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Legislative Update



Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for September 2008

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.

President Karzai Meets with Senate and House Leadership

On the morning of September 25, President Hamid Karzai met with members of the Senate Leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.). President Karzai expressed his deep gratitude to the U.S. Congress for their support and alliance in helping Afghanistan fight terrorism and rebuild the country after three decades of conflict.

The senators received a detailed briefing of the security situation in Afghanistan and offered their continued support for a better future for Afghanistan. President Karzai highlighted the progress made in Afghanistan over the last seven years, including the holding of democratic elections, the return of students to schools across the country, the increase in Afghan reserves and the recent measures taken against poppy production and government corruption. The president also discussed the underlying reasons for an increase in violence over the years and the lessons learned by both the U.S. and Afghanistan.

Later in the afternoon, President Karzai joined members of the House Leadership for a discussion, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Oh.), Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), among others. Rep. Pelosi started the meeting by stating, "What once started as a friendship of convenience [between the U.S. and Afghanistan] has now become one of deep friendship." She also highlighted the "great friendship, great confidence in his leadership and great anticipation of the productive conversation."

President Karzai noted that great progress has been achieved in Afghanistan, thanks to the generous contribution of American taxpayers and the hard work from congressional leadership and administration officials. He stated that 18 provinces will be poppy-free this year and new measures and institutions have been established to deal with corruption. However, President Karzai also discussed the late start in police training and the lack of attention paid to cross-border attacks early on in the war, which have contributed to the rise in violence. He also stressed the need for capacity-building and aid effectiveness, as well as the need to empower locals in the tribal areas against terrorists.

President Karzai also met separately with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), and spoke to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) over the telephone.


Afghan Minister of Defense Meets with Congressional Leaders

On September 23-24, Afghanistan's Minister of Defense General Abdul Rahim Wardak met with leaders of the Armed Services committees in the House and Senate to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan. Minister Wardak discussed the expansion of the Afghan Security Forces and the need for more resources for training the police and army. He expressed the strong desire of Afghans to reach the point where they are able to take over operations from U.S. troops and defend themselves as they have for centuries. Minister Wardak met with Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Senator John Warner (R-Va.), Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on Afghanistan

On September 10,the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing titled, "Security and Stability in Afghanistan and Iraq: Developments in U.S. Strategy and Operations and the Way Ahead." Witnesses included Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Admiral Michael G. Mullen, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric S. Edelman. The witnesses testified to the current situation in both countries and asserted that one war has not been compromised for the other because they are different fights. Members of the committee expressed concern that the diversion of resources and attention from Afghanistan to Iraq has contributed to recent security concerns in Afghanistan. It was agreed that an increase in troops and greater non-military resources are needed to counter recent effects of the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Senate Majority Leader Remarks on the War in Afghanistan

On September 12, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) delivered remarks on the Senate floor about his recent trip to Afghanistan. Sen. Reid praised military efforts and the determination of the Afghan people and expressed deep concern at the deteriorating security. He also called for greater focus on the war in Afghanistan and outlined the differences in terrain, troop levels and resources spent in Afghanistan versus Iraq.

Embassy Briefs House Staffers on Reconstruction Opportunity Zones

On September 12, Khaleda Atta, Commercial Attache of the Embassy of Afghanistan; Hawa Ghaus, Legislative Counsel of the Embassy of Afghanistan; and representatives from the U.S. State Department and the Embassy of Pakistan held a briefing for congressional staff on Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs). ROZ legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). This legislation would assist in providing economic opportunities in Afghanistan which will in turn promote peace and stability. Establishment of ROZs will also promote regional cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan as both countries work to further mutual economic interests. ROZs are an important component in providing economic alternatives to extremism and poverty in the region.

House Armed Services Committee Members Discuss CODEL to Afghanistan

Representatives Ellen Tauscher, Jim Cooper, Nancy Boyda, Thomas Petri, Jon Porter, and Dave Reichert recently returned from a bipartisan congressional delegation (CODEL) trip to Afghanistan. The members stated that they are in agreement that it is in the strategic interests of the United States to continue working with NATO allies and the Afghan people to develop and strengthen their own capabilities to defeat terrorists in that region. The members also support working with Pakistan to counter the growing border insurgency which has had a negative impact on Afghanistan's security and stability. The CODEL met with President Hamid Karzai; General David McKiernan, Commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF); and Major General Robert Cone, Commanding General of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A). The group also visited a Regional Training Center in Jalalabad for developing the Afghan National Police force.

Senate Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on Afghanistan

On September 23, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as witnesses. Participants discussed the need for more troops and more resources in Afghanistan to stabilize the country and the need for quicker training and expansion of Afghan security forces. Participants quoted General McKiernen‘s statement that, because of shortages of troops on the ground, coalition forces are more dependent on air power, which has produced an increase in civilian casualties. The members of the Committee also stated that the U.S. mast apply America's instruments of soft power to the mission in Afghanistan through economic, political, and development capabilities.

Afghanistan Freedom and Security Support Act of 2008 Introduced in Senate

On September 22, senators Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) introduced the Afghanistan Freedom and Security Support Act of 2008 (AFSSA), S 3531, in the U.S. Senate. The bill was introduced in the House last year and passed with bipartisan support. The AFSSA reauthorizes legislation from 2002 authorizing reconstruction funding for Afghanistan.

The 2008 version authorizes $3 billion per year for five years for development assistance to Afghanistan. The bill includes funding for humanitarian assistance, counter-narcotics, rule of law/justice initiatives, education, health, women's empowerment, and human rights, among other initiatives. The AFSSA serves as the cornerstone of U.S. policy for development efforts in Afghanistan and is a symbol of U.S. long-term commitment for fighting terrorism and promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

House Approves the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009

On September 24, the House of Representatives approved HR 3001, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2009. The Senate is expected to act on the measure shortly. The act authorizes funding for the Department of Defense including supporting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, counter-narcotics efforts and Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs).

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