Angry House Lawmaker Cuts Aid to Afghanistan; War Funding Not Affected

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by
Reuters

Angry House Lawmaker Cuts Aid to Afghanistan; War Funding Not Affected

by
Susan Cornwell

A key U.S. House
of Representatives Democrat said on Monday she is cutting billions of
dollars in aid to Afghanistan from spending legislation because she is
outraged over reports of corruption and donor aid being flown out the
country.

Representative
Nita Lowey, who heads the House appropriations subcommittee on foreign
aid, vowed not to spend "one more dime" on aid to Afghanistan until she
can be sure it is not being abused.

The
Democrat also announced hearings on corruption in Afghanistan, where
the Obama administration is trying to work with the government of
President Hamid Karzai to confront the Taliban insurgency.

An
aide to Lowey said the Obama administration requested $3.9 billion for
the accounts affected in the fiscal 2011 foreign aid appropriations
bill before Lowey's committee.

Lowey
said in her statement she would only leave "lifesaving humanitarian
aid" in the bill, which her committee will consider on Wednesday.

Her
statement comes amid increasing doubts among U.S. lawmakers about
President Barack Obama's six-month-old troop buildup strategy against a
resurgent Taliban.

She acted after
a Wall Street Journal report on Monday said more than $3 billion in
cash had been flown out of Kabul airport in the past three years, and
that U.S. investigators think some of the money being flown out to safe
havens is diverted U.S. aid.

On
the same day, a report in the Washington Post said that top officials
in Karzai's government have repeatedly derailed corruption
investigations of politically connected Afghans.

"The
alleged shipment of billions in donor funds out of Afghanistan and
allegations of Afghan government insiders impeding corruption
investigations are outrageous," Lowey said.

"I
do not intend to appropriate one more dime for assistance to
Afghanistan until I have confidence that U.S. taxpayer money is not
being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government
officials, drug lords, and terrorists," she said.

Lowey
said she would have hearings after Congress' recess next week to "get
to the bottom" of corruption allegations in Afghanistan.

The
stripped-out assistance would include economic support funds for
Afghanistan and money for things like narcotics control, military
education and training, health and anti-terrorism, an aide said.

Funding
to pay for the surge of 30,000 troops that Obama has ordered to
Afghanistan would not be affected, although the House also has yet to
vote on the $33 billion that the Pentagon requested for that. The
Senate has approved those funds.

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