Bush Admin. May Support International Peace Troop Expansion in Afghanistan
In a significant policy shift, the Bush administration indicated that it may now support expansion of international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan, the New York Times reported today. One senior official described this change as a “mid course correction,” necessary because of “lingering difficulties in rebuilding the country and establishing law and order in a nation still plagued by banditry, warlords and renegade Taliban fighters,” the Times reported.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Daily Telegraph of London that while peace troop expansion is an idea worth supporting, the real challenge lies in finding a replacement for Turkey as the leader of the international peacekeeping force in the coming months. “At the moment the issue is sustaining ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces) first,” Wolfowitz said. “Expanding it is valuable, but it can’t be the first priority.”
The Bush Administration has not specified the extent of the expansion and has said any increase in international peace troop presence could take months. All possibilities for peace troop expansion currently under consideration would involve the US in a supporting role – no American personnel would actually serve as part of the peacekeeping troops. Ideas include a mobile group of peacekeepers in Kabul who could be deployed to trouble spots or placement of troops in several cities.
The Feminist Majority, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, UN officials, and women's rights and human rights organizations continue to urge a full-scale expansion of peace troops to as many as 25,000 spread throughout the country to ensure security and enable reconstruction to move forward. Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have been leading US Senate efforts for peace troop expansion and reconstruction assistance. In late July, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously to support international peace troop expansion, increased funding for reconstruction, and funding earmarks for the Afghan Ministry of Women's Affairs and the independent Human Rights Commission.
Afghan women have indicated that security is their top priority. Threats to Loya Jirga delegates who have spoken out for human rights, including Minister of Women's Affairs Dr. Sima Samar; the assassination of two government ministers; violence against women in the Northern provinces; violence against humanitarian aid workers; and the use of tactics of intimidation against the return of girls to school show the need for expansion of peacekeeping forces both within and beyond Kabul is desperate.