At yesterday’s House Appropriations Committee hearing on the Emergency Supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) raised her concerns about the plight of women in Afghanistan. She stated that while women make up 46 percent of the population in Afghanistan, they have been denied opportunity to participate in their society for years. According to Lowey, “there is progress being made and just last week a group of women…met to write a bill on women’s rights…but there is much more that needs to be done.”
In addition, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) expressed his concerns about the Bush Administration’s $87 billion supplemental request – which provides only $800 million for Afghanistan reconstruction funding compared with $20 billion for Iraq reconstruction. In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Biden wrote, “Inadequate funding is just one way the president has failed to make good on his pledge of a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. He has also failed to provide the leadership necessary to encourage the rest of the world to join in the rebuilding effort.” Biden asserted that “the best way to bring stability to Afghanistan is finally to expand the United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)” – something the United States has been reluctant to do so far even though Congress authorized $1 billion for the expansion of ISAF under the 2002 Afghan Freedom Support Act.
According to the New York Times, officials at NATO headquarters said they could send an additional 2,000 to 10,000 peacekeepers into larger provincial cities in Afghanistan. Gunter Pleuger, Germany’s ambassador to the UN, recently said that the force could operate in eight regional cities to help with the stabilization of Afghanistan before the June 2004 elections, reports the New York Times.