Afghan Security Advisor, New York Times Call for Troop Expansion
Afghan National Security Advisor Zalmai Rassoul visited Washington this week to meet with high-ranking officials to urge the Bush Administration to follow through on its promise to rebuild Afghanistan even with a foreign policy shift toward war in Iraq. He stressed the importance of expanding international peacekeeping troops in restoring stability to the war-torn country, telling the Washington Post that “the Taliban have been defeated, but the war continues.”
Last week, Congress passed the Afghan Freedom Support Act of 2002, which provides $2.3 billion in funding for humanitarian aid and $1 billion for the expansion of international peacekeeping forces. The bill also includes an amendment that makes Afghan women a funding priority. Introduced in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the amendment earmarks $15 million each year for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and $5 million each year for the Independent Human Rights Commission. The Bush Administration’s 2003 budget forwarded to Congress does not include any funding for Afghan reconstruction or expansion of ISAF. This authorization is a major step in securing the funding necessary for Afghan reconstruction and security. In an editorial published yesterday, the New York Times urged President Bush to call on the new Congress to appropriate “these urgently needed funds without delay when it convenes in January.” The Times further called on Bush to fulfill his promise “not to repeat the mistake of the late 1980s when America abandoned Afghanistan after the Soviet military withdrawal.”
Incidents over the past few days indicate that the security situation in Afghanistan is still volatile. An explosion in Kandahar injured 11 people in Afghanistan yesterday, three of them seriously, according to Reuters. Local authorities blame the explosion on terrorists. Two Afghan children died on Tuesday after picking up an unexploded bomb in Kabul, and a third lost his hand from an exploding butterfly mine, according to the Associated Press. The Pentagon estimates that between 75 to 90 percent of Afghanistan is stable enough to begin rebuilding hospitals, roads, and other infrastructure, the Post reported. The Afghan government still sees Taliban sympathizers and al Qaeda as threats to the country’s security, according to Reuters. The recent elections in Pakistan added to the fears in the country, as pro-Taliban factions gained power in Pakistan’s government, Rassoul told the Post.