At a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai testified on post-conflict Afghanistan. Karzai stated, “Whatever the United States does in Iraq it should not reduce its attention to Afghanistan.” Karzai also listed his priorities, which include more funding for reconstruction, the Afghan National Army, and for Afghanistan’s budget. In regards to current reconstruction efforts, Karzai said that he is “not happy with the reconstruction activities to the provinces” and that “there needs to be more support of the rural areas.”
The ranking Democrat on the Committee, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), said that the “facts make one thing clear. There is a great deal of work to do in Afghanistan and an obligation to do so.” We need to not only “fight for the sake of Afghanistan but for our own national security, ” he continued.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the only woman on the Committee, stated that “women are facing harsh restrictions from local leaders, and that is why we need an expansion of ISAF” (International Security Assistance Forces) within and beyond Kabul. To emphasize the insufficient number of peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan, Boxer said that there is one peacekeeping soldier for every 48 people in Kosovo as compared to one peacekeeping soldier for every 5,380 people in Afghanistan. In addition, she referred to a recent Human Rights Report detailing the severe treatment women are facing in Herat under the control of warlord Ismail Khan, including being forced to undergo gynecological exams to see if they had engaged in any sexual relations.
At a hearing earlier this month, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Ishaq Shahryar, called for the US to support expansion of ISAF beyond Kabul, to increase the force’s size to at least 15,000 troops, to fund the Afghan Freedom Support Act, and to send reconstruction funding directly to the central Afghan government.
Boxer said that it was the “women’s movement in the United States that galvanized support to liberate the Afghan people.” The Feminist Majority has been leading the call for ISAF expansion, increases in reconstruction funding, and particularly for more resources to support the work of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Independent Human Rights Commission.