In November of last year, President Obama mentioned a starting date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan: July 2011. But, as administration officials have clarified, this is not a hard-set date to begin, and entails no end date. A bill recently introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern would change that; it would require the president to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

Former President Bush described in his State of the Union address on Sept. 20, 2001, that the United States was attacked by a terrorist network called Al Qaeda. However, it seems that the United States military has discontinued its campaign to bring this group to justice, and has instead been targeting the Taliban. These are two separate groups, and I believe many, even I, have misunderstood this.

My question to President Obama, his administration, the U.S. military and Congress is how many more innocent civilians must be killed before the mission is considered “accomplished?” The Taliban has been removed from power, and a new government has taken control. However, the United States has not respected Afghanistan’s government, through supporting the decisions of its president, Karzai. He has urged for diplomatic discussions with the Taliban, an aspect of democracy, however it seems the United States is not prepared to let democracy and self-rule occur.

The current “war on terror” continues, however the circumstances beg the question, who is doing the terrorizing? Afghanistan’s local and governmental opinion is becoming increasingly anti-foreign occupation, especially as the toll for innocent civilian deaths increases. So my next question is why is the United States still engaging in a military campaign when the original mission outlined by former President Bush has been accomplished?

I believe that United States needs to have a presence in Afghanistan, but in a different nature. Afghanistan needs “books not bombs,” as the executive director of the Central Asian Institute, Greg Mortenson, has said in his books Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools.

The efforts of the institute, and other organizations like Green Village Schools, are truly the only proven tools to eradicate extremism that gives way to terrorism. Education and health are always key, and until the United States shifts its efforts, we will continue to see terrorism networks developing throughout the world.

Our representatives and senators should support the McGovern-Jones House Bill 5015, Senator Feingold´s Senate Bill 3197 and support the establishment of a timetable for U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. If your representative and senator have not signed on yet, please call them and urge them. Help our Afghan brothers and sisters.

Dylan Bellisle has lived in Oak Park for two years and is currently studying social work at the University of Illinois at Chicago, focusing on human rights issues.

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