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Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for February 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.

The Embassy of Afghanistan regularly engaged members of Congress throughout February to increase a dialogue between Embassy staff and Congressional staff.  Ambassador Jawad met with Congressman Jim Marshall, member of the Armed Services Air and Land Forces, Readiness, Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities subcommittee, a frequent visitor to Afghanistan.  The Ambassador and Congressman Marshall discussed the overall achievements in Afghanistan, as well as solutions to security issues.  Embassy officials met with staff from the offices of Senators Richard Lugar and Larry Craig, as well as Representatives Frank Wolf and Dan Boren. 

 

Members of both the House and Senate have been taking an active role to ensure that the war in Afghanistan does not become a “forgotten war.”  This has spurred several hearings on the subject this month in Congress.  On February 13, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing titled "Afghanistan on the Brink: Where Do We Go From Here?" with Mary Beth Long, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs and Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, deputy chairman, NATO Military Commission as witnesses.  On February 15, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing titled “Security and Stability in Afghanistan” to assess security in Afghanistan and developments in U.S. strategy and operations.  The panel included Congressman Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill), Retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, Director, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, Peter Bergen, journalist and senior fellow, New America Foundation, and Anthony H. Cordesman - Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

Also, On February 7, GOP members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs wrote a letter to Administration officials encouraging them to act quickly in countering negative trends in Afghanistan and provided them with a 16 point plan.  The letter called for the appointment of a special coordinator of narco-terrorism policy for Afghanistan and better coordination between various government agencies.  In order to prevent increased narcotics trade and terrorism, “We need to act now,” wrote Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach).  The letter was sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, with copies delivered to the White House, DEA, Office of National Drug Control Policy and the British government. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called Bush’s new strategy on Afghanistan, which includes more funding for security and reconstruction and the sending of more US troops, a “step in the right direction.”  Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has voiced concern over security situation in Afghanistan and has also discussed sending additional troops there.  House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) has also pressed for greater attention to Afghanistan.  He and Lantos were part of a delegation that Pelosi led to Afghanistan last month, and both have called for the development of a long-term plan to secure the country.  And Representative Ellen O. Tauscher (D-CA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has said, “This is our first order of unfinished business.” 

“If we should be surging forces anywhere, it is in Afghanistan,” Sen. Joseph Biden, Jr., (D-Del), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a February 15th speech at the Brookings Institution.  Congressmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ)and Joe Pitts (R-PA) have similarly cautioned against neglecting the situation in Afghanistan and have continuously raised awareness on issues such as security and counter-narcotics through frequent statements to the their colleagues in the House of Representatives. 

On February 15, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also held a confirmation hearing for the nomination of William B. Wood as U.S. Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.  The Embassy of Afghanistan looks forward to the Senate confirmation of Mr. Wood and to his service in Afghanistan. 

A Congressional delegation of US lawmakers left for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq on February 19, 2007.  Members of delegation include Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Congressman Christopher Carney (D-PA), Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA), Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA) and Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ).   During their Kabul visit, the US lawmakers met with President Hamid Karzai and other officials.   They are also scheduled to visit Pakistan, Kuwait and Germany.

In the month of February, the Bush Administration articulated their new plan for Afghanistan. As part of his 2008 budget request, President Bush asked Congress for $10.6 billion in aid for Afghanistan, a major increase aimed at strengthening reconstruction in rural areas and bolstering government security forces.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice clarified that $8.6 billion will go towards security needs and $2 billion to reconstruction.  This aid is currently being considered by Congress. 

The Bush administration has also asked Congress for additional funds from the 2007 budget.  This is called the Fiscal Year 2007 Supplemental Appropriations Request for International Affairs, of which the administration has asked for $7.51 million in 150 accounts for Afghanistan.  On February 16, 2007 Secretary Rice testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs to discuss the Fiscal Year 2007 Supplemental Request.  This request is also pending Congressional approval. 

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