JavaScript Menu, DHTML Menu Powered By Milonic


Join our e-mail mailing
list and receive our
monthly newsletter free
of charge

Legislative Update

Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for April 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.

Most Freshmen US Representatives Have Not Been to Afghanistan

Most members of Congress elected in 2006 have been to Iraq but not Afghanistan, while 16 lawmakers in the freshman class have not visited either country, according to a recent survey conducted by The Hill. Of the 50 Democratic freshmen elected in November 2006, 35 have traveled to Iraq and 15 have gone to Afghanistan, according to the survey. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is the only senator who has been to Afghanistan since being elected in November 2006. Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Sali (Idaho), the House GOP class president, is the only freshman member who has visited Afghanistan but not Iraq. To see the full list of freshman lawmakers and read the article, go to:

Afghan Officials Visit Washington to Discuss Security, Economy and Development

This month, Afghan leaders visited Washington to meet with Administration officials, members of Congress, and members of international organizations active in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s Second Vice President Karim Khalili met with Senators Hagel (R-NE) and Lieberman (I-CT), and members of the U.S.-Afghan Caucus to discuss the stifling impact poverty has had on security and development in Afghanistan. Afghan Minister of Finance Anwar Ul Haq Ahady visited Washington to participate in the annual World Bank meetings. During his trip, he also met with members of the House and Senate to discuss developments in the Afghan economy and the upcoming Paris Donor’s Conference in June. Afghan Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development Mohammad Ehsan Zia met with top leaders in both the House and Senate to discuss rural development and enterprise and the National Solidarity Program (NSP)—a program that is successfully developing rural areas through community empowerment, mobilization and local governance while significantly reducing cost, waste and corruption.   

Embassy Officials Publish Op-Ed on the Benefits of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ’s) in The Hill

On April 21, The Hill published an opinion piece by Embassy Legislative Counsel Hawa Ghaus and Commercial Attaché Khaleda Atta calling for Congressional support of the newly introduced ROZ bill in the Senate.  The legislation (S. 2776) was introduced by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and would authorize President Bush to designate Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan. If passed by the Congress, ROZs will enable non-trade sensitive exports such as rugs, gemstones and handicrafts to enter the U.S. duty-free. Comparatively speaking, Afghanistan has been the most under-resourced nation-building operation of the entire post-Word War II era. The economic benefits of ROZ’s will enable the people an alternative to poverty and empower them against extremists.  The initiative will also enable Pakistan and Afghanistan to transcend political differences in order to work together towards developing mutually beneficial private sectors. To read the full Op Ed, go to:

House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia Hearing: “Strategic Chaos and Taliban Resurgence in Afghanistan”

On April 2, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia held a hearing discussing the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan. Witnesses included , Director of National Defense University’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies Lieutenant General David W. Barno, RAND Political Scientist Dr. Seth G. Jones, and  International Crisis Group Senior Vice President Mr. Mark Schneider. General Barno stressed the importance of success in Afghanistan, stating that we cannot afford to fail in this region. Dr. Jones claimed that in order to succeed in the insurgent regions the US will have to take the lead in ground-combat, since most of the other NATO countries lack experience in that field. Mr. Schneider emphasized that the absence of strategic coherence has been a powerful enabler of the Taliban resurgence, and that international coordination and development are key for success, a statement with which all of the witnesses, as well as Committee Chairman Gary Ackerman, agreed.

Lawmakers Express Concern over Reconstruction and Security in Afghanistan

Democratic lawmakers delivered a letter to President George Bush on April 4, urging him to refocus the fight against terror on Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Democrats worry that the over-emphasis on Iraq is allowing Islamic extremists to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The letter also stressed the importance of embarking on a new relationship with Pakistan, based more on cooperation with institutions rather than individuals. Their objective is to bring about changes in policy to make both Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the rest of the region safer, while at the same time making sure that American troops are being deployed where they are needed most. The Democratic lawmakers closed the letter by telling President Bush that “we are committed to bringing about the necessary changes of course … and hope you will work with us.”

Senate Armed Services and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearings on the Situation in Iraq

On April 8, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing assessing the situation in Iraq and the progress made by the government in Iraq in meeting benchmarks and achieving reconciliation. The witnesses included US General David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. General Petraeus claimed that even though levels of violence and civilian deaths have been reduced substantially since September, the situation in certain areas is still unsatisfactory and innumerable challenges remain.  Senator Hillary Clinton emphasized that the Administration’s focus on Iraq overshadowed the situation in Afghanistan and other international crises. As long as the troop level in Iraq stays this high, the number of troops in Afghanistan will be insufficient. Ambassador Crocker also emphasized that progress has indeed been made since September. Since then all major parties have announced their support for elections, and the 2008 budget was passed with record amounts for capital expenditures, ensuring that the federal and provincial governments will have the resources needed for public spending. General Petraeus ended the hearing by stating that it would not be responsible to set a date for when to exit Iraq, and that the withdrawal needs to be a conditions-based procedure.

The Senate Committee of Foreign Relations followed soon after the conclusion of the Armed Services hearing. Senator Joe Biden was the first to draw attention to the fact that Al Qaeda, the organization which attacked the US on 9/11, now operates in the Afghan-Pakistani border areas. He compared US spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, concluding that the US spends more in six weeks in Iraq than it has in the last six years in Afghanistan. When asking Ambassador Crocker which he would pick to eliminate, if he could choose between the Al Qaeda sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Al Qaeda personnel in Iraq, the Ambassador answered that he would have picked the Afghan-Pakistani border regions, not Iraq. Senator Russ Feingold brought a similar question to General Petraeus, when asking if he thought the major Al Qaeda safe haven was in Afghanistan and Pakistan or Iraq. General Petraeus acknowledged that the answer to this question was also Afghanistan and Pakistan.

House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committee Hearings on the Crocker/Petraeus Iraq Report

On April 9, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a related hearing on Iraq. The Committee’s ranking Republican member, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, stated that there is no way to seperate the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq, they need to be viewed as an integrated mission. Congressman Russ Carnahan stressed that spending so much resources in Iraq cannot be justified when the money is needed back home in the US and to fight the greater Al Qaeda threat that exists in Afghanistan.

At the House Armed Services Committee, Chairman Ike Skelton stated that Iraq is only one piece of the overall US national security puzzle. Since Admiral Mullen and General Hayden both stated that the next attack on the US will probably come from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Congressman Skelton expressed his inability to understand why the US allocation of forces does not match the imperative of keeping the nation safe. Congressman John M. Spratt points to the fact that Admiral Mullen characterized the US engagement in Afghanistan under-sourced, under-resourced, and under-manned.

Iraq and Afghanistan War Supplemental Causes Debate

Since President Bush requested $108 billion for war funding, the Democrats have been crafting a strategy to link economic stimulus measures and other domestic funding programs to the war money. House Democratic leaders are considering splitting the upcoming war supplemental bill into two separate funding measures, one for Iraq and one for Afghanistan. One possible solution would be to attach a stimulus package to the Iraq portion of the supplemental. Another possibility would be to attach contentious veterans’ benefits legislation to the Afghanistan portion, since they are confident they would have enough House votes to move the bill even if all the House Republicans oppose it. Dividing the funding could allow Democrats to vote against Bush’s Iraq policy without jeopardizing Afghanistan funding.

House GOP leaders reject the idea of splitting the war supplemental, and have argued that the war on terror is a unified effort and it would be inappropriate for Congress to choose which elements of the war they want to fund. The White House has given lukewarm responses to the split supplemental, and Bush has threatened to veto the emergency spending measure if it exceeds that amount or includes any timetables for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Wednesday that he was “sure” the House will move a war funding bill that exceeds the administration’s request, a move that could set up another veto showdown with President Bush over spending. A war funding offer of $170 billion has been proposed as a solution, in order to demonstrate that the Democrats, despite their criticism, will continue to fund the war effort and not abandon US military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. White House Budget Director Jim Nussle told Senate appropriators that a “clean” supplemental is needed by Memorial Day and that Democrats should save their domestic priorities for the regular appropriations process rather than provoke a veto fight that would delay its enactment.

Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing on the Iraq and Afghanistan War Supplemental

On April 16, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the Iraq and Afghanistan war supplemental. The director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jim Nussle, testified before the committee. Senator Daniel Inouye starts the hearing off by stating that contrary to requirements of current law, the president's budget request for FY2009 does not include an estimate of the full-year costs for the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, the administration submitted a $70 billion placeholder without any details, which it says will fund roughly six months of operations. The Senator worried that the rest of FY2009 would be paid for through reprogramming of the peacetime budget, something Director Nussle denied. However, the OMB director stated that in order to achieve success in Iraq and Afghanistan, one will be in need of resources. $700 million will be used to rebuild roads and infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Director Nussle concluded by saying that a further delay in funding approval will add to the risk of losing the battle against terror.

Home | Contact Us | Sitemap © 2006 Embassy of Afghanistan and GlobeScope Inc. All Rights Reserved.