For several years, feminists have urged that the number of international peacekeeping (ISAF) troops in Afghanistan be increased and that they be deployed throughout the nation. The US has now announced that in the summer of 2006 it will reduce its troop presence from 19,000 to 16,500 and transfer power in southern Afghanistan to ISAF, which is being led by NATO troops, reported the Washington Post. ISAF will increase its numbers from 9,000 to 15,000. The Taliban presence is stronger in the Southern region, which includes Kandahar, the former Taliban capitol.
The plan may be running into trouble already because the Netherlands is threatening to pull out because of humanitarian concerns about the current Afghan government. Many believe this may be just an excuse for the Dutch, who have reservations about entering a Taliban stronghold where there is increasing violence. (See story on beheading of Afghan school headmaster in Zabol province bordering Pakistan.)
The US also announced it will cut Afghan funding from $1 billion in 2005 to $600 million in 2006. This, combined with the announced US troop cutback, is worrying Afghans that the US may be, once again, deserting Afghanistan as it did in the early 1990s after the Soviet defeat. However, Congress could increase the Afghan funding in 2006 in supplemental funding packages as it has in the past.
“The Bush Administration has promised a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan but has delivered much, much less,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “Electricity is in short supply even in Kabul, girls schools are still being attached by Taliban-like forces, the homeless number in the hundreds of thousands, and poppy growth and its illicit drug trade has increased.”