SHAHEEN APPLAUDS APPOINTMENT OF EMPOWERED CIVILIAN COORDINATOR FOR AFGHANISTAN

January 27, 2010

(Washington, D.C.)-U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today applauded the appointment of Ambassador Mark Sedwill to serve as the NATO Senior Civilian Representative for Afghanistan.  Sedwill, who previously served as British Ambassador to Afghanistan, will act as a civilian counterpart to the military commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal.  Earlier this month, Shaheen and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the Obama Administration to press for the appointment of an empowered civilian coordinator in Afghanistan to oversee and improve coordination of international assistance efforts so that progress in the region is closely monitored.    

"The appointment of an empowered civilian coordinator for Afghanistan is a critical first step toward improving the transparency and accountability of international assistance efforts," said Shaheen.  "Ambassador Sedwill faces a truly daunting challenge, and it is ultimately up to all of our international partners in Afghanistan to work together to ensure the success and efficiency of our assistance efforts." 

While progress has been made in recent months in bringing unity of command and coherence to military efforts in Afghanistan, international civilian assistance efforts have remained fractured and uncoordinated.  As the largest single donor in Afghanistan, the United States has a responsibility to lead the international community in demanding more accountability, better coordination, and increased effectiveness among the international donors in Afghanistan.  An empowered civilian coordinator will provide greater assurances for the international community and American taxpayers that their investment in Afghanistan is contributing to progress on the ground and meeting our shared strategic objectives. 

The full text of the letter to Secretary Clinton follows:

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

We are writing to urge the Administration to press for the appointment of an empowered senior civilian coordinator in Afghanistan who can more effectively coordinate, manage, and oversee the complex international economic and civilian assistance efforts there.

As we rapidly approach the international conference in London on the future of Afghanistan later this month, we need to begin discussions now on the critical issue of how to most effectively improve the coordination of aid and assistance.  In addition, the need to renew the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in March 2010 gives the international community a timely opportunity to call for a strengthened coordinator position that can more effectively restructure the civilian mission and reorganize our fragmented approach to international assistance in Afghanistan.

As we prepare to ramp up our military commitment and our security focus in the coming months, the civilian component of our strategy will be essential to progress in Afghanistan.  In this respect, we commend your efforts to triple the number of U.S. civilians operating on the ground there.  They, much like their colleagues on the military side, are making great sacrifices and putting themselves at significant risk every day.  We will continue to support them and give them the resources they need to be successful; however, we also owe them an assurance that the international civilian effort supplements their work and supports a shared mutual objective in Afghanistan.

As we have seen, Afghanistan remains a complex international problem on the military and the civilian fronts.  With nearly 100,000 ISAF troops from 43 different countries fighting on the ground and almost $60 billion pledged from over 50 different international donors, coordination of both military and civilian efforts remains a key to our success in this effort. 

Despite progress in recent months in bringing unity of command and coherence to our military effort, we have yet to see a similar commitment on the civilian side.  There remains no senior civilian counterpart equivalent to General Stanley McChrystal's NATO role in Afghanistan.  We need to do more to ensure the "unity of civilian effort," as Ambassador Eikenberry recently phrased it.      

This lack of coordination with respect to civilian assistance has hindered our overall effectiveness in Afghanistan and threatens to undermine our success moving forward.  By failing to fully account for the distribution of foreign assistance funding, we encourage waste, fuel corruption, and undermine our credibility in the region.

As you know, UNAMA, which plays an important role in Afghanistan, has been mandated by the UN Security Council to coordinate international civilian efforts in Afghanistan and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  However, due to security concerns, a lack of adequate resources and personnel, and unclear powers to compel coordination, UNAMA has not been able to provide the kind of support needed to effectively bring coherence to this complex and monumental effort.

We need an empowered civilian coordinator who will work with UNAMA, the international community and the Afghan central and sub-national government entities in order to compel coordination, maximize oversight, avoid duplication, report on progress, and provide transparency on all the various programs and aid packages being implemented on the ground.  This will inspire more confidence in the American and international public that their investments are worthwhile, and it can bring more credibility to our effort in the eyes of the Afghan people, who remain skeptical of widespread waste and corruption. 

Since 2001, the United States has appropriated nearly $50 billion in assistance funds to Afghanistan.  As policy-makers, we need to ensure that our significant investment is contributing to progress on the ground.  Also, as the largest single donor in Afghanistan, the United States has a responsibility to lead the international community in demanding more accountability, better coordination, and increased effectiveness among the international donors in Afghanistan. 

As the President has said, we need a military strategy that is worthy of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.  We need a coordinated and coherent civilian effort that does the same.

Thank you for your consideration, and thank you for your tireless service and support of our men and women working and sacrificing overseas.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Bob Corker (R-TN)

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