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BLITZER'S BLOG: Outrage – U.S. congressman not allowed into Afghanistan

Apr 25, 2012

Washington, Apr 25 - (CNN) – It’s shocking that a country that receives billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money can tell an American congressman that he’s not welcome to visit that country.

And it’s also shocking that the highest U.S. officials – and even fellow Members of Congress – would go along with this outrage.

But that’s exactly what happened when Afghan President Hamid Karzai made clear to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, a key member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, would not be allowed into Afghanistan.

Rohrabacher, the chairman of the Committee’s Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee, was already on a Congressional delegation in Dubai with five of his colleagues when he received a phone call from Secretary Clinton. She told him that Karzai didn’t want him to enter the country. Rohrabacher has been an outspoken critic of Karzai’s policies, including the wide-spread corruption in Afghanistan.

Instead of telling Karzai and his government that that was unacceptable, Secretary Clinton urged Rohrabacher not to join his colleagues on the U.S. military flight to Kabul. Rohrabacher says she clearly wanted to avoid a diplomatic crisis. He reluctantly agreed to stay behind.

The State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, told reporters today: “We were advised, as Congressman Rohrabacher made clear, that the sovereign government didn’t think this visit was timely. So it’s in that context that he made his decision after our request.”

U.S. taxpayers are spending some $2 billion a week – more than $100 billion a year – maintaining 90,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and providing economic development assistance. Many of those troops will remain there until the end of 2014. Thousands of American lives have been lost over the past decade in an effort to promote democracy in that country.

That explains why I was stunned to hear that Karzai would have the nerve to tell a democratically-elected Member of Congress that he could not enter Afghanistan.

That explains why I was also stunned to hear that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would go along with this demand.

And that explains why I was further stunned to hear that five Members of Congress – Republican Louis Gohmert of Texas, Republican Michael Burgess of Texas, Republican John Carter of Texas, Republican Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Madeleine Bordallo, the Democratic Delegate from Guam – didn’t cancel their trip to express their outrage.

I called Representative Bachmann. She noted that the incident occurred at a very sensitive moment in the U.S.-Afghan negotiations for a long-term post-2014 security agreement. She noted that Rohrabacher himself didn’t want to disrupt those negotiations, and graciously urged the Members to continue the trip without him.

The delegation flew from Dubai to Kabul and met with American troops, the U.S. ambassador, the U.S. commanding general, and various Afghan officials, including members of the Northern Alliance who oppose Karzai. The Congressional delegation was not invited to meet with the Afghan President.

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