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Security Remains Key Concern in Afghanistan

For the first time in seven months, a US soldier was killed Saturday by enemy fire in Afghanistan, once again demonstrating the urgent need for greater security in the region. This past weekend, a US Special Operations soldier was injured by an exploding grenade in Kunar province; on Saturday, gun fighting erupted in Kandahar and a helicopter crash near Kabul claimed the lives of seven German peacekeepers. In the last year, attacks against US and its allied forces have grown increasingly frequent, with nearly 55 incidents in the last month alone, reported the Washington Post.

Approximately 10,000 US troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan. Last week, the US military announced its intent to set up small regional bases throughout the country, supplemented with the creation of “joint regional teams”—consisting of US troops, Special Forces civil affairs troops, US Agency of International Development (USAID) personnel, and diplomats—to boost infrastructure development projects and engage with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Still, William Durch of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonprofit group focused on international peace and security, cautioned “It’s a step in the right direction… My concern is that it’s not going to have enough muscle to make it work. And our policy in the [Persian] Gulf is undercutting this thing big time—it’s sucking the air and the policy attention out of Afghanistan, and it’s a half-finished job,” reported the Washington Post.

The Feminist Majority and others question why the US has continued to withhold support for expanding international peacekeeping troops beyond and within Kabul, which many believe would be the most effective strategy for immediately improving security.

Meanwhile, reconstruction work for a 600-mile highway, connecting Kabul to Kandahar may be slowed by Saudi Arabia, which recently reneged on ts September pledge—made along with the US and Japan—to contribute $50 million of a $180 million donation to the road construction project. While US and Afghan officials insist that the pledge was a $50 million grant, Saudi officials now claim the offer was a low-interest $30 million loan. Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) of the House International Relations Committee chastised the Saudi government, “While the Saudi regime supports dubious charities with alleged ties to terrorists, it shortchanges vital reconstruction projects in Afghanistan…It is outrageous that the wealthy Saudi regime is unwilling to provide meaningful assistance to a poor Muslim nation that has suffered so much,” reported the Washington Post.

TAKE ACTION Urge Congress to Appropriate Funds for Expanded Peace Troops, Women’s Programs and Reconstruction in Afghanistan

Media Resources: NY Times 12/22/02, 12/23/02; Washington Post 12/22/02, 12/23/02

© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

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