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    $6.2b for Afghan forces in US defense bill

    WASHINGTON (PAN): Two key Congress committees on Monday reached a deal on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2014, approving $6.2 billion for Afghan forces, $1.5 billion less than the budget request.    

    The compromise measure totals $632.8 billion, including funds for military pay, ships and planes, and $80.7 billion for overseas operations such as the war in Afghanistan.

    The cut in funds for Afghan forces to build their capacity for taking over security nationwide by December 2014 is based on a request made by US and coalition forces commander in Afghanistan, the Senate Armed Services Committee said.

    The deal between Senate members on the Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee came after days of tough negotiations between the two sides.

    The NDAA 2014 now goes to both the House of Representatives and the Senate for approval, before it is signed into law by the US President.

    The $6.2 billion budget for Afghan forces includes id="mce_marker".1 billion for key enabling capabilities, which provides Afghan security forces the capabilities needed to take full security responsibility throughout Afghanistan by December 2014.

    It also requires that $25.0 million for Afghan forces be available to be used for programs to support the recruitment, retention, integration, training, and treatment of women in Afghan security forces, including increased hiring of female security personnel in connection with upcoming Afghan elections.

    Besides enhancing the capability of the US armed forces to support ANSF and Afghan Local Police as the lead responsibility for security throughout Afghanistan’s transition to the ANSF, the NDAA-2014 also seeks to enhance the capability of the US armed forces and the security forces of allied and friendly nations to defeat al Qaeda, its affiliates, and other violent extremist organizations.

    It extends or modifies a number of authorities relating to the conflict in Afghanistan, including authorizing up to $60.0 million for the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program for commanders to support humanitarian projects and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

    The bill authorizes the use of DOD funds to support a program to reintegrate Taliban fighters into Afghan society; and also authorizing up to $250.0 million, a reduction of $29 million from the budget request, to support the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund, which supports electrification, irrigation, road, and other large-scale infrastructure projects that support the counterinsurgency campaign and help protect American troops.

    It also authorizes $63.8 million for the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations to support economic assistance programs that support the civil-military campaign in Afghanistan.   

    It includes a sense of Congress that prior to publicly announcing a decision on the US force presence in Afghanistan for post-2014, the President should consult with Congress on the size, mission, and estimated duration of that mission.

    It includes a statement of US policy that any political settlement resulting from peace talks in Afghanistan should result in insurgent groups breaking ties with al Qaeda, renouncing violence, and accepting the Afghanistan constitution, including its protections for women and minorities.

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