In his Rose Garden appearance today with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, President Bush once again illustrated his penchant for ceremony over substance as he glossed over the enormous problems facing Afghanistan and failed to offer serious help. The foundation of Afghanistan is crumbling and the president seems content to paper over the cracks.
At a time when the Taliban are re-emerging and the drug trade is exploding, the president offered Karzai some $9 million for social programs. While the initiatives are laudable – especially those aimed at empowering women – they are strikingly out of touch with the deadly reality facing the Afghan people.
Elections scheduled for September are encountering multiple obstacles, including incomplete voter registration. The Taliban and al Qaeda continue to carry out attacks on U.S. forces, Afghans, aid workers and others. Afghanistan needs more foreign troops for security, but NATO has failed to expand its operations. And the poppy boom, which accounts for 75 percent of the world's opium, fuels a multi-billion dollar illicit economy that funds terrorists.
Feel-good initiatives may be a welcome reprieve for the Bush administration, but Afghanistan still needs much more serious commitment.
For more information on the challenges facing Afghanistan, see the American Progress Afghanistan resource page.
Robert O. Boorstin is the senior vice president for national security at the Center for American Progress.