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Legislative Update

Embassy of Afghanistan Legislative Update for July 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.

Rep. Kirk Makes House Floor Statement on Narcotics in Afghanistan

On July 14, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) spoke out on the link between narcotics and violence in Afghanistan. He noted that the Department of Defense has recognized the fueling of the insurgency through drug-trafficking. Kirk stated that the Taliban has become a "fully functioning, South Asian narco-terrorist organization, protecting the source of 92 percent of the world’s opium." He also noted that Taliban presence is highest in the provinces with the greatest drug production, and violence follows wherever the Taliban is present, particularly in the Helmand province. Rep. Kirk suggested a plan be implemented that simultaneously deals with narcotics and violence.

Senators Biden and Lugar Hold Conference on U.S.-Pakistan Relationship

On July 15, Senators Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a press conference on U.S. aid to Pakistan. Senator Biden stated, "U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been an unsteady balancing act...the core of our problem has been that we've had what I refer to as a transactional relationship with Pakistan." He expressed concern that billions of dollars have been spent and the return has not been worthwhile. From the Pakistani perspective, the U.S. is seen as an unreliable ally who will abandon Pakistan the moment it's convenient to do so and whose support to date has merely bolstered unrepresentative leaders, both in and out of uniform. The senators stressed the need to move from a transactional relationship to a functional relationship.

Ambassador Jawad Meets with Rep. Van Hollen to Discuss ROZs

On July 17, Ambassador Said T. Jawad met with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to discuss his recently introduced legislation on Reconstruction Opportunity Zones, or ROZs. Ambassador Jawad expressed his appreciation for the congressman's leadership and insight in introducing the bill which will have a lasting impact on security and prosperity in Afghanistan. The bill provides an alternative to extremism and injects great economic opportunity to the region that will undoubtedly lead to greater stability. The bill will also greatly benefit the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan on economic, political and diplomatic levels. (Click here to see an op-ed written by Legislative Counsel Hawa Ghaus and Commercial Attaché Khaleda Atta on ROZs.)

2009 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill Passed

On July 16-18, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved the 2009 State and Foreign Operations bill that will provide the State Department will funding for international development activities. The draft $36.6 billion spending bill provides 12 percent more spending than this year's regular appropriations, but is 4 percent less than President George W. Bush’s budget request. The bill provides $1.04 billion for Afghanistan. See details below.

Economic Support Fund
[Budget authority in thousands of dollars]

Country/Program - Afghanistan

Fiscal Year 2008: $305,934

Actual Fiscal Year 2009 Request: $707,000

Committee Recommendation: $732,000

Change from Request: +$25,000

International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement
[Budget authority in thousands of dollars]

Country/Program - Afghanistan

Fiscal Year 2008: $272,574

Actual Fiscal Year 2009 Request: $250,000

Committee Recommendation: $175,000

Change from Request: -$75,000

($75,000,000 was provided for Afghanistan in Fiscal Year 2009 Supplemental Funds for this purpose in the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008, Public Law 110-252).

Afghan Minister of Health Meets with Congressional Members and Staff

Afghanistan’s Minister of Public Health, Dr. Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatimie, met with several members of Congress, including Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and their staff to discuss the health sector’s progress since 2001 and its current challenges. Minister Fatimie focused on how further investment in health will lead to greater security and prosperity as healthy individuals are more able to play productive roles in society. Unfortunately, the current security situation is greatly affecting access to health care. However, the Ministry has seen great progress in maternal and infant mortality since 2002 and it is the first Afghan ministry to be certified by USAID to receive direct budget funding of $218 million for 5 years to increase access to healthcare. Today, 82 percent of Afghans have access to basic health services. The minister expressed his concern about emerging health threats such as drug addiction, the spread of HIV/AIDS and the government’s lack of resources to properly deal with the issue. (Click here to see a full description of Minister Fatimie's visit.)

Senator Biden Supports Obama's Re-Focus on Afghanistan

On July 24, Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) wrote to USA Today endorsing Senator Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) policy on Afghanistan. He noted that recent events in Afghanistan have demonstrated that Senator Obama's judgment on Iraq is right and that the U.S. must now use the presidential candidate's judgment to end the war in Iraq and refocus on the fight in Afghanistan. Senator Biden stated that success is only possible if the U.S. re-deploys troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to finish the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Senate Approves Bill to Overhaul U.S. Aid to Pakistan

On July 29, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation that changes U.S. assistance to Pakistan. The bill would triple non-security aid to Pakistan, authorizing more than $7 billion during the next five years while tightening conditions on funding for the country’s military. Additionally, the Secretary of State must certify that Pakistan is "making concerted efforts" to combat al Qaeda and the Taliban. The State Department could waive the requirement for national security reasons. The emphasis on non-military aid has been welcomed by U.S, Pakistani and regional actors.

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