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Legislative Update



Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for March 2009

At this crucial moment in time, the Embassy of Afghanistan is actively engaging the U.S. Congress to provide the resources and commitment necessary to successfully rebuild Afghanistan. As part of these efforts, we will provide regular updates on legislative activity pertinent to Afghanistan and the region.

House Introduces ROZ Legislation

On March 4, as a follow-up to the Senate Reconstruction Opportunity Zones bill, Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) held a news conference to announce the introduction of House legislation to create Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The ROZs would permit non-trade sensitive exports from these areas to enter the U.S. duty-free, creating a strong incentive for private sector investment and job creation.

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Afghanistan

On March 4, the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs held an oversight hearing to investigate the insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The hearing explored the character of various insurgent movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan and solutions for dealing with their complexities.

Senator Calls for Afghanistan Benchmarks

On March 4, Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) wrote letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calling for the creation of benchmarks for Afghanistan to decipher U.S. goals in the region and establish metrics for objective analysis of progress in war efforts.

Senators Introduce SIGAR Legislation

On March 18, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) with the authority it needs to build its capacity, hire required staff and conduct the needed oversight of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The mission of the SIGAR is to conduct audits and investigations of the humanitarian and reconstruction assistance that U.S. has provided to Afghanistan in an effort to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse. Although SIGAR was created in mid-2008, it has not been able to conduct independent audits or investigations due to underfunding resulting in weak institutional capacity. SIGAR is authorized to have a total of 18 auditors, 13 inspectors, and three investigators, but has only 5 auditors, 2 inspectors, and 1 investigator.

Legislation Expresses Concerns Over Swat Valley

On March 18, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced legislation "expressing the strong concern of the House of Representatives about the actions of the Taliban in Swat, Pakistan, to restrict girls' access to education" (H Res 262). The resolution expresses the concern of Congress over recent attacks on girls’ schools and freedom by the Taliban in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.

House Holds Hearing on Afghan Reconstruction

On March 25, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing titled "Effective Counterinsurgency: How the Use and Misuse of Reconstruction Funding Affects the War Effort in Iraq and Afghanistan" Stuart W. Bowen Jr. (SIGAR), retired Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields (SIGAR) and Jacquelyn L. Williams-Bridgers, managing director, International Affairs and Trade Issues, Government Accountability Office. The witnesses testified on the lack of proper oversight of reconstruction and military development in Afghanistan and Iraq and explored solutions to issues on the ground.

Senate Approves New Ambassador to Afghanistan

On March 26, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held confirmation hearings for Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. The committee overwhelmingly supported his nomination and confirmed the appointment. Ambassador Eikenberry is set to assume responsibilities shortly.

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