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US House Readies Emergency Spending Bill for Iraq, Afghanistan


A key congressional committee has approved President Bush's request for more than $80 billion for military and other needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The legislation also includes money for key nations in the war on terrorism.

Although lawmakers have differences over Iraq and aspects of the war on terrorism, the emergency spending bill is supported by opposition Democrats and Republicans because it funds urgently needed items for U.S. troops.

President Bush originally sought just under $82 billion in his supplemental request. Most of this, $76.8 billion, goes for troop-related requirements including military equipment, and needs in Afghanistan ranging from counter-narcotics to reconstruction.

The House Appropriations Committee added $1.8 billion to the president's request for body armor and modifications and replacement of "Humvees" and other fighting vehicles, and for radios, night-vision goggles and equipment to jam roadside bombs.

Lawmakers determined that money for construction of a new U.S. Embassy and diplomatic compound in Baghdad, just under $600 million, will be included as a priority because of the threat to Americans there.

On foreign aid, the legislation includes $1.7 billion, most of which is earmarked for Afghanistan.

Counter-narcotics programs would get $594 million, $400 million of which is for training Afghan police, and the rest for programs to reduce opium cultivation.

Another $372 million is designated for urgent health, reconstruction and other projects, with an additional slightly larger amount supporting economic, non-security reconstruction.

Lawmakers did not include another $616 million for other projects in Afghanistan, saying these should be considered in the main 2006 budget process. They also reduced funds for international peacekeeping missions, and two other foreign aid programs.

In the Middle East and South Asia, the legislation includes $100 million for Jordan, and $150 million for Pakistan.

Two-hundred million dollars originally going directly to the Palestinian Authority will be channeled instead through the U.S. Agency for International Development, with strict auditing requirements.

Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe says U.S. foreign aid is an investment in the future.

"We must not look back 20 years from now and confront the knowledge that when faced with the opportunities of a Taleban-free Afghan government, of democracy-oriented government in the Ukraine, a Middle East craving freedom and representative government, we hesitated and left the democratic forces we unleashed adrift with only meager means and U.S. influence," he said.

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., with support from other Democrats, succeeded in his effort to restore the amount in the bill for food aid for Sudan's western Darfur region to President Bush's original figure of $150 million.

The legislation also contains $656 million for disaster relief in countries devastated by last December's tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

Republican leaders plan to bring the Iraq/Afghanistan supplemental bill to a vote by the full House next week.

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