A power struggle between Afghanistan’s newly elected president and the nation’s defense minister has raised concerns that the situation is growing increasingly unstable for the newly created national government. For the past six months, Hamid Karzai, the US-backed president, did little to challenge Mohammed Fahim, the defense minister who served as a military leader for the Northern Alliance. However, in recent weeks Karzai took several steps to challenge Fahim’s authority – including replacing his defense ministry-supplied bodyguards with American special forces, according to the Washington Post.
“For six months Fahim dictated to Karzai, and he was the most powerful man in Afghanistan. Now he is worried that may change,” a deputy minister told the Post. “The president has gotten [foreign] protection now, but I still think he is in danger. Fahim and his friends are warlords, and you cannot make peaceful men out of them. I think we are headed back to civil war.” While the United States supported Fahim as a Northern Alliance leader in his role to oust the Taliban, US officials have begun to reassess their relationship, according to the Post. Specifically, the US has pressed the Defense Ministry for reforms and for better Afghan military cooperation in a US program to train a multi-ethnic army, the Post reported.
This continued power struggle highlights an urgent need for the US to support an expanded role of international peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan. While the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week unanimously approved $1 billion to promote expansion of the international peace troops as well as $2 billion in humanitarian aid, the full Senate must approve these measures before President Bush will act on them. The full Senate is expected to consider these proposals after they return from their monthlong August break.
The Feminist Majority spearheaded the drive for expansion of the international peacekeeping troops and additional funds. With the women of Afghanistan repeatedly proclaiming security as their top priority, the Feminist Majority and other women’s organizations have been asking the Bush administration to expand peacekeeping troops beyond Kabul for the past six months. A series of recent events throughout Afghanistan have shown the need for expansion of peacekeeping forces both within and beyond Kabul is urgent.