Secretary Clinton on the Hill

June 24, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Afghanistan and Pakistan. She made a clear case for smart power in this critical region, saying “improving governance, creating economic opportunity, supporting civil society is vital to solidifying our military gains and advancing our political and diplomatic goals.” Secretary Clinton also testified “Ultimately, I believe we are saving money and, much more importantly, lives by investing now. And let’s not forget: An entire year of civilian assistance in Afghanistan costs Americans the same amount as 10 days of military operations.” Click here to watch the full video.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Gates: I Was ‘ Strong Advocate’ for Afghanistan Surge to End in Summer 2012 (PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer) “We still have a lot of work to do. There’s still a lot of hard fighting to go. But I think we’ve made – I think we’ve made pretty good progress. And the whole idea of this thing has been between now and 2014, the end of 2014, to transition the security lead in Afghanistan to the Afghans. It’s their country.

And I will say they’re fighting and dying for their country. They’re dying roughly at a rate two and a half, three times as many soldiers as our coalition.”

USAID Administrator: On Tackling Food Crisis (NPR Morning Edition)

“We know that food security is critical to our national security, and I will build on David’s point and suggest that the food riots and famines and failed states that are the consequences of a lack of access to food are far more costly and problematic to deal with over time than making smart targeted investments and helping countries develop their agricultural systems, become real trading partners and move big huge proportions of their population out of a condition of poverty and hunger.”

Clinton: Civilian surge will also be drawn down (Foreign Policy, Josh Rogin)

“We have now reached the height of the civilian surge,” Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Looking ahead, as the transition proceeds, we will shift our efforts from short-term stabilization projects to longer-term sustainable development that focuses on spurring growth and integrating Afghanistan into South Central Asia’s economy.” The State Department and USAID have more than tripled the number of diplomats, development professionals, and other experts in Afghanistan since 2009, resulting in economic growth, less opium production, and greater educational opportunities for Afghans, she said.

Smart Power

Next USAID Innovation: Learning From Failure (Center for Global Development, Charles Kenny)

The new Development Innovation Ventures program is designed to mimic a venture capital model to identify, test and scale solutions to development challenges.  The model stages funding –so projects that don’t work out at the identification or test stage won’t get more money to roll out.  The meeting also discussed the possibility of a USAID FailFaire –or even Fail Summit—that would encourage people to come out in the open and say what didn’t work and why.

Defense, Diplomacy…Deficits…Defeat? (AIF Blog, Rye Barcott)
The US military stepped into the vacuum, repairing infrastructure and working with community groups, the police, and a nascent city council. But — unsurprisingly — the military is not very good at development and diplomacy. We aren’t trained for it, and it’s difficult to build trust when you are carrying a weapon and wearing body armor. Rebuilding a country requires deep cultural awareness, familiarity with local language and customs, and a sophisticated understanding of economics and local politics.

Politics/Foreign Policy

The challenge for Leon Panetta, David Petraeus (Politico Op-Ed, William S. Cohen)

President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday night about the pace of troop withdrawal in Afghanistan will have far-reaching implications for the new secretary of defense and CIA director, both of whom are beginning their tenures amid enormous policy and fiscal challenges. Their collaboration will be critical as the administration grapples with internal, congressional and public expectations regarding the U.S. presence overseas.

GOP’s bold gamble on deficit talks (Politico, David Rogers)

Faced with an Aug. 2 deadline and no deal in sight, Republicans opted Thursday to blow up deficit-reduction talks with the White House, a bold gamble to change the dynamic but one that also betrays the party’s anxiety over pressures to give ground on defense cuts and tax expenditures. The GOP’s immediate goal is to draw President Barack Obama more directly into the fray, but this also shifts the burden back onto Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and greatly increases the odds that the debt ceiling fight will spill into the August recess before it is resolved.

Rethinking Civilian Assistance in Afghanistan (The New York Times, Desaix Myers)
In the last 18 months, the United States Agency for International Development, or Usaid, has increased its staff in Afghanistan to almost 400 people from 100 as part of a civilian “uplift” complementing President Obama’s 2009 military surge. They manage a $9 billion portfolio of projects — from construction of roads and transmission lines to health and small-business development — being carried out by 26,000 Afghans and 6,000 people from other nations, all working at some risk.

Main points from the meeting of G20 agriculture ministers (Guardian, Mark Tran)

France pushed for the first ever meeting of G20 agriculture ministers to deal with volatility in food prices. World food prices hit a record high earlier this year, sparking fears of a repeat of the food riots in 2007-2008. Britain is keen to see an increase in food productivity in the developing world to improve a global food system that leaves around 925 million people hungry. The action plan agreed on Thursday will be presented to G20 leaders at their summit in November.