In Kabul, Rep. Keith Ellison Says U.S. Public Disinterested by War, But White House Candidates Show Promise

The war in Afghanistan is not a top issue in the U.S. presidential race because of a lack of interest among the American public and the media, a U.S. congressman said during a visit to the Afghan capital Wednesday.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said he believes America's three leading presidential candidates are paying attention to the conflict in Afghanistan but the issue is not garnering wider interest.

"Either because of the public interest or the press, it's not a hot debate item, but I think it should be," Ellison said. "It's clear the focus in the presidential debate is on Iraq policy, but I wish the press would ask more questions about Afghanistan, what could or should be done to make sure Afghanistan's future is secure."

Ellison said he thinks that after the U.S. election in November any of the three top candidates -- Republican John McCain or Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- will pay more attention to Afghanistan than has the Bush administration.

Ellison is one of six members of Congress who wrapped up a two-day visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday. The group met with President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, the top NATO general in charge of the international military mission here.

Karzai told the group that terrorism continues to be a problem and that Afghanistan was in need of economic development, Ellison said. Karzai also said he supported elevating the status of women in Afghanistan. Most women still wear the all-encompassing burqa and have far fewer rights and opportunities than men.

Ellison is one of two Muslim members of the U.S. Congress. Ellison said religion did not play a role in the trip to the Muslim country.

The other members of the congressional delegation included Barbara Cubin, a Republican from Wyoming; Maurice Hinchey, a Democrat from New York; Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota; Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia; and John Tierney, a Democrat from Massachusetts.

The group heads to Pakistan next to meet with political leaders there.