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Women Leaders Call for Expansion of International Peace Troops and More U.S. Funds to Restore the Rights of Afghan Women
WASHINGTON, DC - In the wake of the recent coup attempt in Afghanistan and the Bush Administration's continued refusal to permit the expansion of international peace-keeping troops, Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, called for a national women's campaign in support of peace troop expansion and more U.S. resources for Afghanistan's reconstruction in her keynote address before the National Council of Women's Organizations' Women's Equality Summit & Action Day.
"Peace and security must be established across Afghanistan to enable the restoration of women's rights, the reconstruction of the country, and the establishment of democracy," Smeal told the gathering of hundreds of leaders of women's organizations. "In addition, we must not fool ourselves that women's safety in Afghanistan is secure when women continue to fear violence and the imposition of Taliban?like restrictions by regional warlords."
The Bush Administration thus far has rejected pleas from the United Nations and Afghan Interim Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai to permit an expansion of the 4,800 international peace-keeping troops beyond Kabul. UN and Afghan officials believe that the immediate expansion of international peace troops is absolutely essential to disarmament, de-escalation of conflicts among warlords, preservation of women's rights and human rights, delivery of humanitarian assistance, and the success of the loya jirga process that will determine the next stage of the transition government.
Smeal also urged the quick delivery of desperately needed resources to the Afghan Interim Administration, especially the Ministry for Women's Affairs. "Where has American spirit gone? In an earlier generation, we felt obligated to rebuild Japan and Germany after World War 11. But in Afghanistan after the CIA operation that built the mujahideen and gave rise to the Taliban, 23 years of war, and the recent bombing, the U.S. now appears only willing to provide enough support for a subsistence economy. Without expanded international security forces and without adequate funding, women's rights and an end to terrorism will be unobtainable goals."
While the U.S. has donated $320 million this year in food and emergency humanitarian assistance, far more resources are needed to create a stable future for Afghanistan. The U.S. thus far has contributed only $4 million to the overall interim administration, and spent another some $14 million on other reconstruction and transition initiatives. Of the $1.8 billion pledged for Afghan reconstruction from world donors, only $360 million has reached Kabul thus far. Although the Women's Ministry has received pledges of support from around the world, it has received very little in actual funds to begin the crucial legal advocacy, education, vocational training, and women's health programs necessary to begin to undo the devastation caused by the Taliban regime and the 23 years of unending war.
Supporters of the call to expand peace troops and for more resources for the Ministry for Women's Affairs include Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan, National Council of Women's Organizations, National Organization for Women, Business and Professional Women's Clubs, National Political Congress of Black Women, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, Coalition for Labor Union Women, Center for Women's Global Leadership, Women's Edge, Equality Now, Vital Voices, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, and Women's Environment and Development Organization.