In the wake of violence and intimidation against human rights advocates in Afghanistan, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow to address the issue of expansion of peace troops in Afghanistan. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz will testify and respond to questions from Senators concerning security and reconstruction in Afghanistan. The Feminist Majority Foundation along with other women’s rights, human rights and humanitarian aid organizations have requested for months that the troops be expanded in Kabul and beyond to ensure safe and secure conditions for the people of Afghanistan. “Immediate expansion of peace troops is absolutely essential to the restoration of women’s rights, re-establishment of democracy and establishment of a central government in Afghanistan,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. The need for US support of expansion of peace troops has been shown by recent threats against women’s rights leader Dr. Sima Samar, outgoing Minister of Women’s Affairs, and other outspoken advocates to the loya jirga. In addition, several international aid workers have suffered from violence and intimidation. In northern Afghanistan, a woman working for a nongovernmental organization was gang raped by seven men who attacked her vehicle and beat up the Afghan staff member with her. A US aid organization vehicle carrying food to a camp for displaced Afghans was attacked and a health clinic operated by a nongovernmental organization (NGO) was shot at by several gunmen. Several international groups have already left Afghanistan while several others are threatening to leave. Approximately 68 NGOs have joined the United Nations in a plea to the US to expand peacekeeping troops and ensure security throughout the country.
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