The US State Department issued a new report on Afghanistan to Congress recently questioning the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) beyond the capital of Kabul. The report suggests that establishing security in outlying areas will be up to the Afghan government. “Providing security to the rural hinterlands in Afghanistan would be almost impossible for any outside force,” the report reads. “It is therefore up to the Afghans themselves to extend security to all of Afghanistan through an effective and responsible national army.”
The ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), called the report a “whitewash,” according to the New York Times. The report comes as surprise to many because the State Department was seen as being more sympathetic to the expansion of peacekeeping troops than the Pentagon, according to the Times. Last month, Bush Administration officials indicated possible support for the expansion of international peacekeeping troops as a necessity for Afghanistan’s security.
The Feminist Majority, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, UN officials, and women’s rights and human rights organizations have urged a full-scale expansion of peace troops to as many as 25,000 spread throughout the country to ensure security and enable reconstruction to move forward. Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have been leading US Senate efforts for peace troop expansion and reconstruction assistance. In late July, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously to support international peace troop expansion, increased funding for reconstruction, and funding earmarks for the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the independent Human Rights Commission.
Afghan women have indicated that security is their top priority. Threats to Loya Jirga delegates who have spoken out for human rights, including Minister of Women’s Affairs Dr. Sima Samar; the assassination of two government ministers; violence against women in the Northern provinces; violence against humanitarian aid workers; and the use of tactics of intimidation against the return of girls to school show the need for expansion of peace keeping forces both within and beyond Kabul is desperate.