When I was in Afghanistan in March 2011, with Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV), it was a privilege to earn to know the “Afghan Peace Volunteers” (APV). Through public vigils, walks, and other symbolic actions, this group of young men and women are working for a society without violence and promoting nonviolent, nonmilitary solutions to the conflicts in and around their country. Our delegation was able to participate in their tree-planting event in Kabul to call for a peaceful rebuilding of Afghanistan, and a public candlelight vigil to remember the civilians killed by US strikes. They have had peace walks in rural areas and work in collaboration with Afghan social change artists. I was truly inspired by their courageous witness.
On the 21st of every month they sponsor a “Global Day of Listening,” a time specified for Skype calls between APV members and international supporters For Global Day of Listening: http://globaldaysoflistening.org/pages/home
The U.S. government is currently pushing Afghanistan to adopt a Bilateral Security Agreement that would allow for another decade of US occupation (until 2024). Under the agreement, the U.S. would be authorized to maintain up to nine military bases, along with 8,000-12,000 troops, along with a smaller contingent of European and other forces, and US troops would not be subject to Afghan law for criminal acts or war crimes.
A loya jirga (council) of 2,500 Afghan tribal leaders, clerics and national and provincial officials recently endorsed the accord. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, however, has objected, saying he needed more negotiations before he would sign it. He insisted that U.S. forces be prohibited from conducting night raids of Afghan homes, and that the U.S. government begin serious peace talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Taliban.
Implementing this accord raises a number of concerns. Civilian Afghans continue to be killed by U.S. drone warfare. The US has already invested $54 billion in aid to Afghan security forces, and could end up spending up to $6 billion a year. This plan expects a far smaller U.S. military presence to control the violent aspects of Taliban presence, when a greater number of forces were not able to do so. And there doesn’t seem to be a US diplomatic strategy to reach an accord between the Afghan government, non-Taliban opposition forces, and the Taliban, (and involving Pakistan, India, and Iran) when such diplomacy seems the most likely governmental path to end the war.
The APV asks international people, who are against the war, to demand that the bilateral security agreement not be adopted. They suggest Americans call Senate majority leader Harry Reid (202-224-3542) (or tweet him @SenatorReid) to ask him to bring this issue to a vote.
For more information about the APV youth: http://www.youthpeacevolunteers.org/
For more information about VCNV: http://vcnv.org/ There is currently a good article by Kathy Kelly at this site about the current situation in Afghanistan.