The commander of the international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan issued a warning today that a US-led war in Iraq could mean increased terrorism in Afghanistan, according to the Washington Post. Major General Hilmi Akin Zorlu of Turkey, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told the Post that “if there is a war in Iraq, there might be many sympathizers in Afghanistan. It may cause an increase in terrorist actions against all foreigners including ISAF, UN, coalition forces and all civilian businessmen coming to Afghanistan.”
There has already been an increase in violence toward aid agencies in one of Afghanistan’s poorest provinces, Zabul. Reuters reports that there has been a series of armed robberies and a grenade attack on aid agencies in the area in the past week alone. Zabul’s governor blamed the attacks on members of the former Taliban. The increased violence is forcing many of the aid groups to consider leaving the province if their security could not be guaranteed, according to Reuters. Several of the 12 known attacks on girls’ schools occurred in Zabul, indicating that security in the region has been deteriorating for the past few months, and fundamentalist forces have been active in the area. President Bush signed the Afghan Freedom Support Act last month, which provides for $2.3 billion in humanitarian and reconstruction aid and $1 billion to expand ISAF. It is now crucial that Congress appropriates the funds provided for by this Act.
In related news, the United Nations estimates that a war in Iraq could displace as many as 10 million Iraqi citizens, including more than 2 million refugees and homeless who are in need of immediate assistance because of their high risk of hunger and disease, according to the Post. The confidential document was made public by a student advocacy group at Cambridge University, Campaign Against Sanctions in Iraq. Dated December 10, 2002, the document states that “the bulk of the population [of Iraq] is now totally dependent on the Government of Iraq for a majority, if not all, of their basic needs and, unlike the situation in 1991, they have no way of coping if they cannot access them: the sanctions regime, if anything, has served to increase dependence on the Government as almost the sole provider.”