Saturday, March 27, 2004

”THERE IS MUCH WORK TO DO” Colin Powell testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee last Thursday. Here’s what he had to say on Afghanistan:

Mr. Chairman, Afghanistan is another high priority, and I was there last week. We are committed to helping build a stable and democratic Afghanistan. They had a very fine constitutional process at the end of last year where they adopted a constitution for this country that just a few years ago was a basket case, a despotic basket case. Now it has a constitution, and as you saw in press reporting this morning, President Karzai has scheduled elections for early September for both a new president as well as for a legislature.

There are still problems along the Afghan-Pakistan border. There are still problems out in Herat. But as I drove through Kabul last week, you could see buildings going up. You could see women who felt secure enough in their life now to remove the burka -- about 50 percent covered and 50 percent not covered.

I visited a registration place in a school where women were registering to vote, filling out the forms, stepping forward, getting their registration cards and proudly showing to me that they are now part of the life of the new Afghanistan.

So we have accomplished a lot in Afghanistan, but here, too, there is much more work to do. I was watching some footage yesterday that we are going to use at the donors conference next week that shows some of our reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and one shot on this video was of the new blacktop road, complete with markers, that go -- the road goes from Kabul to Kandahar. And we will continue that road around to Herat, working with our Saudi partners, our Japanese partners, and provide a beltway for this country. But it's more than just a beltway. It is a road that will link the country together, give the central government ability to control the regions a little more effectively. It will contribute to the economic life of the country. But more importantly, it will also link Afghanistan with the other nations of Central Asia.

So the opportunities here are enormous and we have to deal with security. We've got to get rid of these remaining Taliban and al-Qaida elements. But we should not sell short, not only our accomplishments over the last couple of years, but the potential that lies ahead for a region -- the Caucasus and Central Asia, South Asia -- all being linked in a new hub of transportation and trade as long as we can keep the peace and security, and that's what we are committed to.

The 2005 budget, as I said, contains $1.2 billion in assistance for Afghanistan, which is on top of the 2.2 in '04 -- 1.2 already out there, and I will make a public announcement of the other billion dollars at the Afghan donors conference in Berlin next week.
I think Powell deserves praise for this honest and candid assessment of Afghanistan, especially his admission that “there is much work to do.” As he notes, about $2.2 billion dollars was appropriated for Afghanistan. But despite promises that the request for the year 2005 would be "north of $1.5 billion," it is only $1.2 billion for 2005.

The Defense of Department is appropriating $200 million under the
the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act, to provide additional help for the Afghan National Army. During this pivotal year, this authority is critical for advancing democracy and stability in Afghanistan. During my visit to Afghanistan, everyone I met gave very high marks to the professionalism and competence of the ANA. The President’s FY 2005 budget does not request specific appropriations for these three authorities, and therefore the Department would need to reprogram funding to use them.
It’s probably the only program for which money is specifically going to Afghanistan; all the other requests refer to "Iraq and Afghanistan" or "the global war on terrorism," so it’s not clear how much money is going to what country. What is known is that the Pentagon has requested
500 million to train and equip military and security forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and friendly nearby regional nations to enhance their capability to combat terrorism and support U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition, it requested $300 million for the Commanders Emergency Response Program, or CERP (read about its success in Iraq) which
enable[s] military leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan to respond to urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction needs. This has been a remarkably successful program. With quick turnaround projects averaging about $7,000 each, commanders not only help people in their operations area, but also gain their support in defeating terrorists and building themselves a better future.
The $1.2 billion request for Afghanistan in FY05, which includes 300 million from the DoD, brings the total amount of U.S. assistance to Afghanistan to around 4 billion. Much of the money focuses on education, health, infrastructure and assistance to the Afghan National Army. It's far from what Afghanistan needs--but it's sure is a great start.


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