U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today that cutting foreign aid to Afghanistan, as some congressional Republicans have proposed, would be “a grave mistake.”
“I certainly appreciate the tight budget environment we find ourselves in. But the fact is that these civilian operations are crucial to our national security,” Clinton said in a speech at the Asia Society in New York.
“Consider Iraq, where the transition to a civilian-led mission is helping the Pentagon save $45 billion,” while the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development ask for “an increase of only $4 billion” to lead operations in Iraq next year, she said. “That’s a good deal by any standard. So we are working with Congress to ensure the civilian surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan receives the support it requires.”
In a nearly hour-long speech reviewing President Barack Obama’s policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Clinton stressed that the transition from U.S. to Afghan-led security in Afghanistan will “be formally launched next month, with troop reductions starting in July and continuing based on conditions on the ground. It will be completed by the end of 2014.”
Clinton named Marc Grossman, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey who served in Pakistan early in his career, as the new special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, replacing Richard C. Holbrooke, who died last December.