Bush signs law committing U.S. to improving Afghan life

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush committed the United States to the long-term development of Afghanistan as he signed legislation Wednesday targeting American aid to the education and health care of that country's women and children.

"The women and children of Afghanistan have suffered enough. This great nation will work hard to bring them hope and help," Bush said at a signing ceremony at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

"We work for a new era of human rights and human dignity in that country."

Women in Muslim head coverings, small children in traditional Afghan garb and the women in Congress who had championed their cause crowded around the president as he put his signature to the bill.

"America and her allies will do our part in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. We learned our lessons from the past. We will not leave until the mission is complete. We will work with international institutions on the long-term development of Afghanistan," Bush said.

The legislation, pushed by female lawmakers in the House and Senate, authorizes the president to provide U.S. funds to educational and health care programs for women and children in Afghanistan and in refugee camps in neighboring countries. The new law also targets aid to nongovernmental groups that are providing help to Afghanistan's women and requires the secretary of state to submit a report to Congress describing the condition and status of women and children in Afghanistan.

First lady Laura Bush, who has made the plight of Afghan women and children something of a personal cause since U.S. troops began attacking terrorist targets in Afghanistan, accompanied her husband to the ceremony.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, chief sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, also was there, along with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

"I'm proud of the women who sponsored this bill and I'm proud to be here today as my husband signs this bill -- a bill that will restore freedom and dignity to all the people of Afghanistan," Mrs. Bush said.

------The bill is S. 1573.

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