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“The people and the government of Afghanistan did not attack the United States,” she said. “There can be no justification for killing innocent people, and the problems of Afghanistan cannot be solved militarily.”

Regarding the “safe haven” argument, Ms. Boyer said, “al Qaeda is everywhere. It is absurd to think that we can attack any country in which there is an al Qaeda presence. Our weapons do not kill just the ‘bad guys.’ Let’s imagine that we could kill every single member of al Qaeda. Would the problem be solved? We will never achieve peace through killing.”

Gen. Petraeus views the stakes differently. One of his first chores after he landed in Afghanistan on July 2 was to pen a message to the troops:

“Together, we can ensure that Afghanistan will not once again be ruled by those who embrace indiscriminate violence and trans-national extremists, and we can ensure that Al Qaeda and other extremist elements cannot once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on our homelands and of the Afghan people.”