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Afghan Officials say New US Funding Request Insufficient - 2003-10-16

In requesting new aid for Iraq, the Bush administration also included assistance for Afghanistan. However, Afghan officials say the amount is not enough to fund massive reconstruction of the country.

Incoming Afghan Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad says Afghanistan welcomes the prospect of new aid. But, in a telephone interview, Mr. Jawad says the amount of new assistance is small, especially when compared to what is being spent in Iraq.

"The amount of the assistance provided to Afghanistan is substantial," he said. "Most of the assistance will continue to be used in building of the infrastructure in Afghanistan, and also creating the capacity in the [Afghan] administration to deliver services throughout the country. This is a significant step and we are hoping to get a larger portion of such assistance because the amount allocated to Afghanistan compared to Iraq is much smaller. And the needs in Afghanistan are as large as in other countries."

Mr. Jawad points out that of the nearly $21 billion in reconstruction aid the Bush administration is asking Congress to appropriate for Iraq and Afghanistan, Afghanistan is slated to get $1 billion.

Afghanistan is moving towards getting a freely elected government and institutions in place. But outside of the capital, Kabul, Afghanistan remains in the grip of regional warlords. On Saturday, President Hamid Karzai promulgated a law on political parties that bars any group with an armed militia from becoming a political party. How such a law will be enforced remains unclear. But Mr. Jawad says the armed groups can either disarm and enter the political process, or keep their arms and stay out of politics.

"We are trying to build a civil society," he said. "This is the most basic requirement. It is part of the demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration. A portion of the armed forces or armed groups will be disarmed and reintegrated into civil society. But, in the long run the faction, the armed group, has the option to become a national political party, or remain a faction with arms."

Afghanistan is also writing a new constitution. More than one half million questionnaires were sent out to seek Afghans' views on a new charter. A Loya Jirga, or grand council, was to have met this month to adopt a draft, but that has now been moved to December. Mr. Jawad blames the delay on logistical rather than political reasons.

There is a draft document, although it is still undergoing revision. However, the ambassador says it is clear Afghans want a strong central government with direct presidential elections - that can provide them security.

The thorniest issue, however, remains the legal system. Conservatives in overwhelmingly Muslim Afghanistan insist that Islamic law, or Sharia, be made the country's legal code. But Mr. Jawad says there is no widespread support to enshrine Sharia in the new constitution as the country's sole legal code.

"The constitution will most probably see something like, 'no laws in Afghanistan can contradict the principles of Islam.' The constitution of Afghanistan will be a model constitution that does respect the principles of Islam," said Said Tayeb Jawad. "But there is no demand by the Afghan people to make the Sharia the only source of law in Afghanistan."

Under the Bonn Agreement that set up Afghanistan's post-Taleban interim structure, elections are to be held in June. Mr. Jawad says there may be some delay in that target because many measures, such as institution of a new national identity card, are not yet in place. However, he says if there is a delay, it will only be a matter of months.