Schiff Speaks on Stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan
Lawmaker Cites Past Post-Conflict Experiences,
Calls for New Initiative to Meet Reconstruction Needs
WASHINGTON, DC - (May 14, 2004) Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) delivered the following remarks yesterday in the House of Representatives in which he called for passage of his legislation, the Stabilization and Reconstruction Civilian Management Act of 2004 (H.R. 3996), to improve the U.S. Government's capacity to prepare for and mount post-conflict and stability operations:
"Mr. Speaker, even as jubilant Berliners chipped away at the Berlin Wall fifteen years ago, many Americans saw the end of the Cold War as an opportunity for the United States to cut its military forces, reduce the number of American troops deployed overseas and divert the monies saved - the so-called "peace dividend" - to address priorities here at home.
"In the wake of the heady days of November 1989, few American policymakers were concerned about the civil war that was raging in Afghanistan, which the Soviet Army had quit nine months earlier. As the Soviet armor rumbled north across the Afghan border we closed the book on our deep involvement in the landlocked south Asian state. Humanitarian and demining aid still flowed to Kabul, but the United States effectively left the heavily-armed warring factions to battle each other, setting the stage for the rise of the Taliban.
"Eleven years later, on September 11, 2001, we paid dearly for our reluctance to get involved in helping to bring peace to Afghanistan and to stabilize and disarm the warring factions in the aftermath of the Soviet departure from the country.
"Much of this failure can be attributed to an aversion to the kind of post-conflict, nation-building operation that might have created a different Afghanistan in the 1990s. These operations are expensive. They are dangerous. They require an extended commitment of our national resources and our attention. And they have imposed a heavy burden on the military.
"Throughout the 1990s, the United States took on other post-conflict reconstruction and stability operations in Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans, northern Iraq and East Timor.
"More recently, and most significantly, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have compelled the United States to shoulder much of the burden for two enormously complex post-conflict operations. Despite our experiences in the 1980s, crucial efforts to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan have been improvised affairs, led by the Department of Defense, which has pieced together personnel and expertise from across the U.S. Government.
"Our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, indeed that of the past fifteen years, has made clear that this nation needs a centralized civilian capability to plan for and respond to post-conflict situations and other complex contingencies.
"Last fall, Senators Richard Lugar and Joseph Biden assembled an extraordinary bipartisan group of experts from inside and outside of government to study how best to reorganize the foreign affairs agencies to improve our ability to meet the challenges of post-conflict operations.
"Drawing on their discussions with these experts and with Administration officials, Senators Lugar and Biden introduced The Stabilization and Reconstruction Civilian Management Act of 2004. In introducing the bill, Senator Lugar said that it was his 'intention not to critique past practices, but rather to improve our stabilization and reconstruction capacity for the future.' In that same spirit, my colleague, Christopher Shays, and I recently introduced H.R. 3996, which is the House companion to the Lugar/Biden legislation.
"This bill will:
Establish a Stabilization and Reconstruction Coordinating Committee chaired by the National Security Advisor.
Authorize the creation of an office within the State Department to coordinate the civilian component of stabilization and reconstruction missions.
Authorize the Secretary of State to create a Response Readiness Corps with both active duty and reserve components that can be called upon to respond to emerging international crises.
Have the Foreign Service Institute, the National Defense University and the Army War College establish an educational and training curriculum to meet the challenges of post-conflict and reconstruction operations.
"This bill is an important first step in reconfiguring the U.S. Government to strengthen our ability to deal with complex emergencies overseas. It will institutionalize the expertise that we have acquired in the past ten years, at great cost in blood and treasure, so that we do not have to relearn how to do these operations each time we undertake them. Finally, and most important, it will shift much of the burden for planning and executing these missions from the military to the civilian side of the government."
Congressman Schiff is the co-founder of the Democratic Study Group on National Security and a member of both the House Judiciary and International Relations committees. He represents California's 29th Congressional District, including the communities of Alhambra, Altadena, Burbank, East Pasadena, East San Gabriel, Glendale, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Gabriel, South Pasadena and Temple City.