WASHINGTON — The Senate passed legislation Thursday calling for more reconstruction aid for Afghanistan and urging President Bush to push to expand the mandate of international security troops now restricted to Kabul, the capital.
The House still must act on the bill to send it to Bush as Congress works to complete a lame-duck session.
The Senate passed by a voice vote the measure that calls for $2.3 billion over four years in reconstruction funds for the war-ravaged country.
Legislation that would provide reconstruction funds stalled in this session along with most of the rest of the federal budget. Congress is not expected to pass a foreign aid spending bill until next year.
Still, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), said the bill "sends a signal that the United States plans to keep the commitment it made a year ago to help create a stable, peaceful Afghanistan."
The bill urges Bush to "use U.S. diplomatic influence" to expand the International Security Assistance Force or a similar international force beyond its current assignment in Kabul and to enlist U.S. allies to provide forces for the expansion.
The U.S. has about 7,000 troops in Afghanistan, but they mainly are focused on searching for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. The administration says it cannot divert troops for peacekeeping operation.
In a statement, Biden said evidence of U.S. and international commitment to Afghanistan was especially important "amid discussion of possible military intervention in Iraq. We need to show that in thinking these scenarios through, we are serious about the long run."