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Ticket Replay: Code Pink, fearful of setbacks, rethinks call for U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

December 28, 2009 | 11:56 am

Code Pink protesters assault Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during a congressional hearing in 2007

As the holiday season arrives, our thoughts on The Ticket turn to working not quite so hard for a few days. So we are re-publishing some of our favorite or most-read items from 2009. This item originally appeared on Oct. 7.

Known for disruptive tactics and distinctive costumes, Code Pink was founded in 2002 to oppose the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It has since broadened its reach, becoming an all-purpose protest group on issues as diverse as Wall Street's executive pay excesses and the Bush administration's Alberto Gonzales.

As for tactics, Code Pink members have been kicked out of many a congressional hearing, including one where a Code Pink protester shoved bloodied hands at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Now the left-wing activist group is rethinking its call for a deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The reason: After a week spent in Kabul talking to female Afghan leaders, the group now understands their fears that a resurgent Taliban would probably target women and girls who have made tremendous progress since U.S. troops routed the fundamentalist militant group in 2002.

"We have been feeling a sense of fear of the people of the return of the Taliban," Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin said in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor. "So many people....

...are saying that if the U.S. troops left, the country would collapse. ... A palpable sense of fear that is making us start to reconsider" a deadline for troop withdrawal.

Code Pink says it continues to oppose sending fresh troops to Afghanistan and will advocate for more humanitarian funding. What might get relaxed is its call for an immediate pullout. "We would leave with the same parameters of an exit strategy, but we might perhaps be more flexible about a timeline," said Benjamin.

With President Obama weighing Gen. Stanley McChrystal's call for 40,000 more U.S. troops, the White House, often decried by Republicans as a hotbed of liberalism, could find itself with more allies on the right on this issue than on the left.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for one has signaled her reluctance to send new troops, saying recently, "I don't think there is a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan, in the country or in Congress."

But Code Pink's latest think could suggest that Democrats will give Obama a bit of room to maneuver on the issue.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credit: Charles Dharapak / Associated Press

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