Congressman Blumenauer believes that it is unconscionable that, for a country so central to our national security as Afghanistan, we have fewer troops present and less reconstruction aid being spent per capita than in our involvements in Bosnia, Haiti, or Iraq. Afghanistan is larger than Iraq, has a larger population and less of a functioning infrastructure, yet we have one-eighth as many troops and are spending one-sixth as much reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan as in Iraq.
The NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has not expanded its presence beyond Kabul, despite the UN mandate to do so, and American forces are limited to tracking al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants. Congressman Blumenauer believes that the US must take the lead in ensuring that there are enough troops in the country to complete both missions and that international peacekeepers are present wherever they are needed.
The American policy of continuing to rely on warlords and local militia leaders for anti-insurgent efforts stands in direct contradiction to the goal of centralizing authority under the soon-to-be-elected government in Kabul and the process of disarming, demobilizing, and reintegrating local militias. These same militias are the ones who rural Afghans report as the source of insecurity in their communities. Unless this contradiction is resolved, current policy undermines our own national security needs.
Without security, we cannot successfully address the pressing needs for reconstruction, for dealing with constant drought and the need for improved water resources, for clean-up of the 5-7 million unexploded landmines, and for the emergence of a stable and democratic Afghan government.
In October 2003, during consideration of the $87 billion Fiscal Year 2004 Supplemental Appropriations bill, Congressman Blumenauer introduced an amendment to increase assistance to Afghanistan by $247 million by transferring money budgeted for Iraq. The amendment failed by voice vote but helped to highlight the disparity in focus and funding between the two countries.