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Legislative Update



Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for May 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.

Afghanistan Freedom and Security Support Act (H.R. 2446)

 

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved additional funding for development, economic and security assistance programs in Afghanistan for the next three years by passing the Afghanistan Freedom and Security Support Act (AFSSA).  The AFSSA has been introduced to the House floor where it will be debated and voted on before moving to the Senate for vote.  The AFSSA authorizes $6.435 billion for fiscal years 2008 through 2010, of which $2.145 billion is authorized to be spent in fiscal year 2008. The bill requires the President to set out an enhanced strategy with specific and measurable reconstruction, counter-narcotics and security goals for Afghanistan. It also requires the Administration to submit a report to Congress describing a large range of political, economic, development, security, and counter-narcotics performance goals and progress. The bill also mandates a cutoff of U.S. assistance to local or provincial governments where there is credible evidence that officials have links to terrorist activities or the drug trade.  Finally, the AFSSA requires the President to appoint a Coordinator who will coordinate US agencies, departments and work with donor countries to streamline assistance and reconstruction in Afghanistan. 

FY 2008 Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 1585)

The U.S. House passed the FY 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, H.R. 1585.  The bill authorizes $503.8 billion in budget authority for the Department of Defense and national security programs of the Department of Energy, and $141.8 billion to support ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during fiscal year 2008. 

The following are five significant provisions concerning Afghanistan:  establish a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, report on progress toward security and stability in Afghanistan (requires a comprehensive Defense Department report that outlines the strategic direction of U.S. activities in Afghanistan and includes concrete performance indicators and measures of progress), report on progress of the Department of Defense's counter-narcotics program for Afghanistan, United States plan for sustaining the Afghanistan National Security Forces (requires a long-term plan aimed at ensuring Afghan forces have logistical and other needs into the future), and authorizes $2.7 billion to be appropriated for fiscal year 2008 for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund. 

The bill also requires the secretaries of State and Defense and the administrator of USAID to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding matters relating specifically to contracting for Iraq and Afghanistan. The MOU would clarify the roles and responsibilities of the two departments and USAID in managing and overseeing contracts, including overseeing contracting personnel and establishing a common database on the contracts.  No contracts can be granted until such MOU is signed by all parties. 

The Senate Armed Services Committee on approved their defense authorization measure that differs in significant ways from the House version of the bill (S 567).  The subcommittee included a number of provisions to improve the management and oversight of DOD acquisition programs. In particular, these provisions would: authorize DOD to purchase products and services produced in Iraq and Afghanistan to support our efforts in those countries, where the Secretary of Defense determines that the preference is necessary to provide a stable source of employment and will not undermine the U.S. industrial base, establish a requirement that the President report to Congress on his long-term strategy for engaging with Pakistan to eliminate domestic safe havens for the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other violent extremists and make substantial efforts to stop their cross-border movements into Afghanistan, and restrict reimbursements to Pakistan for support to U.S. military operations unless the President certifies that Pakistan is making substantial and sustained efforts to eliminate terrorist safe havens on its territory.  The Senate bill will be voted on in early June. 

2007 Emergency War Supplemental

The House of Representatives has approved the emergency war appropriations bill that House leadership said will finally meet the approval of both the Senate and the White House.  Pending Senate passage, the President could sign the bill in early June.  The total foreign assistance to Afghanistan is $920 million ($737 million in Economic Support Funds;  Democracy Fund, $25 million; International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, $47 million; Migration and Refugee Assistance, $16 million; and Commanders' Emergency Response Program, 106 million; $5.9 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund).  The bill also provides $8.468 million for the DEA to continue anti-drug operations in Afghanistan and $909.9 million for Afghanistan reconstruction and State Department operations, which is $189 million above the amount requested.  Increases are provided for rural counter-narcotics, development, agriculture, humanitarian assistance, and Provincial Reconstruction Teams.  The agreement also recommends a total of $185.5 million for humanitarian assistance for refugees and internally displaced persons in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Congo, Chad, Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. This is $84 million above the amount requested.

Congressional Meetings

On May 15, Ambassador Said T. Jawad met with the Honorable Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to discuss U.S.-Afghan Relations.  Senator Lautenberg is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is currently evaluating a number of funding bills for security and reconstruction in Afghanistan.  Senator Lautenberg stated that “Afghanistan plays a vital role in the war on terror.  The global terror networks that plague Afghanistan are the same ones that attacked us on September 11.   I remain committed to helping Afghanistan rid its country of these terrorists both for their benefit and ours.  We must also help Afghans rebuild their country’s infrastructure.  I look forward to working with Ambassador Jawad as America and Afghanistan move forward together in this effort.”

Political Department staff from the Embassy of Afghanistan also met with professional staff from Senator Lautenberg’s and Senator Christopher Dodd’s office (D-CT) to discuss upcoming legislation concerning Afghanistan. 

On May 11, Ambassador Jawad briefed senior professional staffers and several journalists and experts about the current challenges in Afghanistan at the Center for American Progress.  Ambassador Jawad engaged the attendees in a lively exchange and discussed ways in which current legislation can reflect a U.S. policy that will better address the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. 

On May 15, the Honorable Faizullah Zaki, Member of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Afghan Parliament) and Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources visited Washington, DC to participate in the U.S. Energy Association’s South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy.  During MP Zaki’s visit, he met with the Honorable Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) to discuss the political situation in Afghanistan. 

Congressional Delegations To Afghanistan

Congressmen John Spratt (D-SC), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Joe Courtney (D-CN) and Jean Schmidt (R-OH) visited military and Afghan civilian leaders in Afghanistan this month. The congressmen were part of a four-member fact-finding team that will report back to Congress on the war's progress. 

Floor Speeches and Hearing Testimonies

On May 10, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs held a hearing on the FY 2008 Appropriations bill, which included testimony from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  Secretary Rice warned that democratic institutions in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories are facing serious threats.  To combat this trend in Afghanistan, Secretary Rice discussed ways in which the U.S. is reformulating its security, counter-narcotics and reconstruction strategy in Afghanistan, and pledged support for President Karzai and the Government of Afghanistan. 

 

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