Despite pleas from Afghanistan’s interim government and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as well as thousands of email messages from women’s groups, the Bush Administration appears to have made a decision not to allow an increase in the size of the 4500-member international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, nor an expansion of that force beyond the capitol city, Kabul. The current peacekeeping force is comprised of troops from 17 countries, not including the United States. The US State Department had argued in favor of increasing the peacekeeping force to 25,000, and the recent decision by the Bush Administration is viewed as a major setback for Afghanistan’s interim prime minister Hamid Karzai.
The Feminist Majority Foundation will persist in urging an increase in the peacekeeping force up to 30,000, and an expansion beyond Kabul. Increasing reports of violence confirm that such increase is necessary. Furthermore, reports from Afghanistan suggest that the primary reason Afghan women continue to wear the burqa is fear; they are afraid to go outside, and they see the peacekeeping force as providing security and safety, especially for women and children. An expansion in the size of the peacekeeping force and its deployment throughout Afghanistan is necessary for the establishment of a democratic government, the restoration of women’s rights, reconstruction, and the delivery of desperately-needed humanitarian assistance.