Bush Pledges $320 Million in Afghan Aid
Speaking to staff at the State Department this morning, Mr. Bush said the money would be used for food and medicine “in a time of crisis and in a time of need.”
Washington has warned that if the ruling Taliban does not turn over suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, the U.S. may use military force to end bin Laden’s activity in Afghanistan.
The Taliban has refused to give him up, instead calling on the United States to provide evidence of his involvement in the September 11 attacks.
“This is our way of saying that while we firmly and strongly oppose the Taliban regime, we are friends of the Afghan people,” President Bush said. “American will stand strong and will oppose the sponsors of terror, and America will stand strong to help those people who are hurt by those regimes.”
Food drops planned
Much of the money is intended go to help Afghans survive what is expected to be a brutal winter. The Pentagon announced today that there are plans to parachute in food rations.
Officials would not say exactly where the drops are to occur, for the safety of the pilots, but said the drops would likely include humanitarian daily ration packages.
“As part of the overall U.S. effort to provide relief assistance to the Afghan people, the Defense Department is prepared to provide food through air drops into regions of Afghanistan where displaced persons risk starvation,” Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters.
Officials believe that airdrops sponsored by the United States would help emphasize the message that the war is not against the Muslim people, but rather terrorists and governments that help them.
Mr. Bush said the United States would work with the United Nations, the Red Cross and other charitable organizations to see that the money gets to the people who need it instead of aiding the country’s rulers.
Reports out of the country suggest that there are more than a million displaced Afghans. Satellite photos have shown thousands of Afghan refugees heading to the borders.
“It is a heartbreaking thing to see,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.
The money will also go to help Afghans who have crossed into Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.