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Legislative Update



Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for June 2007

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 meetings with key U.S. Representatives and Senators and legislation pertinent to Afghanistan and the region.

Afghanistan Freedom and Security Support Act (H.R. 2446)

On June 6, the Afghanistan Freedom and Security Support Act (AFSSA) passed in the House of Representatives. The act is now pending approval in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.  The measure authorizes $1.7 billion in each of the next three years for economic, humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan.  It also calls for a pilot program to test the effectiveness of substituting legitimate alternative crops for poppy production.  However, AFSSA hit a roadblock when President Bush stated that he will not support the bill.  The President said, "H.R. 2446. . . would unnecessarily restrict and limit the President in providing assistance to Afghanistan, in managing the Executive Branch, and in conducting U.S. foreign policy, thus raising a number of constitutional concerns."

FY 2008 Foreign Operations Funding Bill (H.R. 2764)

The House passed the FY 2008 Foreign Operations Funding Bill this month by a 241-178 vote.  The most recent draft of the bill will provide approximately 10 percent more than the FY 2007 bill for foreign operations, and will make available approximately $1.057 billion in aid towards reconstruction efforts and humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan.  After a full day of vigorous debate on approximately 50 amendments, lawmakers ignored a Presidential veto threat regarding language allowing the use of federal funds for the donation of contraceptives to certain family planning groups, rejecting (205-218) a Chris Smith-Bart Stupak amendment to strike the language and adopting (223-201) a Nita Lowey “clarifying” amendment specifying it could be used only for the donation of contraceptives in developing nations. Lawmakers rejected (205-219) a Frank Wolf amendment to provide $158 million for Iraq reconstruction; the final bill provides no funds for that purpose.

Under HR 2764, specific funding levels are targeted towards reforestation, programs for women and girls, as well as support for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.  The aid will first be limited to $300 million until a certification requirement is met by the government of Afghanistan.  The bill requires that Afghanistan cooperates at the national and provincial levels with U.S. funded poppy eradication and interdiction programs.  In addition, counter-narcotics funds may not be used for the spraying of herbicides. 

2008 National Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 1585)

Introduced by Senator Carl Levin, the bill authorizes appropriations for FY 2008 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities. The House of Representatives approved a version of H.R. 1585, which was then reported directly to the full Senate, without a Committee mark-up.  Currently, the Committee has held 41 hearings and numerous other briefings on the President's FY 2008 Defense budget proposal.  A date has not been set for Senate debate, and pending passage by the full Senate the two Congressional versions of the legislation will have to be reconciled in conference. 

Overseas Private Investment Corporation Bill (HR 2798)

HR 2798, which would channel private capital towards developing countries, was approved 6-2 by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee and will be considered by the Senate.   As Chairman Brad Sherman explained, OPIC is a “valuable part of our foreign aid and international development program” because it encourages investment of private capital to developing countries by offering American businesses and lenders political risk insurance and investment financing.” 

Hearings

On June 5, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs held a mark-up hearing and approved the FY 2008 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. 

On June 7, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a confirmation hearing for Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute to be Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan.  According to Joseph I. Lieberman, Lute's job will be to "advocate in Washington, D.C. for the military, which has carried the overwhelming burden of the wars, and to make sure non-military departments of the federal government remained engaged."

On June 22, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing to define the direction in which NATO must grow in the future.  In his prepared testimony, key witness Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried, addressed NATO's role in Afghanistan. “Combined NATO and Afghan forces will bring a stronger defense against the growing Taliban offensive. NATO and Afghan forces have increasingly denied the Taliban safe haven in Afghanistan, and have also linked military operations with reconstruction efforts to help the civilian population.  They will provide a "comprehensive approach" in Afghanistan, where soldiers and reconstruction experts work together.  This shows how NATO is likely to operate in the coming decades,” he said.

Congressional Delegation to Afghanistan

This month, Congressman Adam Smith visited Afghanistan and Pakistan.  While in Afghanistan, Congressman Smith met with President Hamid Karzai and visited a U.S. Special Operations firebase used to track Taliban movement near the Pakistani border.  Several days later, Congressman Smith visited Peshawar.  Congressman Smith's visit underscores the importance of maintaining a long-term U.S. presence in the region.  Smith explained, “We have to make a long-term commitment to this region, and I don’t just mean a military commitment. . . In Afghanistan people don’t like the Taliban, al-Qaeda or its sympathizers and don’t want them back in their country.  This is the most critical place for us in the world in the battle against al-Qaeda.”

Congressional Meetings

This month, Ambassador Said T. Jawad met with several members of the US Congress to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan.  Ambassador Jawad had private meetings with Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Richard Lugar, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Chuck Hagel, Senator Joe Lieberman, Senator Jay Rockefeller, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, and Representative Barbara Lee to discuss U.S.-Afghan relations and current security and reconstruction issues in Afghanistan. 

Afghan Parliamentarians Visit the US Congress

On June 18, the House Democracy Assistance Commission (HDAC) invited a group of Afghan Parliamentarians to meet with U.S. Congressmen and other U.S. Government officials to discuss security-related issues in Afghanistan.  The members of the delegation included: Noorulhaq Olumi, Chair of the Defense Committee; Zalmai Mujadidi, Chair of the National and Domestic Security Committee; Jamil Karzai, member of the National and Domestic Security Committee; Mohammad Almas, member of the National and Domestic Security Committee; and Helaluddin Helal, member of the National and Domestic Security Committee.

 

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