Afghanistan: Hearing Calls for Expansion of Peacekeeping Troops
At a House hearing held yesterday on Afghanistan's reconstruction, Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) called upon NATO, which recently agreed to take over the 4,500 person peacekeeping force in Afghanistan (ISAF), to double the size of ISAF. He also called for NATO to expand its mandate to provide greater security throughout the country and "to prevent acts of banditry, human rights abuses and intimidation." Lantos said that the current ISAF presence in Afghanistan is an "insufficient response to meet the security needs even in Kabul," which is the only city in Afghanistan with an ISAF presence.
Dr. Barnett Rubin of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University acknowledged the presence in the audience of dozens of women's rights activists organized by the Feminist Majority wearing "Expand ISAF for Afghan Women" stickers. He said that security was the number one issue for women and that "if women are not secure enough to go around and to go to school then all other things we are talking about will have no effect."
Reps. Diane Watson (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) protested the absence of women from the two panels of the House hearing. One "mistake we have is putting a panel on like this without one woman on it...if this government is working for its people it needs to liberate its women," said Watson.
A report recently released by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society criticizes the Bush Administration peacekeeping policy as failing "to address the growing security challenge that [President Karzai's] government faces." The report calls for an increase and expansion of peacekeeping troops outside of the capital, for the disarmament of local militias, for increasing the Afghan National Army force to 27,000, and for the US to provide at least $1 billion in reconstruction aid each year over the next five years.