By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
April 10, 2009 - President Barack Obama yesterday forwarded the White House's $83.4-billion war supplemental appropriations request to the U.S. House of Representatives. "We face a security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan that demands urgent attention," Obama stated in a letter addressed to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "The Taliban is resurgent, and al-Qaida threatens America from its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border."
Most of the funds contained in the fiscal 2009 supplemental request, Obama stated, are earmarked for anti-extremist operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. The supplemental funding request will be reviewed and voted on by U.S. legislators in the House and Senate.
"Nearly 95 percent of these funds," Obama wrote, "will be used to support our men and women in uniform as they help the people of Iraq to take responsibility for their own future – and work to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan."
The remainder of the supplemental money, Obama stated, will be used to fund "a variety of defense and international efforts that will help to use all the elements of our power to confront the threats to our security – from securing loose nuclear weapons to combating fear and want under repressive regimes."
Violence in Iraq has been greatly reduced, Obama said, due to the efforts of U.S. troops and the Iraqi people's resolve to establish a peaceful society.
"The threat of terrorism in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow," Obama wrote. "Iraqis are prepared to take responsibility for their own future through a peaceful political process." Because of this, the president noted, the United States now is involved in a responsible drawdown of its combat forces from Iraq, while concurrently transferring security tasks to Iraq's military and constabulary.
The supplemental funds also will contribute to creating political and economic stability in Iraq through governance, reconstruction and humanitarian relief programs, Obama stated in the letter.
In his letter, Obama praised the resolve and accomplishments of America's military men and women during the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Yet, in Afghanistan, that resolve has not been matched by a comprehensive strategy and sufficient resources," Obama noted in his letter. "This funding request will ensure that the full force of the United States – our military, intelligence, diplomatic, and economic power – are engaged in an overall effort to defeat al-Qaida and uproot the safe haven from which it plans and trains for attacks on the homeland and on our allies."
At the same time, Obama continued, the supplemental funds also will be used to "employ the necessary civilian resources to build Afghan governance capacity and self-sufficiency."
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Obama wrote, Congress has passed 17 separate emergency supplemental funding bills totaling $822.1 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama stated that this would be the last planned war-funding supplemental request to finance the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We must break that recent tradition [of supplemental funding] and include future military costs in the regular budget so that we have an honest, more accurate, and fiscally responsible estimate of federal spending," Obama wrote. "And we should not label military costs as emergency funds so as to avoid our responsibility to abide by the spending limitations set forth by Congress."
The supplemental appropriations request assigns $75.5 billion to support U.S. military and intelligence community activities in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an Office of Management and Budget news release issued yesterday.
Billions in other funding contained in the supplemental is earmarked for diplomatic and foreign-assistance initiatives in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, as well as to help fund some United Nations peacekeeping efforts in Africa.
Nearly $90 million of the supplemental request is assigned to the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration to safeguard nuclear material in Russia and other sites worldwide and to work toward disabling and dismantling North Korea's plutonium program.
Yesterday at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates were joined by Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Australian Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon for security discussions. Afterward, Gates and the other senior leaders spoke with reporters about the president's new international strategy to combat global extremism, including ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
"I believe that there is very broad bipartisan support in the Congress for the decisions the president has made with respect to both Iraq and Afghanistan," Gates told reporters.
If Congress does not approve the supplemental appropriations request, Gates said, the result would be "a sudden and precipitous withdrawal" of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.
"And I don't know anybody who thinks that's a good idea," Gates said. "The reality is it would put everything we have achieved in Iraq at tremendous risk, and it would, I believe, greatly endanger our troops, some kind of a precipitous withdrawal.
"So I think the kind of timetable that the president has laid out in Iraq, I think the approach that he has taken in Afghanistan not only are the right ones, but I think they have very broad support," Gates continued. "And all I can say is that I hope on behalf of both Secretary Clinton and myself that the Congress acts on the supplemental as quickly as possible."