10.6 Billion Needed for Afghanistan


Jan 26, 2007

 


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#1702 Jan 26, 2007

White House Seeks 10.6 Billion for Afghanistan



By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer



The Bush administration plans to ask Congress for $10.6 billion for

Afghanistan, a major increase aimed at rebuilding the country and

strengthening government security forces still fighting the Taliban

five years after the U.S.-led invasion.



Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said all but $2 billion of the

money is for security needs. She detailed the plan as she prepared to

attend a NATO gathering meant to plan for an expected Taliban military

offensive in the spring.



Among other issues Rice planned to raise Friday with her NATO

colleagues were the divisions within the alliance on sharing the

burden in Afghanistan. Some NATO countries have shown a greater

willingness than others to send troops to areas of conflict.



The administration funding proposal follows a year in which Taliban

forces launched surprisingly fierce attacks across the country, poppy

production expanded and relations worsened between Afghanistan and

Pakistan, a key ally in the fight against global terrorism.



"The challenges of the last several months have demonstrated that we

want to and we should redouble our efforts," Rice told reporters

flying with her to Brussels for the NATO sessions.



The U.S. aid package would fund training and equipment for about

70,000 new Afghan army soldiers and 82,000 national police, among

other uses, a State Department official said. The official spoke on

condition of anonymity because President Bush will make a formal

budget request next month.



The United States wants to strengthen the democratic government of

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has struggled to extend political

control throughout his country and quarreled with Pakistani President

General Pervez Musharraf.



The new U.S. money would be on top of $14.2 billion in aid the United

States has already given to Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led

invasion that toppled the Taliban government.



Rice said that of the total, $8.6 billion would be for training and

equipping Afghan police and security forces, and $2 billion would be

for reconstruction. The money would be spent over the next two years.



The aid proposal comes alongside a move toward increasing the number

of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.



The Defense Department has said that 3,200 soldiers from the New

York-based 10th Mountain Division already in Afghanistan would have

their tour extended by four months. In a visit to Afghanistan last

week, new Defense Secretary Robert Gates indicated he is likely to ask

Bush for more troops for the country.



There are about 24,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the highest number

since the war began in October 2001. About half are under the control

of NATO, which is gradually gaining more control over operations there.



The NATO-led force is about 20 percent short of the troops levels

pledged by its contributing nations.



Casualties in Afghanistan have risen sharply in recent months as an

emboldened Taliban widened military operations and suicide attacks.

Some 4,000 people died in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan

last year, according to numbers from Afghan, U.S. and NATO officials.



A springtime push caught international forces somewhat off guard last

year, but the Taliban movement has not been able to translate military

gains into a resurgent political force like the one that imposed harsh

Islamic law on Afghanistan in the 1990s.



Some of the U.S. money will go to expand drug-fighting efforts.



Officials in the Afghan capital of Kabul said this week that despite

pressure from the United States and a record crop last year, the

country's heroin-producing poppies will not be sprayed with herbicide.

Afghan officials said there would be increased efforts to destroy

poppy crops with traditional techniques _ typically sending teams of

laborers into fields to batter down or plow in the plants before they

can be harvested.



Fueled by the Taliban, a powerful drug mafia and the need for a

profitable crop that can overcome drought, opium production from

poppies in Afghanistan last year rose 49 percent to 6,700 tons. That's

enough to make about 670 tons of heroin, or more than 90 percent of

the world's supply and more than the amount that the world's addicts

consume in a year.



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