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News and Views

Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for March 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.

Senator Lieberman Publishes Article in the Washington Post about Security in Afghanistan

On March 4, Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) wrote an article in the Washington Post, “A Surge to Help Afghanistan.”  Senator Lieberman stressed in his article that the targeted troop levels for the Afghan National Army—80,000 troops—was too limited.  By contrast, the projected end strength of the Iraqi army is over 200,000 even though Afghanistan covers 50% more land mass than Iraq with a larger population.  Senator Lieberman called for the U.S. government to take the lead in establishing an international trust fund to provide long-term financing for the Afghan army.  Senator Lieberman stated, “Securing Afghanistan with indigenous forces is ultimately less expensive than doing so with foreign troops.  For the cost of a single coalition soldier in Afghanistan we can support 60 to 70 Afghans in uniform.  The other, more challenging obstacle to expansion is the shortage of coalition forces to train and mentor Afghan troops.”

House Hearing on FY 2008 Emergency Supplemental Request

On March 6, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs held a hearing on the Fiscal 2008 Emergency Supplemental Request.  Last fall, the Bush Administration requested nearly $7 billion in emergency appropriations for Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan, North Korea, Mexico and the Palestinian Authority.  Congress provided $1.4 billion in emergency funding in the FY 2008 omnibus appropriations bill for the most critical and time-sensitive items and deferred consideration of the remainder until spring 2008 in order to more fully examine the details of the request.

During this hearing discussing the remainder of the request, Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) stated that the U.S. cannot afford to fail in Afghanistan.  The administration has requested over $800 million in emergency funding for Afghanistan with the majority - over $500 million – going towards reconstruction projects such as building roads and providing power.  However, Chairwoman Lowey expressed dismay at the fact that so much of the infrastructure burden is being borne by the United States rather than other multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.  Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte stated that Afghanistan is a top foreign policy priority for the U.S.

During the hearing, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) specifically commended the National Solidarity Program (NSP) and asked Mr. Negroponte to look into increasing support for the program.  Rep. Israel stressed that the NSP is the one program that has been successful at facilitating governance and economic development and the empowerment of women and self-reliance. Rep. Israel noted that Secretary Boucher has requested $50 million for the NSP, but that is not enough – that amount will only enable the NSP to continue for several more months, at which point it goes out of business.

Pence CODEL to Afghanistan and Floor Statement

On March 7, Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) addressed the House of Representatives on his recent visit to Iraq and Afghanistan in participation with a bipartisan congressional delegation.  Rep. Pence stated, “…with President Hamid Karzai, we saw the determination of a leader devoted to his people and to defeating a resurgent Taliban effort to overturn their progress with terrorist violence this spring.”  The delegation also traveled to the Kunar province to witness the construction of a new bridge.  Rep. Pence described the encouragement he felt after seeing the strength and spirit of the Afghan people during his trip and noted that the “progress is real” in Afghanistan. 

The delegation visited Afghanistan on March 2 and 3 and included:  Rep. Mike Pence, Rep. Jim Costa, Rep. Joseph Crowley, Rep. J. Gresham Barrett, Rep. Joe Wilson, and Rep. Michael Arcuri. 

Senate Hearing on NATO Expansion

On March 11, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing on NATO Expansion.  Witnesses included Daniel Fried, Acting Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, General John Graddock (USA), Supreme Allied Commander for the Europe, Ronald Asmus, Executive Director, Transatlantic Center, German Marshal Fund, Philip Gordon, Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution, Bruce Jackson, President, Project on Transitional Democracies, and James Townsend JR, Director, International Security Program, Atlantic Council.  Chairman Joe Biden (D-MA) stated in his opening statement that a critical issue in this the upcoming NATO summit would be Afghanistan, which he described as “the forgotten war.”   Chairman Biden stated that he and other Senators have expressed their deep concern that while Afghanistan remains winnable, it’s not being won.  Chairman Biden stressed for a new strategy for success and a new NATO commitment in terms of the individual countries and their rules of engagement. In response to Committee, the witnesses categorized the war in Afghanistan as a war of necessity rather than a war of choice.

Ambassador Jawad Meets with Members of Congress

On March 13, Ambassador Jawad met with Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) to discuss current security and governance challenges in Afghanistan.  On March 13, Ambassador Jawad met with Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) to discuss his recent trip to Afghanistan and the country’s progress and challenges.  On March 14, Ambassador Jawad met with Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the newly formed House Afghanistan Working Group. 

Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) Legislation Introduced in the U.S. Senate

On March 14, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced legislation to increase economic development in Afghanistan and Pakistan through the establishment of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Pakistan's frontier area with Afghanistan and within Afghanistan.  ROZs would permit non-trade sensitive exports from these areas to enter the U.S. duty-free, creating a strong incentive for private sector investment and job-creation.  Senator Cantwell:  “We hear countless stories about increased violence and a lack of economic development in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Creating ROZs will promote opportunities as alternatives to extremism and narco-trafficking.  Our country’s national security is too important to ignore the fact that too many Pakistanis and Afghanis are resorting to any means necessary to support their families. By teaching someone to use a sewing machine rather than a gun, we can foster economic opportunities that benefit all our countries. ROZs should become part of a long-term international strategy to promote sustainable economic development in the region.” 

The Government of Afghanistan has strongly supported the establishment of ROZs and encourages members of Congress to pass this important piece of legislation. 

Afghanistan Advocacy Group (AAG) Holds Legislative Day and Policy Forum at the U.S. House of Representatives

On March 18, the newly formed Afghanistan Advocacy Group (AAG) held their first policy forum, “U.S. policy for Afghanistan: Reassessing Strategies,” and Legislative Day on Capital Hill.  The AAG works to encourage greater focus and better policy for Afghanistan.  During the forum, the members discussed strategies for key areas of reconstruction and security.  Members of the AAG then visited individual Congressional offices to discuss their findings.

Ambassador Jawad Meets with the National Security Advisor for the Hillary Clinton Campaign

On March 19, Ambassador Jawad met with the National Security Advisor for Senator Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign to discuss the current challenges in Afghanistan.  Senator Clinton’s advisor shared Clinton’s “Plan for the Forgotten Front Line in Afghanistan,” which was announced on March 5, 2008.  This plan provides specific recommendations for security, development and counter-narcotics in Afghanistan and centers itself on an approach that works with the Government of Afghanistan and local Afghans to make viable the policies put forth by the international community.  Clinton’s plan includes increasing international support to Afghanistan, building the Afghan police forces and government capacity, using former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal as a model for agricultural programs that will counter poppy cultivation, and appointing a special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Tierney CODEL to Afghanistan

On March 26, a Congressional delegation to Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Czech Republic led by Rep. John F. Tierney (D-MA) and included Reps. Jim Moran (VA), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Barbara Cubin (WY), Betty McCollum (MN), and Keith Ellison (MN) visited Kabul and surrounding areas.  The delegation met with President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, the top NATO general in charge of the international military mission in Afghanistan. After the trip, Rep. Ellison expressed regret that the U.S. Presidential campaigns had not focused more on Afghanistan. Ellison said, "It's clear the focus in the presidential debate is on Iraq policy, but I wish the press would ask more questions about Afghanistan, what could or should be done to make sure Afghanistan's future is secure."  In addition, Rep. Tierney stated that he witnessed the need for further assistance with Afghanistan’s justice sector and infrastructure development to fight against narcotics and terrorism. 

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