Bush Withdraws Funds for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction
President Bush recently rejected $5.1 billion in Emergency Supplemental Appropriation funds approved by Congress, including $174 million for reconstruction and refugee assistance in Afghanistan, according to Interaction and Care organizations. Among the funding eliminated by this veto is $2.5 million for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which is slated to build women’s centers in each of Afghanistan’s 32 provinces providing health care, education, and vocational programs for Afghan women and girls.
Bush’s veto comes at a time when only a fraction of the $4.5 billion in aid promised by international donors has been provided. The United Nations World Food Program announced this weekend that they have been forced to cut rations for millions in Afghanistan because international donors have not provided the funds needed, UN officials said. Approximately six million Afghans will need food aid over the next year, according to UN figures. The World Food Program is short of more than $90 million or 200,000 tons of food, Reuters reported.
Bush decided to veto these funds after Secretary of State Colin Powell made a commitment last month to step up disbursement of aid to the war-torn nation. The United States has delivered around $400 million in emergency assistance, but with most of it for humanitarian assistance through the UN and other nongovernmental organizations – and very little to assist the Afghan government with reconstruction. The cost of reconstruction of Afghanistan is estimated at $14-18 billion over the next decade.
Meanwhile, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously voted to increase funding (both humanitarian and reconstruction funds) and the expansion of international peacekeeping troops right before the summer recess. A similar bill allocating a smaller amount of funding was approved by the House in May.