A top White House official confirmed yesterday that President Bush supports the appropriation of $2.3 billion in aid for Afghanistan. The aid is part of the Afghan Freedom Support Act approved by Congress on Friday. Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill spent a day in Afghanistan visiting development projects, where he told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Bush supported the $2.3 billion in aid, which still must go through appropriations committees, according to the New York Times. O’Neill also told Karzai that he wanted the money to go directly to the Afghan government, instead of through international organizations, which has been the case with most of the global aid to thus far, the Times reports.
The Afghan Freedom Support Act authorizes increased humanitarian and reconstruction aid over the next four years, and makes Afghan women a funding priority. Introduced in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the language of the bill earmarks $15 million each year for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and $5 million each year for the Independent Human Rights Commission. Under the leadership of committee chairman Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Boxer, the committee’s sole woman member, working with the Feminist Majority, the legislation was first passed under bipartisan unanimous support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August.
The bill also authorizes $1 billion over the over the next two years to expand international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan. The US is planning to send additional military civil affairs troops to Afghanistan to work with the international peacekeeping troops and the newly trained Afghan soldiers, according to the . Expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul to its outlying regions is necessary for the newly elected Afghan democracy to maintain control over the country. Currently, there are approximately 5,000 International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) that patrol within the capital city of Kabul. Without U.S. support, expansion of these international peacekeeping forces will not be possible.
The Bush Administration’s 2003 budget forwarded to Congress does not include any funding for Afghan reconstruction or expansion of ISAF. This authorization is a major step in securing the funding necessary for Afghan reconstruction and security. The funds must still be appropriated by Congress when it convenes next year.