Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Harry Reid (D-NV) joined Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal, NOW President Kim Gandy, National Council of Women’s Organizations Executive Director Martha Burk, Equality Now President Jessica Neuwirth, V-Day Founder Eve Ensler, Gloria Steinem, and Zieba Shorish-Shamley of the Women’s Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan in calling on President Bush to expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and increase funding for Afghan reconstruction.
As the loya jirga approaches, factional fighting in Afghanistan has increased, threatening the success of the loya jirga process, the establishment of democracy, and the restoration of women’s rights. According to Eleanor Smeal, “This is our chance to help ensure that democracy prevails.” Smeal continued, “We also must act now for women’s security. Afghan women continue to be marginalized by factional fighting and warlordism.”
Women leaders also called attention to the need for increased funding for Afghan reconstruction. While donor nations have pledged $4.5 billion for reconstruction, both the United Nations and the Afghan Minister of Reconstruction estimate that the real cost will total $15-$20 billion. Of the funds pledged, the US has only committed $237 million for reconstruction in FY 2002. The President had talked of creating a “Marshall Plan” for Afghanistan, but a significant increase in US funding is imperative if such a plan is to become a reality. Says Kim Gandy, “To the [Bush] Administration: put your money where your mouth is.”
Yesterday, the House voted on a plan to send $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan over the next four years. House members also voted 407-4 on an amendment that would require the President to announce to Congress his plan to address mounting security concerns in Afghanistan. According to Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), “a failture to act on [the security] issue may well lead to a failure to win the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.”