Bush OKs release of aid for Afghan refugees
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush authorized the release of $100 million in humanitarian aid for Afghan refugees fleeing their country for neighboring Pakistan, CNN has confirmed.
An administration official said the aid will be used during the remainder of this calendar year and more aid is possible next year. The official said the aid could well take the form of food air drops, but that military planners were scrutinizing ways to make sure food drops would not fall into the hands of the ruling Taliban regime.
The official said the humanitarian aid is designed to address a mounting refugee crisis in Pakistan as Afghans flee in fear of a U.S. military strike. The Bush administration has leaned heavily on the support of Pakistan and wants to do what it can, the official said, to minimize or at least address the needs of refugees huddled in makeshift border camps.
The official would not comment on a report in The New York Times that the president has authorized direct, covert aid to forces that seek to overthrow the Taliban. A memo prepared for Bush by the National Security Council and the State Department made clear the U.S. will support a variety of forces seeking the Taliban's ouster.
"We do not want to choose who rules Afghanistan," said the memo, the contents of which CNN has obtained. "But we will assist those who seek a peaceful, economically developing Afghanistan, free of terrorism. Our quarrel is not with Islam or the Afghan people. We call on others to join us so we can help Afghans recover and rebuild."
On Sunday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld noted the array of forces seeking to end the Taliban rule and said the United States must find a way to support them.
"There is no question but that there are a substantial number of Afghans who do not favor the Taliban, find it repressive, don't agree with it, wish it were not there. It is also true that are any number in the Taliban who do not favor al Qaeda and wish it were not there.
"There are any number of factions within the Taliban and tribes in other parts of the country to say nothing of the Northern Alliance in the north that would like the entire crowd out of there, not just al Qaeda but the Taliban in addition. What does that mean? Well, it means that we need to find ways to encourage those people," said Rumsfeld.
-- From CNN White House Correspondent Major Garrett
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