US Plans To Boost Afghanistan Funding – State Department January 25, 2007Posted by notapundit in Military News, US News, World News.
BRUSSELS (AP)–U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will announce a major increase in U.S. funding for security and development in Afghanistan Friday and ask NATO allies to boost their commitment to the country as it braces for an expected increase in violence with the spring thaw.
“We’re going to announce significant contributions,” Richard Boucher, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, told reporters Thursday. “We’re looking to others to step up their effort with us, step up across the board.”
Boucher declined to say how much funding Rice will announce. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the White House will ask Congress for at least US$7 billion in new funds for security, reconstruction and other projects in Afghanistan.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization members’ foreign ministers are to gather Friday at a hastily arranged meeting proposed by Rice to follow up calls at a summit of alliance leaders in November to improve coordination between NATO’s 32,000-strong military force in Afghanistan and civilian development initiatives.
Faced with an increase in violence last year as NATO troops moved into the Taliban’s southern heartland, alliance leaders are seeking to put renewed emphasis on winning support from the local population. They want to immediately launch development projects such as building roads, schools and clinics in areas newly brought under the control of NATO forces and the Afghan government.
“We have to not only provide security to the people of Afghanistan, we have to extend good governance and the benefits of government and we have to provide economic opportunity,” said Boucher, who was meeting with European officials ahead of the NATO meeting. “Afghanistan is more than a military struggle.”
However, he also said the NATO troops were preparing to “take the initiative” to drive Taliban fighters out of their sanctuaries, to pre-empt any spring offensive from the insurgents.
“There is widespread agreement that we don’t just wait for the Taliban to come across and see what they’re shooting at,” he said.
NATO’s commander in Afghanistan, U.K. Gen. David Richards, said Thursday the force will be reinforced soon with another combat brigade. It was not immediately clear which countries would provide the extra troops. A brigade is typically 1,500 to 3,500 soldiers.
Alliance diplomats stressed that Friday’s meeting was not set up to generate new forces. However, several nations are considering boosting their contributions as NATO commanders say more troops are needed for a push against the Taliban in the spring.
The U.S. Defense Department has decided to extend the combat tour of 3,200 soldiers by four months. U.K. news reports this week said the government is considering the deployment of 600 extra troops, Poland is sending about 1,200 soldiers and Germany is expected in the next few days to announce the dispatch of six Tornado warplanes.
Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta will set out his government’s priorities for channeling the international aid at the meeting. Senior officials from the E.U., U.N., World Bank and major donors Japan and South Korea are also set to attend.
Friday’s meeting will also focus on renewed tension in Kosovo.
Ministers want to make sure NATO’s 16,000 peacekeepers are prepared for any outbreak of unrest following the presentation in the coming days of a U.N. report which is expected to recommend that the mostly Albanian-speaking province is given some form of conditional independence from Serbia.
NATO also wants to draw up plans for closer cooperation with the E.U., which is preparing to take on a major role supporting the administration and policing Kosovo following the U.N. decision on its future status.