Kerry says US must reconsider delivery of aid to Afghanistan

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Wednesday criticized U.S. foreign aid to Afghanistan, which he said sends billions to the war-torn country for minimal gain.

Two administrations have sent aid to Afghanistan as part of a policy to deny al Qaeda and the Taliban a safe haven in that country. But Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said this has simply moved terrorist groups to neighboring Pakistan, which gets far less U.S. aid.

“We’ve spent $20 billion in a country where there is no safe haven,” he said.

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Kerry's comments at a hearing followed the release of a study by Democratic committee staff that is highly critical of U.S. efforts to support and build the Afghan government. The report concluded the U.S. was spending $320 million a month on aid with limited success.

“We need to take a closer look at how we are spending money in Afghanistan and the impact it is having on the Afghan state,” the report said.

After a recent visit to eastern Afghanistan, Kerry concluded that if the U.S.-led operation continues to focus primarily on Afghanistan, “we’re not going to find much success there.”

Kerry spoke at a confirmation hearing for Ryan Crocker, President Obama’s nominee to serve as ambassador to Afghanistan. There were no signs Wednesday that Crocker will have anything but a smooth confirmation.

The Obama administration is preparing for the first Afghanistan war strategy review since the death of Osama bin Laden.

Kerry said groups working from western Pakistan “are most responsible” for ongoing violence and efforts to hinder stability in Afghanistan.

Crocker, a veteran diplomat, agreed with Kerry that success in Afghanistan is tied to doing more across the border. He called the Pakistan situation a “conundrum.”

The primary reason al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other groups are “in Pakistan is because we’re in Afghanistan,” Crocker said.

The nominee also said “it is important for the Pakistanis to follow through” on a number of statements leaders there have made to counter terrorist activity in their country since bin Laden was killed in the country on May 1.


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