Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan, announced yesterday that the U.S. is considering options for expanding the peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, expressing concern over the continuing conflict between several rival factions in Afghanistan. Possible scenarios include expanding the small 4, 500 member international peacekeeping force currently responsible for the entire country to 25,000 troops, sending U.S. military advisors to areas that are particularly conflicted, and expediting U.S. aid and training for an Afghan national army.
Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, urged expansion of the peacekeeping forces to ensure women’s security. “In some regions of the country, women continue to fear the imposition of Taliban-like restrictions by regional warlords,” said Smeal. “The future of women and indeed of a peaceful, democratic Afghanistan depends on a U.S. and international commitment to maintaining a robust peacekeeping force until stability is obtained and the Afghan government believes that it has the capacity to maintain the peace. We believe that the size of the international peacekeeping force should be increased to at least 25,000, that peace troops should be deployed throughout the country, and that the term of the force should be extended beyond 6 months. We also urge the inclusion of women in the ranks.”
The U.S. currently has about 3, 000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, concentrated mainly in the areas being used for U.S. military and strategic operations. U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has already urged the Bush Administration to deploy more peacekeeping troops into Afghanistan to ensure the success of the new government. “History will judge us harshly if we allow the hope of a liberated Afghanistan to evaporate because we failed to stay the course,” said Biden.