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Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515-0128

Opening Statement
Chairman Henry Hyde

Full Committee Hearing
"United States Policy in Afghanistan:
Current Issues in Reconstruction - Part II"

2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Thursday, October 16, 2003


The Committee will come to order. I have convened the Committee on International Relations for a hearing on United States Policy in Afghanistan: Current Issues in Reconstruction.

The purpose of today’s hearing is to receive testimony from the Administration about the coordination and implementation of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. This past June, at the initial hearing on this topic,

the Committee heard testimony about the concerns from former policy- makers, academicians, and the NGO community regarding the reconstruction process in Afghanistan.

At that hearing, the overriding issues presented to the Members of this Committee were the increasing lack of security in the region and the inability of the central government to implement fully its rule throughout Afghanistan. A number of witnesses voiced concerns about what appears to be a lack of coordination among United States agencies operating in Afghanistan, and the ramifications this has had on the reconstruction of the country.

Undoubtedly, Afghanistan is doing far better now than it was under the misrule of the Taliban. However, violence is increasing and has been hard to quell with deadly clashes in northern Afghanistan last week in which dozens of people were killed, including innocent civilians. In addition, the south and southeast of Afghanistan continue to be a stronghold for resurgent Taliban forces.

Serious questions need to be addressed and answered. Should we be comfortable with a military victory?

How can we assist in building a nation that is viable, independent, and capable of running its own affairs and securing its own borders?

The fact remains that a stable Afghanistan will require cooperation and a strong effort by the Afghans and a unified United States policy. In the end, the responsibility lies with the Afghan people to ensure that security, rule of law and, most of all, stability take root in their nation.

Through the passage of the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act of 2002, Congress sought to establish the foundation for the United States to assist the Afghans in achieving this goal. However, security challenges have made it difficult to deliver an efficient and effective reconstruction process.

For example, this past month, four Afghan employees who worked for an international aid organization, the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees, had just completed installing water pumps in the south when they were captured and murdered in cold blood. The organization these employees worked for had been operating in Afghanistan for eighteen years and was perceived by the Afghan people as neutral.

The forces working against freedom and progress in Afghanistan have now turned against those who have been assisting Afghans for generations.

If the efforts toward a secure environment which will permit the installation of a basic infrastructure are not successful, then one must ask how it is possible to ensure free and fair elections in less than one year’s time. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the registration process for elections will begin this December.

We expect that our policies will be supportive of this laudable goal, and that security challenges will be over-come so the Loya Jirga process can proceed and the authority of the central government will be strengthened in order to allow free and fair elections to take place.

As Peter Tomsen, the former Special Envoy to Afghanistan, stated in our previous hearing, "Continuing implementation of the Bonn process will thus mainly depend on enhanced security accompanied by the successful extension of the Kabul government’s authority into Afghanistan’s region."

I welcome NATO’s commitment in principle to expand the International Security Assistance Force. The adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1510, which widens the mandate of the International Security Assistance Force outside of Kabul, is a positive step.

Today, we will be hearing from the Administration about the operations of executive agencies working in Afghanistan and what they are doing to ensure that their programs are consistent with the provisions in the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act of 2002.

We have a distinguished panel representing the Administration today, and I warmly welcome you to the Committee. I look forward to hearing from you about these important issues of concern and the recently announced Accelerating Success initiative in Afghanistan. We hope that this supplemental funding of over $1 billion will support the Afghan government in meeting the benchmarks in the Bonn process by giving it the assistance Afghans need to determine freely their own political future.

I will now recognize my colleague, Ranking Democratic Member Tom Lantos, so that he may make his opening statement.

Without objection, any Member may place his or her opening statement in the record of today’s proceedings. Mr. Lantos.

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