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Reconstruction in Afghanistan on Shaky Footing

Promises of reconstruction and humanitarian aid for Afghanistan have so far fallen short of the $1.8 billion pledged for this year by the international community at the Tokyo meeting in January. The newly established government, led by President Hamid Karzai, has only received approximately $600 million, and most of that funding has been for emergency humanitarian aid, rather than funds for reconstruction of the country. In addition, some Afghans claim that the aid is not being distributed properly. While 95 percent of rural Afghans lack clean drinking water and 83 percent lack medical care, salaries for English-speaking Afghan office workers and expatriate staff have gone up considerably, as have rents for housing and offices in Kabul, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

Despite the tremendous need for resources in Afghanistan, President George W. Bush has refused to allow additional aid appropriated by Congress tp be sent. Last week, Bush rejected more than $170 million earmarked for Afghanistan, including $2.5 million for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, as part of the $5.1 billion Emergency Supplemental Appropriation package already approved by Congress. Following Bush’s veto, the United Nations World Food Program announced that because they are short more than $90 million in promised funding from donor countries, they have been forced to cut food aid for Afghanistan.

Security in Afghanistan remains a problem as well. A bombing last week blamed on remaining Taliban forces severely damaged the only girls’ school in the town of Ghazni, west of Kabul, according to Reuters. Following the bombing, leaflets were distributed in the town warning residents that women would be killed if the school were to be reopened. The attack closely followed an incident at a US Special Forces base in Ghazni in which several rockets were fired at the compound. There were no casualties in either attack. In addition, there were bombings earlier this month at the United Nations guesthouse in Kabul and outside the Afghan Ministry of Communications, both causing minor damage and no casualties. However, these bombings indicate that members of the Taliban and al Qaeda continue to operate in Afghanistan, both inside and outside of Kabul. Despite the security problems in Afghanistan and bipartisan support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the US continues to refuse to support the expansion of international peacekeeping forces beyond Kabul.

TAKE ACTION Call Bush to urge him to release funding appropriated by Congress for Afghanistan for reconstruction.

Media Resources: Christian Science Monitor 8/27/02; New York Times 8/27/02; CNN 8/25/02; Reuters 8/24/02; Feminist Daily News Wire 8/20/02

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