Headlines for the Day

March 12, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Who’s in the News

Granger emerges as power broker in foreign policy (Maria Recio, Star-Telegram)

From Egypt and Iran to China and Japan, Rep. Kay Granger has emerged as a power broker in Congress on foreign policy as she finishes her first year as chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.  Since the Republican Party regained control of the House in 2011, whenever Clinton and other heavyweights in Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration face funding issues, they go to Granger to try to win congressional backing.  That’s why Clinton appeared before Granger this month. The subcommittee sets funding for the State Department and foreign aid, a role that gives the former Fort Worth mayor major influence over the expenditure of more than $53 billion for the next fiscal year.

Smart Power

USAID and the Evolution of Development Aid (Isobel Coleman, Council on Foreign Relations)

Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), delivered this year’s John B. Hurford Memorial Lecture on Wednesday at the Council on Foreign Relations. In his remarks, Shah emphasized various elements of the agency’s institutional reforms. These include overhauling evaluation procedures to gauge the effectiveness of investments and forging partnerships with other governments, researchers, entrepreneurs, and firms to advance development innovations. Shah also underlined what he considers three opportunities for far-reaching development gains: bolstering resilience to disasters instead of just responding to them, boosting food security through such programs as the administration’s Feed the Future, and focusing on preventable child death to bring down birthrates and help countries reap a demographic dividend.

Politics/Foreign Policy

U.S. aid agency prepares switch to Afghan security (Susan Cornwell, Reuters)

The main U.S. foreign aid agency is preparing to switch from private security contractors in Afghanistan to Afghan government-provided security this month under a new policy mandated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, raising concern in Washington that this could put U.S. civilians at greater risk.  U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah says the agency may be able to negotiate waivers from the policy for some major infrastructure projects so that they could continue to have access to private security.  But U.S. AID officials also said this week that only 25 percent of U.S.-funded development projects in Afghanistan require security guards, suggesting the changeover to Afghan government-provided security this month that Karzai has ordered may not be so dramatic.

Egypt moves toward anti-U.S. vote (Associated Press)

Egypt’s parliament moved Sunday toward a vote to order an end to more than $1 billion in U.S. aid, a reflection of tensions with Washington over the case of Americans charged with illegal activity by their pro-democracy groups.  The United States was angry enough over the charges against the American workers that it threatened to cut off aid to Egypt. The measure in the Islamist-dominated Egyptian parliament, probably just symbolic, showed that there is considerable anger in Cairo over charges that U.S. pressure led to interference in the judicial process. The 508-seat chamber also voted to start the process of a no-confidence vote in the military-backed government, a move that, if successful, could spark a political crisis with just under four months left before the military is scheduled to hand over power to a civilian administration.