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Civilian Aid to Afghanistan: If It's So Important, Why Aren't We Doing More of It?

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, there was a very compelling op-ed piece in The Washington Post last week by U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker. In it, he paid tribute to the many American civilians who are risking their lives doing important humanitarian work to bring security and stability to Afghanistan.

I couldn't agree more with Ambassador Crocker that those men and women working for or contracting with the State Department or USAID are doing extraordinary work rebuilding infrastructure, helping children to go to school, improving infant and maternal health, wiring the Afghan people to the Internet.

Mr. Speaker, the burning question is this: If this work is so important, why aren't we doing more of it? The human need in Afghanistan is far greater than the resources we're devoting to the effort.

For the last few years, we've had a military surge in Afghanistan, a surge that's led to more death, more violence, more instability, and more strength for the extremists and insurgent forces we're trying to defeat.

What we need, Mr. Speaker, is a civilian surge. We need a great emphasis on development and diplomacy, on democracy promotion and debt relief, on peacekeeping and conflict resolution, not just in Afghanistan, but in impoverished and unstable countries around the developing world.

All of this is at the heart of the SMART Security proposal that I've been promoting since 2004 that I introduced during the middle of the Iraq war. Contrary to the conventional wisdom we've been fed, military aggression does not advance our national security goals. It undermines them. It makes us less safe, not more. It emboldens terrorists, instead of vanquishing them.

We've tried it this way for more than a decade now, Mr. Speaker, and it simply has not worked. It hasn't fundamentally changed the fortunes of the Afghan people, and it hasn't driven the Taliban and other terrorist networks into oblivion.

At an international conference on aid to Afghanistan this past weekend, Secretary of State Clinton said that the administration would request Afghanistan aid funding at or near levels provided over the last decade. But at or near is not enough. It comes to somewhere between $1 billion to $4 billion a year, which seems like a lot of money, until you realize that's what we spend on military operations in Afghanistan roughly every week or so; $10 billion a month waging a destructive war on Afghanistan that is killing civilians, but only a few billion dollars a year rebuilding Afghanistan and empowering civilians.

That just doesn't make sense. Ambassador Crocker has pointed this out. Our priorities are totally out of whack.

We can't continue on the same current destructive course, Mr. Speaker. This military occupation is failing America and failing Afghanistan.

Let's finally end this war. Let's bring our troops safely home and start investing in civilian aid and other SMART security initiatives, and let's do it now.

Let's also expand these initiatives to prevent war around the world.


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