President Obama on Tuesday announced plans to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, provoking strong reactions from Bay Area liberals about the ratcheting-up of the war effort, and from conservatives about a 2011 pullout date mentioned by the president.
The announcement “wasn’t particularly surprising,” said Stephen McNeil, spokesman for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization committed to peace and humanitarian service.
“During his campaign he had made a promise to treat this as a good war, but we consider no war a good war,” McNeil said. “We thought there should be more of a peace surge, and more non-military aid in Afghanistan.”
In Obama’s speech, he said that, taking into account conditions on the ground, troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan starting in July 2011.
Although McNeil said he welcomes the timeline, he wonders if Obama’s exit plan is firm.
Afghanistan “already was at a low level of civil society when we first started bombing there, and I don’t know if a lot of the money we’ve put into there has gone into a civil society that can take over in two years,” he said.
Tom Del Baccaro, vice chair of the California Republican Party, said he thinks the timeline is a bad idea.
“You don’t announce to your enemies when you’re going to leave,” Del Baccaro said. “You announce to your enemy that you intend to finish the job, not that by a predetermined date you’ll give up or consider pulling out.”
He said he and other Republicans “support finishing the job as the generals on the ground determine. Political strategies on how to get in and out dictated by election cycles are a bad idea.”
The AFSC is holding an anti-war rally at 5 p.m. outside the federal building at the corner of Seventh and Mission streets in San Francisco.
McNeil said protesters will ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to not vote for funding for the new plan in Afghanistan, which Obama estimated would cost the country about $30 billion in 2010.
Other anti-war advocates will also be holding a rally in San Francisco tonight.
A rally organized by World Can’t Wait, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, Code Pink, and other activists will start at 5 p.m. near the Powell Street BART station at Fifth and Market streets.