On the same day that the U.S. House expressed its disapproval of sending more troops to Iraq, the White House asked lawmakers to approve additional money for Iraq's economic recovery. A House subcommittee hearing the request voiced skepticism not only about supplemental appropriations, but also the Bush administration's management of the war. VOA's Peter Fedynsky has more.
During opening remarks at a Capitol Hill hearing Friday, the chair of the House Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, Congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York, expressed "grave misgivings" about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She directed her remarks at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"The war in Iraq was ill-conceived, poorly planned, and incompetently executed, and we are now mired in an ethnic and religious civil war which threatens to destabilize not only Iraq, but the entire region," said the congresswoman.
The senior minority member on the subcommittee, Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia, initiated the law that created the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. That group's recommendations for Iraq include U.S. diplomatic engagement of Syria and Iraq. Congressman Wolf noted that diplomacy should be a sign of national self-confidence and asked Secretary Rice why the administration is not talking to Syria and Iran.
"We don't have an ideological problem with talking to Syria. It's just a question of whether the talk is actually going to produce anything," she replied.
"One never knows until one tries," responded Congressman Wolf.
Regarding Iran, Secretary Rice tied possible talks to the U.N.'s demands that Tehran suspend its nuclear program. "I want to renew the request to Iran: Suspend your enrichment and reprocessing activities as is required by the resolutions and I'll meet anywhere, any time, anyplace with my counterparts to talk about any issue that Iran wishes to talk about."
The subcommittee also reviewed the war against Taleban terrorists being waged in Afghanistan. Congressman Jerry Lewis of California noted that terrorists are funding their activities by selling narcotics produced by the opium poppy.
Secretary Rice said funds are needed to encourage planting of substitute crops. "One of the problems that Afghanistan has is that poppy is actually something that doesn't spoil, whereas many of the crops that you would substitute do. And without a road network and a developed economy for agriculture, it's difficult to do that. So there's a saying that the Taleban begins where the road ends. And we are trying very hard to increase Afghanistan's road network."
The State Department's supplemental request totals $6 billion for economic development in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia and Kosovo. More than half of that sum is for Iraqi reconstruction. Additional hearings are expected before lawmakers vote to approve or reject the added appropriations.