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Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for December 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 legislative activity pertinent to Afghanistan and the region.

House Armed Services Committee Hearing: "Security and Stability in Afghanistan - Status of U.S. Strategy and Operations and the Way Ahead"

On December 11, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing to assess the security situation in Afghanistan and discuss ways to overcome current challenges.  Witnesses included Robert M. Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense; Admiral Michael G. Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Eric S. Edelman, Undersecretary of Defense for policy.  Secretary Gates praised the will of the Afghan people and the growing strength and will of the Afghan National Army (ANA).  However, he called for a civilian coordinator to assist in coordinating all nations and key organizations in Afghanistan and asked NATO countries to provide more trainers, equipment, and troops to assist the ANA and to lessen on-the-ground country restrictions.  Secretary Gates emphasized the need for greater reconstruction and economic development.    

Republican Senators Take an Eight-Day Tour to Afghanistan and Pakistan

Senators Bennett (R-UT) and Corker (R-TN) and Congressmen Dreier (R-CA), Issa (R-CA), and Wilson (R-SC) held a press conference on December 5 in the Senate Radio/TV Gallery to discuss their recent trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. During their eight day tour, the members met with President Hamid Karzai, U.S. troops, military and embassy officials in Afghanistan, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, former Pakistani Prime Minister and Pakistan People’s Party Chairperson Benazir Bhutto, and Indian government officials.  “This part of the world is focused on growth, change and progress, even in those portions of Afghanistan where the war is raging,” said Senator Bennett. 

Defense Authorization Bill Passes House and Senate

 

On December 14, the House of Representatives and Senate passed the FY 2008 Defense Authorization Bill.  The bill authorizes $2.7 billion to help train and equip the Afghan National Army (ANA) and national security forces.  The measure also requires the US Secretary of Defense to submit a detailed plan for sustaining the Afghan national security forces. This should include a long-term strategy and budget, a mechanism for tracking funding, and actions to ensure Afghan institutions support the Afghan forces.  The bill directs the Secretary of Defense to coordinate with other US agencies to produce a comprehensive report that outlines the strategic direction of US activities in Afghanistan. It should include concrete performance indicators and measures of progress and should address strengthening NATO/ISAF, building the capacity of the Afghanistan national security forces, promoting reconstruction and development, defining the strategy and activities of the Defense Department counter-narcotics program, assisting Afghanistan in fighting corruption and promoting the rule of law, and increasing security cooperation with Afghanistan's neighbors.

The bill also establishes an Office of the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) to provide effective oversight of Defense Department reconstruction funds.  The conferees of the bill also note with concern the administration's renewed focus on aerial spraying as an option to be considered by the Government of Afghanistan for non-negotiated forced eradication of opium poppies. The conferees recommend that the Secretary of Defense evaluate the potential consequences of aerial spraying, including the impact on perceptions of the Afghan population, and on achieving the larger strategic goals of the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

The Defense Authorization Bill is only an authorized bill.  The measure must also be appropriated in order to receive actual funding. 

Senate and House Appropriators Approve War Funding

 

On December 19, the House and Senate cleared an omnibus, year-end spending package for 2008.  The House vote was 272-142 to accept the Senate’s amendment that added $70 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which President Bush had demanded as a condition for signing the bill.  The Senate voted to amend the year-end spending bill providing $473.5 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2008 to add the war funding.  The Bush administration is indicating that it will seek another $40 billion as early as February since the initial war spending request was not met by Congress and Secretary of Defense Gates expressed concern over the short-term planning risk that may result from the shortage of funds. 

On December 19, the House of Representatives passed H. RES. 911, a resolution calling for an increase in US forces in Afghanistan and responsible redeploy of forces from Iraq.  The resolution was introduced by Congressman Smith and Chairman Skelton.  The resolution addresses various aspects of the recent rise in violence in Afghanistan and the concern over its future stability.  The resolution strongly expresses US commitment to curbing violence and extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan through providing adequate civilian, military and economic resources. 

Congressman Henry Waxman Investigates the Training Program at Rabia Balkhi Hospital

On December 7, Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asked federal officials to provide wide-ranging documents concerning the medical training program at Rabia Balkhi maternity hospital in Kabul after allegations of mismanagement were published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on November 18. 

 

 

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