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Hearing of the House International Relations Committee - Afghan National Elections

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service September 29, 2004 Wednesday







REP. SHELLEY BERKLEY (D-NV): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

And thank you, Secretary Armitage.

I have to-I have to mention something that Mr. Ackerman said. I also was astounded when I heard somebody of your stature say something like that, and frankly, your clarification has not gotten quite the same coverage as your statement, and it was astounding to me. And I think people-you are held in such high regard that what you say matters, and it was --

MR. ARMITAGE: I wish I had it back myself. But I'm-you know, I'm where I am, and --

REP. BERKLEY: Well, it would be nice if perhaps you had clarified it.

MR. ARMITAGE: -- I appreciated the opportunity to answer.

REP. BERKLEY: That would be good.

There's a couple of things that I-I have to admit to my level of frustration being somewhat high. We-from the information I receive, from what I've seen on television, what I see in reports that I get, it seems that the Taliban has reemerged in Afghanistan. There's-weapons can be purchased for next to nothing and everybody has one. Poppy trade, as Mr. Dana Rohrabacher has spoken of, is astronomical. You can't even put a figure on it. The warlords are controlling most of Afghanistan. President Karzai is known as the mayor of Kabul, can't leave his compound after dark.

But we have administration after administration official sitting right where you are, painting what I consider a very rosy picture. And I-it's reached a point-I don't know whether to believe you or my lying eyes, but somewhere there is a disconnect and I just wanted to discuss some of these disconnects with you.

I mean, when you say that men and women are voting separately because the women want it that way, to me that's nonsense. The reality is the men aren't going to vote side by side with the women, and I think that's something we ought to acknowledge. I mean, that's the culture that we're dealing with.

But when we talk about troop strength-we know we've got the election October 9th. President Karzai has asked for 1,100 more troops to assist in security operations from the United States. He's requested 5,300 NATO troops, or at least that's the information I have, to help provide security. Only 1,800 NATO troops have been promised or pledged, and even less than that have actually showed up. There's a tremendous need for security.

It seems that we're doing this bass ackwards. Wouldn't it be better if we made a determination exactly how much security was needed and allocate among the nation-states that have a stake in this how much their share should be? And when we talk about-I mean, when we say that there's a difference of opinion with the Afghan government whether or not Egypt should be supplying troops or Turkey should be supplying troops, frankly, it's very hard for me to go to a constituent who's child or husband is in Afghanistan providing security and saying, oh, you know, he should be there side by side with the Egyptians and the Turks, but there's a slight difference of opinion because the Afghani government doesn't want them there. I would say that's somewhat irrelevant to our mission, and we need to be insisting that they are and that they carry their fair share/load, and that if they're not going to provide troops the least they could do is provide money, which they're not doing either. And that I find absolutely astounding, that we are not insisting that they do that.

I joined Mr. Lantos when we tried to shift the money that we give to the Egyptians and the administration fought us tooth and nail, saying how cooperative they're being, particularly in the Gaza, with destroying the tunnels that the weapons are coming in for the Palestinians, and they're going to provide security training for the Palestinians to take over.

The reality is, they haven't done either, and now they're not helping us in Afghanistan, either. They're certainly not in Iraq.

So I'm wondering what, in your opinion, is adequate troop strength? How are we going to enable-how we are going to convince our allies that they need to be a part of this?

And the same thing when it comes to donor money. We had Assistant Secretary Robert Charles here testifying in front of this committee, talking about two things. And then I'll have you comment on all of this, if I may. The key problems in Afghanistan is lack of infrastructure to support any type of legal or judicial system. Country doesn't have laws, courts, prisons, judges, basic things you need in order to be able to establish an orderly society. What are we doing to furnish this infrastructure?

He also said that a number of nations have pledged to support us financially. This is his quote: "Let me start by saying we have had donor conferences in which people have pledged to support us financially. Even if we-even if they don't have the infrastructure or force structure to provide added people, they can provide the money."

REP. HYDE: The gentlelady's time has expired.

REP. BERKLEY: (Laughs.) Who are these people? And how much money are they pledging? And why-do we have it? And what are we using it for?

MR. ARMITAGE: Thank you, ma'am.

I was under the impression, on-strong impression that the reason we're having separate voting booths was responding to women in Afghanistan, who say they want to be able to do it free of intimidation. That was the point I was trying to make. I-maybe I'm misinformed. I don't think so.

REP. BERKLEY: Isn't it bizarre that we're holding a democratic election and women in Afghanistan, who are probably a majority of the population, are worried about intimidation?

MR. ARMITAGE: Yes. It's also bizarre that women are only literate to the tune of 21 percent. This is the type of thing we're trying to fix.

But I think it's not bizarre to note that, as I indicated, the second most popular political figure, by polls, is a woman, which I think is a good sign; that a certain number-by their own constitution, 27 percent of the lower house and 17 percent of the upper house seats have been set aside for women. This-so we're not where we want to be and not where we're going to be, but we're on a journey with some pretty brave people.

On the question of who's giving what, I've brought-I could go down pledge disbursements, but I just-I can put it in the record or I can do whatever you want, which-by country, who does what and who has done what so far, from 2001 and 2003. For instance --

REP. BERKLEY: Do you think it's adequate?

MR. ARMITAGE: That's a different question. No, I don't think it's adequate. I'd like them to step up like we do. But I want to tell you what I'm going to be providing for the record, to see if it satisfies your need.

For instance, Japan had pledged since 2001 $900 million. They have grants disbursed to almost 500 million (dollars) -- 495 (million dollars) and change. And they pledged another 200 (million dollars) in '04. But I've got that for all the donor countries, if you're interested.

REP. HYDE: Without objection, the exhibit will be made a part of the record.

Mr. McCotter.

REP. BERKLEY: Can I have my questions answered in writing-all the other questions?

MR. ARMITAGE: You want them now?

REP. BERKLEY: No, in writing.


REP. BERKLEY: Since we don't have time right now, I'd like to get an idea of exactly how much troop strength we need, how much money --


REP. HYDE: If the gentlelady would put her questions in writing, I am sure the secretary will answer them in writing.

REP. BERKLEY: I'd be delighted.

REP. HYDE: Thank you.


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