Washington, DC - The House of Representatives today overwhelmingly approved legislation by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) providing more funding for development, economic and security assistance programs in Afghanistan for the next three years and establishing a coordinator to tackle the growing threat of narcotics.

By a vote of 406 to 10, the House passed the Afghanistan Freedom and Security Support Act (H.R. 2446), which renews a 2002 Afghanistan authorization and provides additional support for programs as diverse as assistance to women and girls, energy development and counter-narcotics. It authorizes $6.4 billion for fiscal years 2008 through 2010, of which $2.1 billion is authorized to be spent in fiscal year 2008.

The bill requires the President to set out an enhanced strategy with specific and measurable reconstruction, counter-narcotics and security goals for Afghanistan and to submit a report to Congress describing a large range of political, economic, development, security, and counter-narcotics performance goals and progress. It also mandates a cutoff of U.S. assistance to local or provincial governments where there is credible evidence that officials have links to terrorist activities or the drug trade.

In addition, the legislation requires the appointment of a coordinator with authority to work across all U.S. government departments and agencies. The legislation paves the way for Pentagon assistance to counter-narcotics programs in Afghanistan operated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and emphasizes the importance of targeting “sensitive sites” which harbor major drug kingpins and narcotics processing labs.

“The United States will not let Afghanistan fail,” Lantos said. “The world is watching us to see whether we have the resolve to fight the terrorist forces threatening Afghanistan, and help maintain that country's security and stability. Every schoolhouse door in Afghanistan is a threshold to stopping terrorism. Every new power line in Afghanistan is a frontline in the war on terror. Every farm in Afghanistan used for legitimate crops instead of opium poppies is fertile ground for peace. We ought to look at funding Afghanistan as both good foreign policy and good domestic policy. Every dollar we invest now translates into lives and dollars we save in the future - both in Afghanistan and in the United States.”

Ros-Lehtinen said, “This legislation demonstrates that broad agreement exists in Congress that the danger we face in Afghanistan is inseparably linked to the security of the American people. It was in Afghanistan that the attacks on our country on 9/11 were planned and directed. It was there that the Taliban regime embraced and protected the murderers and celebrated their deeds. It is there that those same enemies are determined to reestablish that safe haven so that they can intensify their war against us. Among their greatest weapons in that effort are the profits from the drug trade. It is the drug trade that allows our enemies in Afghanistan to purchase the weapons with which they kill our soldiers and corrupt the Afghan government. This legislation will ensure that those who bear the great responsibility for our efforts in Afghanistan will have the resources necessary to triumph there and thereby seeks to ensure that never again will a 9/11 be launched against us from that far-away country.”