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Aid to Afghanistan Subject of House Committee Hearing

The House International Relations Committee held a March 14 hearing to examine legislation (as-yet-unnumbered) that would provide roughly $1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan. Committee Chair Henry Hyde (R-IL) said the bill would establish a “significant, four-year, flexible fund for the purpose of dealing with the special situation we find in Afghanistan,” adding, “It is our intention to free the Administration from the need to find funding in one of the many baskets into which our foreign assistance program is divided.”

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Andrew Natsios detailed the agency’s efforts in Afghanistan. Mr. Natsios noted that “Afghanistan presents one of the most difficult humanitarian and development challenges USAID has ever faced.” In FY2001, U.S. government humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan totaled $183 million. During the first six months of FY2002, that assistance grew to $239 million, according to Mr. Natsios’s testimony.

In discussing the recovery and reconstruction assistance provided to Afghanistan, Mr. Natsios told the committee that USAID was “printing 9.7 million textbooks, four million of which will be ready for the opening of Afghanistan’s schools nine days from now.” He also added, “We are re-training women teachers so that they can return to their classrooms.” Noting that USAID provided funding for the refurbishment of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Mr. Natsios said, “That the work was completed for International Women’s Day—March 8—has served, I think, as both a symbol and a concrete demonstration of our commitment to Afghan women.”

Mr. Natsios also noted that USAID was providing funding for basic health services, including emergency obstetric care centers and pre- and post-natal care for mothers. Furthermore, USAID has identified education for girls as a priority.

“The role of women in the recovery and reconstruction effort will be critical,” he said. “Before the Taliban, Afghan women occupied important positions in the country’s economic, social and cultural affairs, and we will support their efforts to do so again.”

The committee is scheduled to mark up the draft legislation on March 20.

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