2nd Add: Includes new quotes by Rep. Royce.
(CNSNews.com) - The United States has given more than $117 million in assistance to Afghanistan so far in Fiscal Year 2001, according to the United States Agency for International Development.
The aid to date includes millions of tax dollars for mostly humanitarian relief both in Afghanistan and in support of Afghan refugees in neighboring Pakistan. As of July 9, 2001, the total amount of financial assistance was $117,869,525, according to USAID.
International terrorist Osama bin Laden, the man thought to be responsible for masterminding Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is thought to be taking refuge in Afghanistan.
Earlier Friday, religious leaders of the Taliban called on Muslims around the world to unite against America, as the specter of U.S. retaliation for the September 11 terror attack grows.
Already, the U.S. is negotiating with Pakistan for assistance in launching an American military strike against bin Laden and his cohorts in Afghanistan.
The United States is currently trying to communicate with Afghanistan's ruling Taliban faction. "We have ways of talking with them and we're exploring those ways now," Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday.
According to a July Information Bulletin by the USAID, the American assistance has taken the form of humanitarian aid in response to an ongoing drought in the country, as well as assistance for Afghans displaced by continued fighting by the Taliban, which USAID estimates controls 90 percent of the territory in Afghanistan.
The bulletin noted that as of July 9, American aid amounted to more than $14.4 million from USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance; $22.5 million from the agency's Food for Peace program; $61.2 million worth of American wheat through the U.S. Department of Agriculture; $16.4 million through the State Department's Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration; $2.8 million for a joint State Department/Department of Defense program to locate and remove land mines; and $569,525 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to fight polio via a United Nations program.
"Two key factors have deepened Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis," the July bulletin noted. "The Taliban made substantial new territorial gains in August and September 2000, including the September 6 capture of Taloqan, which had been a Northern Alliance stronghold as well as the provincial capital of Takhar. Afghanistan has also suffered the effects of a debilitating drought that followed two successive years of inadequate rainfall."
While federal spending for aid to Afghanistan in the current fiscal year spans both the present and previous U.S. administrations, the Bush administration has been responsible for sending on June 17 a five-person Disaster Assistance Response Team to help Afghan refugees in Pakistan, as well as a February 2 disaster declaration for Afghan refugees in Pakistan issued by then U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan William B. Milam.
A February 6, 2001 statement by USAID said, "The U.S. is the largest single donor of assistance to Afghans, and has a long record of providing such assistance. In the last year, the U. S. government has contributed approximately $115 million to Afghans, with USAID providing approximately $35.5 million in assistance.
Susan Phalen, a spokesperson for USAID in Washington, said that in Fiscal Year 2001, USAID funded two different programs for Afghanistan.
"One of them is the food program and the other one is through the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). It is basically going for drought relief, shelter, tents and blankets, health programs and that sort of thing," said Phalen. "The food program for fiscal year 2001 is $27.7 million. 1.9 million of that is money that is directed to Afghan refugees living in Pakistan."
The amount of assistance for Afghanistan this year is markedly higher than in the previous year. During Fiscal Year 2000, Phalen said, "the OFDA money is $6.42 million and the Food For Peace money is $14 million."
"In 1999, the OFDA number is 2.79 million dollars and the Food For Peace number is 6.4 million," said Phalen.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif), who sits on the House International Relations Committee, said Friday "We will have to go on the attack abroad. There will probably be a military strike in the near future. Given the likelihood of Osama bin Laden's involvement, Afghanistan is a probable target."
While the notion of targeting Afghanistan militarily is a high profile issue in Congress, the issue of sending U.S. tax dollars to the Afghans is less pronounced.
Royce spokesman Bryan Wilkes said the congressman had not considered the issue of U.S. aid to Afghanistan or whether to change the level of aid to the country.