At yesterday’s House International Relations Committee hearing on US policy in Afghanistan, several Representatives pressed for more security and reconstruction funding in Afghanistan. Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), ranking Democrat on the committee, fears that “we may be on the verge of losing the battle for a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan due to the lack of security and reconstruction funding.” Lantos stressed that the size of the international peacekeeping forces (ISAF) run by NATO should be doubled in size and should expand its effort to more insecure areas of Afghanistan.
The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counternarcotics, MaryBeth Long, testified that the increase in poppy cultivation is benefiting extremist groups including the Taliban. According to Long, the “substantial benefits” extremist groups are receiving from the poppy trade “may undermine [US] efforts to provide long-term security in Afghanistan.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) stated that he is “struck by the disparity between what we are doing in Iraq and what we are not doing in Afghanistan.” The spending for Iraq’s reconstruction is 20 times more than Afghanistan’s despite the fact that the two countries are the same size and Afghanistan has suffered more destruction over 23 years of war.
Only 2.8 million of the 10.5 million estimated eligible Afghan voters are currently registered, of which approximately one-third are women. Poor security has not only delayed voter registration, but the Afghan election itself. The first post-Taliban elections that were to take place in June were postponed until September due to the lack of security. Despite the dire security situation in Afghanistan, peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan remain a small contingent of some 6,500 soldiers.
The Feminist Majority and other leading women’s rights and human rights advocates argue that without security, women in Afghanistan will never be able to obtain their rights and the country will never have sustained peace and democracy.