The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Monday he will hold up some foreign aid payments to Afghanistan — including $75 million intended to assist with electoral programs — until the Obama administration discloses more information about reported cash payments to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah informing them that the administration's lack of response to his previous inquiries on the matter left him no choice but to place a hold on payments to nations receiving American diplomatic assistance.
"This hold will remain in place until such time as I receive sufficient information on these matters and sufficient assurances that there is a process in place to ensure our policy towards governance in Afghanistan is coherent and supports our national interests," Corker announced.
According to a January Congressional Research Service report, "Congressional holds on foreign aid are not legally binding on the executive branch. However, since the late 1970s/early 1980s, successive Administrations have generally deferred to holds placed by Members of pertinent committees."
Assuming the Obama administration adheres to that tradition, it would not obligate the Afghan aid until Corker's concerns are addressed.
Corker's full letter reads as follows:
June 17, 2013
Secretary John F. Kerry Department of State 2201 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20520
Administrator Rajiv Shah United States Agency for International Development 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20523
Dear Secretary Kerry and Administrator Shah:
In recent months, I have repeatedly communicated directly to President Obama my concerns regarding alleged cash payments by the U.S. government to President Karzai of Afghanistan. Specifically, I highlighted the incoherence of a policy that at once seeks to root out corruption and establish the rule of law, while at the same time funneling secret cash payments to the president.
As a matter of oversight of U.S. foreign policy operations, I have repeatedly requested briefings and additional information on the nature and effect of this policy, classified and unclassified, as appropriate. The administration’s lack of any response to these requests, its apparent decision to flout the Foreign Relations Committee’s oversight, and its inability (or unwillingness) to explain such a policy is unacceptable. As a consequence, I have determined that the further commitment of taxpayer funds at this time toward such an incoherent governance strategy would not be in our national interest, and I am placing a formal hold on Congressional Notification 65, relating to USAID programs in Afghanistan. Specifically, the hold pertains to $75 million intended for electoral programs in Afghanistan.
This hold will remain in place until such time as I receive sufficient information on these matters and sufficient assurances that there is a process in place to ensure our policy towards governance in Afghanistan is coherent and supports our national interests.
Senator Bob Corker
cc: Mr. Tom Donilon, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs