U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), made the following remarks after a Committee hearing in which Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, testified about the civilian capacity within the region.
“The Obama Administration has shown a growing understanding that long-term, sustainable solutions to Afghanistan’s problems will come from robust and effective civilian engagement and not protracted military operations. While much attention of the Administration’s focus has been on a winning military strategy in the region, the President and Secretary Clinton have declared that elevating the role of diplomacy and development alongside defense is a top priority. We must maintain that momentum and continue to move forward on capacity-building, strengthening local governance, and improving the human rights situation in Afghanistan. I was glad to hear Ambassador Holbrooke reiterate this goal.
“I remain concerned about the levels of corruption in the Afghan government and the threat it poses to public confidence while making it much harder to build government capacity. These concerns have only grown with the recent discovery of enormous mineral reserves in Afghanistan. This potential new wealth requires strong governance and transparency to ensure these resources can be a true benefit to the Afghan people and not a revenue source for corruption. Further, it is crucial that more attention is paid to gender equality and integration into all program and projects on the ground. While there has been progress since the fall of the Taliban, Afghan women continue to suffer disproportionately from violence and discrimination, including being denied education and employment opportunities. A country cannot move forward when half its population is left behind.”