On Monday October 15, our host Linda Jameson spoke with Matt Southworth, a legislative program associate for foreign policy with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL): A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest. First serving in the US army at the age of nineteen, Matt was deployed to Iraq in 2004 as an intelligence analyst doing predictive analysis. Since then, he has joined the FCNL and is also on the Board of Directors for Veterans for Peace. He was in Madison to attend a Veterans for Peace board meeting, and to plan the annual Veterans for Peace conference which will be held in Madison in August 2013. Matt travels across the country, advocating for a peaceful transition to the war in Afghanistan and a political solution without a large military presence in the region. He also reaches out to the college demographic, speaking to them about the realities of war, rather than the “cinematic version” of war that is often portrayed.
Matt speaks about the US involvement in Afghanistan, and the issues that face Afghanistan today and threaten its future. Southworth comments, “under this current [US] strategy…regardless of 2014 or later, civil war is the most likely outcome for Afghanistan.” He explains that there can not be a centralized solution for the conflict in Afghanistan; rather, it should be regionally based and Afghan-centric. Matt had organized a congressional delegation on a “fact finding mission” that brought eight people to Afghanistan, including congressional staffers, journalists and representatives from non-profits. The delegation met and spoke with Afghan and international NGOS, opposition leaders, and civilians. He describes the consensus, “the US is putting Afghanistan in a position that is going to be harder to dig itself out of. We are over-militarizing Afghanistan and the region, and we are almost completely focused on a military transition, when the reality is that [the Afghans] need an economic and political transition, which is Afghan led and culturally based, but with the assistance of the US and other international parties.”
The US is currently funding and arming 280,000 Afghan national security forces, empowering militias and war lords. This has threatened Afghans throughout the country. In fact, he explains that one complaint the delegation received from everyone they spoke to was the US funding of war lords, people who had proven human rights abuse records. Matt stresses that the political transition should be Afghan-based, and that the US has a “moral responsibility” to do the best it can to ensure that civil war does not take place in Afghanistan. It should work to ensure that the Afghan elections in 2014 are fair so as that the people of Afghanistan can decide for themselves whom they would like to elect to power. He explains, “the overwhelming sentiment, is that after 10 years of being the bull in the china shop…you can’t just pull the bull out and leave the broken pieces.” He suggests that the peace keeping process be held by a different presence, and not necessarily the US, such as Turkey – a Muslim country that would be better equipped to handle the intricacies of the region.
To read more about the issues in Afghanistan, visit http://fcnl.org/issues/afghanistan/
Listen to the entire interview here: