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Legislative Update

Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for February 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.

House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on Afghanistan

On February 12, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Afghanistan and Iraq. Anthony Cordesman, a counterinsurgency expert on Afghanistan, stressed that the war in Afghanistan is winnable and that we are losing largely because of the failures of the previous administration and lack of resources. The chairman of the Committee, Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), called for greater support for the Afghan National Army (ANA) and police and welcomed the renewed focus on Afghanistan by the Obama Administration.

Speaker of the House Travels to Afghanistan

Upon returning from a trip to Afghanistan on February 23, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held a news conference on the findings of her trip. She discussed the regional challenges and rise in insecurity. She stated, "The consensus at our meetings was that the U.S. national security interest is in a secure Afghanistan” and stressed that this cannot be achieved by military force alone. Speaker Pelosi also ordered a series of closed-door briefings for all members on the situation in Afghanistan and the region.

House Bill Includes Afghanistan Spending

On February 23 a $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. The bill comprises the nine 2009 appropriations bills that stalled last year. The House and Senate will work on the bill in the coming weeks. The key Afghanistan provisions include a total assistance package of $1.042 billion.

Legislation Introduced to Protect Afghan Nationals Working with U.S.

On February 23 Representative David Obey (D-Wisc.) introduced the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 1105). If passed, the act would allow Afghan nationals who worked with the U.S. Government in Afghanistan after October 7, 2001 for one year or more a special immigration status if they face threats stemming from their service or employment with the U.S.

Senate Holds Hearing on Afghanistan and Pakistan

On February 26 the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on strategic options for Afghanistan and Pakistan. During this hearing, the importance of providing continued support to Afghan security forces was discussed in great detail. The chairman of the committee expressed great concern for the increase in recent violence and discussed the positive role development can play in providing stability.

High-Level Afghan Delegation Visits Washington

In late February a high-level delegation from Afghanistan visited Washington to take part in policy review meetings with Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Whitye House officials. During this trip, the delegation took part in several productive meetings with members of Congress where they discussed security, governance and the upcoming elections. The delegation met with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Armed Services Committee and the House Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations.

During the same week but on a seperate visit, Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development Minister Ehsan Zia visited Washington and met with several key members of Congress to garner support for the National Solidarity Program (NSP). The Minister met with Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fl.), Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY), Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Senator Lieberman, and senior staff from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the office of Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).

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