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.
10/31/2014 Federal Judge Exempts Another Catholic University from Birth Control Coverage - A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Ave Maria University, a Catholic university in Florida, does not have to comply with federal rules meant to ensure that covered employees can exercise their right to obtain birth control at no cost.
The Affordable Care Act requires all new health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives - such as the pill, emergency contraceptives, and IUDs - without charging co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. . . .
10/31/2014 Women of Color in Tennessee Are United in Opposition to Amendment 1 - Just days before the general election in Tennessee, a coalition of community leaders, clergy, and advocates led a press conference encouraging women of color to vote no on Amendment 1, a dangerous and far-reaching measure on the state's ballot.
SisterReach, a grassroots organization focused on "empowering, organizing, and mobilizing women and girls in the community around their reproductive and sexual health to make informed decisions about themselves," organized the press conference "to call attention to the unique concerns Black and poor communities throughout Shelby County and across the state of Tennessee face on a daily basis" and to emphasize how the upcoming election "could further limit [black women's] reproductive, economic, political, and social autonomy."
"We assemble today to impress upon black women and women of color, many of whom are heads of households, to get out and vote," said SisterReacher Founder and CEO Cherisse Scott at the event.
SisterReach has been educating voters about the particularly dangerous impact of Amendment 1 on women of color. . . .
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .