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Legislative Update

Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for April 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.

Petraeus and Flournoy Testify on New Policy

On April 1-2, Gen. David H. Petraeus, Commander of U.S. Central Command and Michele A. Flournoy, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, testified before the U.S. Senate and House Committees on Armed Services, respectively, regarding the Obama Administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The U.S. officials called for a broadening of goals to include agriculture, alternative livelihoods and governance and make the reconciliation efforts Afghan-led in order to flip Taliban foot soldiers to the other side. They argued that greater development is needed with an approach that focuses more on provincial development. They stated that, although Afghanistan and Pakistan are two countries, they are one theater and both suffer from socio-economic crises so more must be done to help both countries build capacity since the lack of capacity are the root causes of insurgency. The witnesses also testified that the key is reverse Taliban gains and secure the population in the south and east to build accountability with the Afghan government so that the people start believing in their government.

SIGAR Given Additional Powers

On April 1, a measure was approved in the Senate that would give the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) the hiring power that it has lacked since its inception. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the bill (S. 615) cosponsored by Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking member Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). The bill would allow SIGAR to set its own hiring requirements, waiving cumbersome federal government hiring procedures. “Staffing shortages have constrained the SIGAR’s oversight efforts,” Collins said in a statement. “This bill would provide the SIGAR with the authority to select, appoint, and employ the staff needed to perform effective oversight of Afghanistan reconstruction efforts.”

House Holds Hearing on New Strategy

On April 2, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia held a hearing on the new U.S. Strategy for Afghanistan. Chairman Howard Ackerman (D-Calif.) and other members of the Subcommittee expressed their support for the president's new approach, which recognizes Afghanistan as the central front on the war on terror and, as such, formulates a strategy reflecting Afghanistan as a national security priority. Witnesses included: Dr. Karin Von Hippel is the co- director of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a senior fellow in the CSIS International Security Program, Dr. Seth Jones is a senior political scientist at RAND, and Dr. Anthony Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The witnesses were in agreement that the new strategy is on the right track in that it focuses on building capacity, both on the provincial and national level and that more must be done to convince lower level Taliban to switch sides. Furthermore, Dr. Cordesman cautioned against conditioning success in Afghanistan with success in Pakistan and Dr. Von Hippel informed the members many donors bypass the government and end up duplicating efforts and by focusing on areas that may be a lower priority for Afghans.

Clinton Testifies on New Supplemental

On April 23, Secretary of State Clinton testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs on funding for the new Emergency War Supplemental. The War Supplemental is the primary funding device for international assistance to Afghanistan. This year’s supplemental seeks to fund the war in Afghanistan by conforming to policy considerations in the President’s new strategy for Afghanistan. Secretary Clinton explained that the new war funding will focus on making government institutions more accountable and effective, promoting the rule of law, stimulating licit economic activity, especially in agriculture, and working with local communities at the provincial level to help stabilize security through job creation.

Congress Introduces Resolutions on Shi'ite Family Law

On April 23, the Senate and House submitted concurrent resolutions expressing the sense of Congress that the Shi’ite personal status law in Afghanistan violates the fundamental human rights of women and should be repealed. Senator Boxer and others submitted the resolution, which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. The resolution urged the Government of Afghanistan and H.E. President Hamid Karzai to declare the provisions of the Shiite Personal Status Law on marital rape and restrictions on women’s freedom of movement unconstitutional and an erosion of growth and development in Afghanistan.

Senators Introduce Legislation Praising Afghan Schoolgirls

On April 22, the Senate submitted S109 on behalf of Senator Mike Crapo (R-Id.), Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Senator James Risch (R-Id.), which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. The Senate resolution commended the bravery of the girls who attend the Mirwais School for Girls in Kandahar, asking the government of Afghanistan to proactively support the rights of women and girls.

Bill Introduced to Empower Afghan Women

On April 30, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced HR 2214, a bill to empower women in Afghanistan, which was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The bill calls for the protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan and their full participation in the reestablishment of democracy as essential to the reconstruction of a stable and democratic Afghanistan. The bill states that to achieve reconstruction, the United States Government must continue to commit resources to advance the rights of women throughout Afghanistan.

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