Groups Call on Bush to Expand ISAF and Strengthen Afghan Constitution
On the eve of the opening of Afghanistan's Loya Jirga (grand assembly), leading women's rights, human rights, and Afghan organizations sent an open letter to the Bush Administration urging it to take immediate action to improve security in Afghanistan by supporting the full-scale expansion of international peacekeeping forces (ISAF) throughout Afghanistan and measures to protect Loya Jirga delegates.
The groups are also calling for stronger protections for women's rights and human rights in Afghanistan's new constitution. The current version of the Afghan Constitution does not state that both women and men are full citizens. It also leaves women's rights, human rights, and civil and political rights to extremist interpretations of Islam. The letter cites recent attacks on girl's schools, the reemergence of the Taliban, and the murders of aid workers and calls for the protection of Loya Jirga delegates who speak out for women's rights and human rights who have been threatened by the Taliban and other local commanders.
The Loya Jirga of 500 delegates will be meeting in Kabul next week. However, according to the New York Times, American officials warned that Taliban and Al Qaeda are planning attacks to either disrupt the Loya Jirga meeting or to terrorize the road to the Kabul to prevent delegates from reaching it. The New York Times has reported that a Taliban spokesman told news agencies that anyone that attends the Loya Jirga "deserves to die." Since last Thursday, a bomb went off in Kandahar wounding 20 people; two Indian highway workers were kidnapped by reported Taliban fighters; and a group of census takers were ambushed, leaving one dead. Tension has also increased as a result of US bombings in Eastern Afghanistan that killed women and children over the past weekend.