are suffering job losses and financial hardships. It is time to remove all the troops, and bring our soldiers back home to safety."
Paul Moriarity, a member of Milwaukee Veterans for Peace, said, "The president needs to tell us in plain language what our mission in Afghanistan is and why we still need 70,000 or so of our brothers and sisters there fighting for it." Moriarity placed blame for the war on "The corporate state that dictates the interests and policies of the President," and called for "a complete withdrawal of our forces and a fierce program for reparations to the Afghan civilians."
Josh Harvey, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and member of Sheboygan Veterans for Peace, was skeptical about the President's announcement. "In Iraq, we saw troops withdrawn and replaced with mercenaries. Obama hasn't said anything about the mercenaries, and we have more of them in Afghanistan than uniformed military. We have been witnessing a corporate feeding frenzy since the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan started and this is simply business as usual."
Steve Burns, Program Director of Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, credited the public for the shift in policy: "With the recent vote by the U.S. Conference of Mayors for an 'Out of Afghanistan' resolution , the latest polls showing large majorities in opposition the war , and even some Republican Presidential candidates coming out in favor of withdrawal , it's clear that growing antiwar sentiment has pressured the President to respond with a withdrawal plan. But let's keep these numbers in perspective: Even when this withdrawal is completed, there will still be twice as many troops in Afghanistan as when President Obama took office."
 This week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors passed an 'Out of Afghanistan' resolution citing the extraordinary expense of the war -- $122 billion a year for 2011 -- and calling on Congress to redirect military spending to domestic priorities
. The resolution was the first antiwar resolution passed by the Mayors since Vietnam.
 A June 15 Pew Research Center - Washington Post poll shows 56% of respondents agreeing that "the U.S. should remove troops as soon as possible"
from Afghanistan, the first time Pew has recorded a majority for this response. A June 3rd CNN Polls shows 62% opposition to the war in Afghanistan.
 Republican Presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and John Huntsman have all issued calls for withdrawal from Afghanistan. On Tuesday, Huntsman called for a "fairly aggressive" withdrawal on a faster pace than President Obama has promised, saying, "What we need now is a healthy dose of nation-building here at home."
Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice
122 State St. #405
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