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On Oct. 27 the Diet approved extending for another year — from Nov. 1 — the special antiterrorism law that, among other things, allows Maritime Self-Defense Force ships to refuel navy ships of the United States and other nations in the Indian Ocean in support of the security campaign in Afghanistan. The bill passed just as U.S. and NATO forces are facing increasing difficulty in their fight against Taliban forces and as President Hamid Karzai’s government struggles to stabilize people’s lives.

The special law, a sign of Japan’s commitment to international efforts to contain terrorism, concerns military-related activities only. Japan must renew its efforts to help the Afghan people solve social and economic problems in cooperation with other nations under the leadership of the United Nations. Improvement in the everyday lives of Afghan people will be decisive in preventing terrorist forces from gaining power in that country.

The special law, good only for two years, was first enacted Oct. 29, 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Besides the MSDF activities in supplying fuel to navy ships of other nations in the Indian Ocean, the law has enabled the MSDF to provide transportation assistance for refugees and the Air-Self Defense Force to transport goods for the U.S. armed forces. The law was extended by two years in October 2003 and by one year in October 2005. This is the third extension.

As of the end of September, the MSDF had provided a total of 450,000 kiloliters of oil, worth 19.9 billion yen, on 678 occasions to ships from the U.S., Britain, France and eight other countries. The Defense Agency says the ships intercept the flow into Afghanistan of weapons, terrorists and money from opium. The Diet should be watchful in making sure that ships fueled by the MSDF do not engage in activities not envisaged by the law.

In the nonmilitary field, Japan, which had pledged $1 billion in aid through March 2006, can provide substantial help to Afghanistan in the form of road construction, health-care service, education, enhancement of women’s rights and assistance in former soldiers’ return to normal life.

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