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.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .