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Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for February 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 Bush’s Defense Budget Request

On February 4, President Bush submitted his 2009 defense spending budget to Congress.  The request was for $585.4 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Pentagon.  $515.4 billion of the request is for the Defense Department alone which is a base budget that is $35.9 billion more than the amount enacted in 2008.  In regards to Afghanistan, the budget proposes $1.1 billion "to advance Afghanistan's overall development by promoting economic growth, strengthening national and local governing institutions, preparing for national elections, improving access to health care and education, and increasing capacity for democratic governance."  The Administration plans to request additional funds for civilian needs in Afghanistan "when the needs are better known."  The request includes a provision precluding the use of counter-narcotics funds for aerial eradication programs.  In addition, there is a requirement limiting aid to Afghanistan to $300,000 pending the issuance of a report by the Administration on poppy eradication efforts.  In addition, $500 million is cited for the Commanders' Emergency Response Program for Afghanistan and Iraq.  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recently urged Congress to approve this request as soon as possible in order to successfully continue current Defense programs in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Senate Armed Services Hearing

On February 6, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing titled, "Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2009, the Future Years Defense Program, and the Fiscal Year 2009 Request for Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan."  Robert M. Gates, the Secretary of Defense, and Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified.  The Defense officials asked Congress for its continued support for funding U.S. operations and efforts in Afghanistan, including PRTs, Afghanistan National Security Force development, and infrastructure development.  They stated that a stable Iraq and Afghanistan that are long-term partners and share the U.S.’s commitment to peace will be critical to achieving regional stability and security and that this will require years, not months, the support of the American people, our regional allies, and concerted action by the Iraqi and Afghan people and their leaders.

Afghan Parliamentarians Meet with Congressional Members

February 7, Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad, President of the Afghan Senate Seghbatullah Mojaddedi, and Parliamentarian Sabrina Sagheb met with Senators Jack Reed and Joe Biden. The delegation discussed the current challenges in Afghanistan and how to improve the development sector.  Ms. Sagheb also attended the International Women’s Brunch, met with Congressman David Price of the House Democracy Assistance Commission, and officials of the National Democratic Institution.  The delegation attended the National Prayer Breakfast on behalf of Afghanistan. 

Senate Resolution Expressing the Sense of the Senate on the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

On February 7, the Senate passed S.R. 445, “Expressing the Sense of the Senate on the Assassination of Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, and the Political Crisis in Pakistan.”  The Resolution conveys the deep condolences of the people of the United States and condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the murder of Benazir Bhutto and the killing of over a hundred Pakistani citizens on the day of her death.  The Resolution calls for an extensive investigation to bring her perpetrators to justice. 

Chairman Lantos’ is succeeded by Congressman Berman

On Feb 10, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Congressman Tom Lantos passed away.  He is succeeded by Democratic Congressman Howard L. Berman of California, another strong advocate for human rights in the Congress.  The Embassy of Afghanistan has expressed its condolences to Chairman Lantos’ family and staff and looks forward to working closely with Congressman Berman on achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan. 

Senate Armed Services Hearing

On February 14, the Senate Armed Services held a hearing on the strategy in Afghanistan and the recent reports by the Afghanistan Study Group and The Atlantic Council of the United States.  Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher was a witness.  The hearing discussed current security challenges in Afghanistan and the recommendations put forth in these recent reports.  It was concluded that more must be done to create sound policy for Afghanistan and to address the recent security concerns.  The witnesses stressed the nexus between development and security, as well as a long-term commitment by allies, as the key to success in Afghanistan. 

Ambassador Jawad Meets with Senator McCain’s National Security Advisor

On February 14, Ambassador Jawad and Embassy staff held a meeting with Colonel Bud McFarlane, national security advisor to Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain.  Ambassador Jawad gave Colonel McFarlane a briefing on Afghanistan’s history and the importance of reconstruction and government capacity building.  McFarlane stressed Senator McCain’s staunch commitment to assisting Afghanistan and the U.S.’s debt to the country after Afghanistan was left alone following the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989. 

Chairman Biden Holds a News Teleconference on Afghanistan and Pakistan

On February 15, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, held a news conference on Afghanistan.  Senator Biden discussed his work on revising the Afghanistan Freedom and Support Act of 2002.  Senator Biden vowed to educate his committee on the challenges in Afghanistan and make sure that the legislation reflects better policies and an increased amount of funding for the country.  He stressed that Afghanistan is still a forgotten war and that this must change immediately.  Senator Biden also urged the need for direct aid, similar to a Marshall Plan, for Afghanistan to adequately address the current challenges.  Finally, the Senator stated that the commitment to Afghanistan will be long-term in order to see quantifiable results. 

Chairman Biden, Senator Hagel and Senator Kerry Visit Afghanistan

On February 20, Senators Joseph Biden, Chuck Hagel and John Kerry visited Afghanistan.  Despite an emergency landing in the mountains of Afghanistan, caused by extreme weather conditions, the Senators had fruitful discussions with President Hamid Karzai and numerous other Afghan officials.  The Senators are working on renewed legislation and efforts for Afghanistan in light of recent security challenges. 

Upon his return, Senator Biden delivered a speech, “Back to What Really Matters: Afghanistan, Pakistan and America’s Security,” at the Council for Foreign Relations on February 25.  Senator Biden explained how he witnessed first-hand the impact that building roads and delivering electricity will have on Afghanistan’s security.  He stressed that making Afghanistan a priority is critical to achieving U.S. national security goals.  Senator Biden committed to work with other Senators on making Afghanistan a priority in Congress and delivering on the Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. 

Congressional Research Survey (CRS) Updates Reports on Afghanistan

CRS has updated two of its reports to Congress on Afghanistan.  A copy of the first report, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” can be found at:   The second report, “NATO in Afghanistan: A Test of the Transatlantic Alliance,” can be found at:

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