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Legislative Update

Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for May 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.

President Bush Appoints Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

On May 29, President Bush appointed retired Marine Corps Major Gen. Arnold Fields as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Major Gen. Fields will oversee annual U.S. spending on reconstruction projects in Afghanistan while the Defense Department’s Inspector General's office and other oversight agencies will continue overseeing military spending. The FY08 Defense Authorization Bill, enacted in January 2008, created the office and authorized $20 million for its operation. The SIGAR is modeled after the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and will target many of the same oversight issues that posed problems in reconstructing Iraq. The SIGAR office will be staffed once Congress appropriates the FY08 and FY09 Emergency War Supplementals. The House version of the FY08 Supplemental contains $5 million for Afghanistan.

Senator Levin Visits Afghanistan and Pakistan

On May 27, Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, visited Afghanistan and Pakistan. Senator Levin met with U.S. troops, coalition commanders, and Afghan officials while in Afghanistan. He returned from his trip with a sense of urgency in addressing cross border attacks into Afghanistan. Senator Levin concluded that a decrease in violence in Afghanistan is only possible if terrorist safe havens are shut down in Pakistan and insurgents are no longer allowed to cross into Afghanistan. Senator Levin warned that new agreements with tribal leaders that contain language that bans cross border activity may not be enforced. Senator Levin praised the Afghan army for their strength and willingness to fight. He stated that the U.S. will be providing them with the support necessary to assume border protection and expanded army capabilities. Senator Levin also discussed the need to change the rules of engagement for coalition forces along the Afghan border. Right now, they are not allowed to shoot back across the border into Pakistan, even if they were initially targeted. According to Senator Levin, all coalition forces should be able to shoot first if there is clear, imminent threats across the border and regardless of whether they have been shot at first.

FY08 Emergency War Supplemental Approved by Senate

On May 22, the Senate approved the FY08 Emergency War Supplemental in a 70-26 vote for the war funding. The supplemental includes $165 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for FY08 and FY09. The supplemental is set for a conference between the House and Senate in the first week of June. According to the House version of the bill, the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund will have available about $3 billion until September 30, 2009. The Economic Support Fund (ESF) for Afghanistan will receive $859 million. Around $65 million will go towards accelerating and expanding programs to strengthen counter-narcotics efforts; improve the training of the Afghan police, including border police; advance the development of institutional capacity professionalism of the justice sector; and help facilitate cooperation between the police and the judiciary at both the national and regional levels. The ESF funds emphasize the participation of Afghan women and seek to directly improve the economic, social and political status of Afghan women and girls. The recommendation also includes $1 billion for the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), $479 million of which is for Afghanistan.

Afghan Foreign Minister Meets with Members of the U.S. Congress

Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Dr. Rangin D. Spanta met with several congressional leaders during an official visit to Washington this month. In addition to meeting with relevant members of the Bush administration and Afghan and U.S. media, Dr. Spanta met with Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MI), Senator John Kerry (D-MA.), Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT). In his talks with members of Congress, Dr. Spanta focused on Afghanistan’s reconstruction challenges and issues the government faces in delivering services to its people. He also highlighted the progress and challenges for Afghan women and children and the lack of educational infrastructure in the country.

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