Gates urges lawmakers to approve Afghan war funds by early spring

Results of operations in the country will take several months to materialize, Gates said in testimony Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Gates, who testified on the Pentagon’s war funding request for 2010 alongside Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, urged lawmakers to approve $33 billion in emergency funding by early spring to “prevent costly and counterproductive disruptions to the Department’s operations.”  

He also cautioned senators against an “overly ambitious view of what true stability and security” would look like in Afghanistan—a place mired in war for three decades. 

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“For most Afghans, a roof over their heads, an opportunity for their children to attend school, and the ability to provide for the basic needs of their families free from violence would be considered a very good life,” Gates said. “The scale of the international coalition’s efforts and ambitions should reflect that basic reality.”

While the military offensive may get the headlines, what happens behind the scenes is “equally important,” Clinton said on Thursday.

“As our military leaders put it, after clearing, we must hold, build, and transition,” she said. The Afghan government and the United States will be “judged” by their ability to “build enduring security and credible governance,” she said.

In Marjah, for example, State Department civilians were on the ground within days of the military operation. They quickly stood up a District Support Team that has helped open two schools and a prosecutor’s office; registered more than 7,000 farmers to receive supplies; and employed more than a thousand residents a day through cash-for-work projects, Clinton said in her prepared testimony.

The United States Agency for International Development built an airstrip that has allowed Afghan Ministry of Agriculture officials to reach Marjah’s farmers. Another USAID contract is paying a women-owned Afghan firm to rebuild the highway, according to Clinton.