Command of international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan transferred from Turkey to Germany and the Netherlands today, reported Reuters. Under the leadership of German Lt. Gen. Norbert van Heyst, the 22-nation, 4,800-member International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will include 2,500 German and 700 Dutch troops. On Saturday, German Defense Minister Peter Struck called for NATO to assume larger responsibility after the German leadership expires in August.
ISAF remains confined to the capital city of Kabul, despite recent reports of rising violence in other regions of the country. According to the Washington Post, aid groups in Kandahar–anticipating heightened violence should a US war with Iraq break out–have started reducing staff and preparing evacuation plans. In addition, security concerns have thwarted infrastructure projects, such as construction of the Kabul-Kandahar-Herat highway. Tomoji Hagiwara of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the group heading the highway project, told the Washington Post, “É[T]here is no way to build the road outside of Kandahar without more security.”
The United Nations, Feminist Majority and other women’s rights, human rights, and humanitarian groups continue to call for the expansion of ISAF beyond and within Kabul.