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Legislative Update

Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for January 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.

Congress Proposes Joint Select Committee on Reforming Foreign Assistance

On January 15 Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl.) submitted H. CON. RES. 22, a concurrent resolution calling for the establishment of a joint select committee to investigate the organization of the various federal agencies and departments that oversee and implement U.S. foreign assistance programs. The committee, which would be called the Joint Select Committee on Reorganization and Reform of Foreign Assistance Agencies and Programs, would also analyze the interaction and coordination of these agencies and departments with respect to aid programs and evaluate the objectives of assistance programs, including the relationship between development and national security goals. Finally, the joint committee would assess the performance of foreign assistance programs in meeting national interests.

Hillary Clinton Confirmed by the Senate as U.S. Secretary of State

On January 21 Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) was confirmed as the 67th Secretary of States on a 94-2 vote in the U.S. Senate. Secretary Clinton brings extensive knowledge and experience to her position as a former first lady and former member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. She has traveled to the region several times and has continuously supported development and security efforts in Afghanistan. During her confirmation hearing, Clinton discussed Afghanistan extensively and responded positively to inquires about policy review and a regional approach to Afghanistan's problems. She stated, "We will use all the elements of our power—diplomacy, development, and defense—to work with those in Afghanistan and Pakistan who want to root out Al Qaida, the Taliban, and other violent extremists who threaten them as well as us in what President-elect Obama has called the central front in the fight against terrorism."

Secretary Gates Testifies on a Plan for Afghanistan

On January 27 Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on a future plan for Afghanistan. He stated that a long-term strategy is being developed to reverse the recent surge in violence. He called Afghanistan the "greatest military challenge" and estimated that two of the three additional brigades intended for Afghanistan could be sent by late spring and a third by late summer. He noted that the answer to long-term security would be in expanding the size of the Afghan National Army and enhancing the army's training, which could cost $4 billion over the next two years. "While this will undoubtedly be a long and difficult fight, we can attain what I believe should be among our strategic objectives: an Afghan people who do not provide a safe haven for al-Qaeda, reject the rule of the Taliban and support the legitimate government that they elected and in which they have a stake," Gates said. Secretary Gates stressed, however, that a military solutions alone will not end instability—diplomatic and economic efforts of the international community will be critical to helping Afghanistan stabilize and prosper on its own.

Senator Lieberman Discusses Turning the Tide in Afghanistan

On January 29 Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) delivered a speech titled "Turning the Tide in Afghanistan" at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., where he laid out specific solutions for the recent rise in instability in Afghanistan. After a recent trip to the country, Senator Lieberman returned with a detailed perspective on security and reconstruction issues. He stressed that the Afghan people are the greatest asset the international community has there and that this moment in time stands as a window of opportunity to help Afghans secure their future. Senator Lieberman stressed that the population must feel protected and that any troop surge should be met with a civilian surge. Senator Lieberman concluded by stating that things may get worse before they get better but that Afghanistan is key to securing regional and global security.

Senator Barbara Boxer Introduces Afghan Women Empowerment Act of 2009

On January 13 Senator Barbara Boxer (D. Calif.) introduced legislation to support women in Afghanistan through international assistance. The legislation, known as the Afghan Women Empowerment Act of 2009, would amend the Afghan Freedom Support Act of 2002 by establishing programs targeting women and girls, providing medical supplies and equipment to reduce infant and maternal mortality, and promoting educational opportunities for the female population. For 2010-2012, the act would authorizes $45 million for these purposes. The act further states that the U.S. should condition such assistance on the recipients adhering to international standards for women's rights and human rights and ensure that Afghan women-led nongovernmental organizations throughout Afghanistan receive grants without ethnic, religious, or any other discrimination. The act will likely be included into the Afghanistan Freedom Support and Security Act that is up for reauthorization this year.

Tierney CODEL Visits Afghanistan

During the last week of January, Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) led a congressional fact-finding trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Other members of the trip included, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.). The delegation met with President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Ali Zardari and visited with troops in Afghanistan. The group discussed the rise in security concerns and civilian casualties.

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