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Hearing of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee - The Emergency Supplemental Request for Iraq and Afghanistan

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Location: Washington, DC


Hearing of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee - The Emergency Supplemental Request for Iraq and Afghanistan

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REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D-NY): Thank you, Madame Chair.

Mr. Secretary, good morning. In your testimony with respect to Afghanistan, you noted that we must drive a wedge between the people and the enemy. I don't believe that the people support the enemy of Afghanistan. I was last there in November and asked the question, "Does the local population support the Taliban?" of several members of Special Forces units. And the answer was, "No, sir, they don't support the Taliban, but they are good bettors." I was right up against Musa Qal'eh. A week after I left, we took Musa Qal'eh with the British.

What I was told was the problem is that we go in, we clear a village, we build a bridge, and then we leave. And then when we leave, the Taliban seeps back into the village, blows up the bridge and kills the bridge-builders. And unless we have a strategy for a sustained soft-power presence in Afghanistan, we're going to continue to have these challenges.

In fact, Afghanistan is in trouble. It's in big trouble, perhaps more trouble than it's been in since 2001. 2007, the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001. Taliban and al Qaeda resurging. There are reports that President Karzai controls about 30 percent of the country; the Taliban control 10 percent of the country; the rest is uncontrollable. Afghanistan producing 93 percent of the world's opium poppy. Last year they grew more poppies for opium than ever before. And there's about $3.2 billion in underground money circulating as a result of poppy trade.

There was one bright spot, and this leads me to my question. The one bright spot is the National Solidarity Program, which is administered by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. The NSP is one effective mechanism that is trying to facilitate governance and economic development and the empowerment of women and self-reliance. It's penetrated to 23,000 villages.

Secretary Boucher has requested $50 million for the NSP. I don't think it's enough. In fact, I'm told that the $50 million will only enable the NSP to continue for several more months, at which point it goes out of business.

It cannot exist on $50 million; $50 million is maybe a couple days, maybe less than a couple days in Iraq.

So my question is, if there is one thing that appears to be working effectively in Afghanistan and will answer the concern that the special forces had, that unless we're willing to stay there for 100 years, at some point, there is only going to be peace and stability if the Afghans learn self-reliance and can build bridges, keep the bridges and expand democracy.

Why are we short-funding that one program? And would the administration support an increase for the National Solidarity Program?

MR. NEGROPONTE: Thank you, Congressman, for the question.

First of all, I agree with you that military operations, or security operations, in and of themselves are not sufficient. You go in; you clear an area. If you leave, you may not have achieved very much.

So I think that's why so much emphasis has to be placed, or emphasis has to be placed, on helping government establish a presence, a sustained and enduring presence, and not just at the provincial level but also at the district level and in the villages and so forth. And this requires both soft power -- I think you used the term -- but also security power. I mean, it requires, if not us or NATO or ISAF, it requires Afghan security forces and Afghan police forces. And I think that probably one of the most important things we're doing is helping them increase the size of their own security forces.

I would have to look at this National Solidarity, the specifics of that program. But I would certainly agree with you that programs, which reinforce the ability of the government to sustain a meaningful presence in these various localities, are to be commended.

REP. ISRAEL: Well, I want to specifically commend the NSP to your attention and specifically ask you to please look at it and consider a higher request for that program. It's working; it's one of the few things that's working. And the only hope we have of long-term sustenance, in Afghanistan by the people of Afghanistan, are programs like this.

MR. NEGROPONTE: Thank you.

REP. ISRAEL: Thank you, Madame Chair, and I yield back.

REP. LOWEY: Thank you very much. And Mr. Israel, I'm not sure if you were in the room, but similar to your request, I noted that the administration requested, of the 800 million emergency funding for Afghanistan, the vast majority, over 500 million is to build roads and provide power. And it would seem, to me, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, others should be doing that, where we should be putting money in schools, in health clinics, in programs such as you referenced. But we'll get back to that.

Thank you for bringing it up.

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