White House to seek $10.6 billion more in aid for Afghanistan

WORLD DIGEST

January 26, 2007|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration will seek $10.6 billion more in aid for Afghanistan, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday, in another sign that the White House is deepening its commitment there in response to growing concerns over a Taliban resurgence.

The proposal came in a week when the Pentagon announced plans to extend the deployment of 3,200 troops in the country and amid a broad rethinking of the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan.

The new aid, which would be spent over two years, would mark a substantial addition to the $14 billion the United States has spent in Afghanistan since the invasion that toppled the fundamentalist regime five years ago. About $8.6 billion of the new spending would be used to train and arm Afghan troops and police, and $2 billion would be for reconstruction, including roads, irrigation, electricity and other infrastructure, Rice told reporters during a trip to Brussels, Belgium.

"The challenges of the last several months have demonstrated that we want to, and should, redouble our efforts," Rice said.

U.S. officials have become increasingly alarmed over the resurgence of the Taliban, whose attacks on the fragile government and international forces made 2006 the bloodiest year since the invasion, with 4,000 deaths from violence. Military strategists are preparing for an expected spring campaign by Taliban forces.

A senior U.S. official, speaking to reporters last week, said that prospects for progress in Afghanistan are far better than in Iraq. Even so, he said, "efforts in Afghanistan need desperately to be intensified."

The official, who would discuss Bush administration strategy only on condition of anonymity, said the United States and its NATO allies need a "comprehensive approach" that includes stepped-up security in Afghanistan, efforts to strengthen the nation's weak economy, fight the opium trade and extend the reach of a Kabul government that is hardly in evidence in many parts of the country.

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