WASHINGTON (CN) – U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told lawmakers Wednesday that the leak of 92,000 war documents by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks on Sunday was “pretty appalling,” but said that the material revealed nothing that would impact the Obama administration’s approach to the war.
“There is nothing in these documents…that should change anyone’s judgment about the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Holbrooke said in a House appropriations subcommittee hearing. “We have confronted these issues for a long time,” he said.
The leaked material suggested that intelligence officials in U.S. allied-Pakistan had been supporting al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
In a hearing accounting for U.S. funds dedicated to the civilian front of the war, the leak heightened lawmakers’ concerns about whether Afghanistan was a “reliable partner.”
“For many months, [Afghan] President Karzai has been saying the right things, but has he been taking the…right actions?” Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., asked.
Holbrooke assured her that the administration was working to ferret out corruption in the both Afghan government and the greater war effort.
He said that from the moment Obama took office, administration officials knew that corruption was “a malignancy that could destroy everything else we were doing.”
Holbrooke said there were currently 169 investigators from the State Department, the Justice Department and other agencies working on 36 active corruption cases related to the war.
He pointed to an anticorruption unit established in April 2009 and an additional corruption task force created in 2010.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to create a task force spotlight in 2010 after we have been there since 2002,” Lowey said.
“Actually, Miss Chairwoman,” Holbrooke said, “you just made the point I was going to make.”
He said, “Is this enough, of course not. Is it a start? It is….I wouldn’t be in this job if I thought it was impossible to succeed.”
USAID head Dr. Rajiv Shah assured the committee that his agency was engaged in active oversight of aid programs in the region.
Shah said USAID had 500 people tracking program activities and thousands of contractors on the ground talking to communities who have received U.S. funds.
“You’ve lost me in terms of the viability of this mission,” said Rep. James Moran, D-Va., told the panelists.
“The civilian mission is absolutely indispensable,” Holbrooke said, “because this is not a war of only military fronts.”
Holbrooke and Shah emphasized that creating long-term economic viability in Afghanistan was key to the United States’ success. Economic investments in the country would help “sustain governance,” Shah said.
“What we need to do is help them establish themselves,” Holbrooke said.
Shah cited an example of an USAID project that had helped increase agricultural productivity by 40 percent in one year, though he acknowledged that rainfall may have contributed.
And U.S. economic involvement will not end soon, Shah and Holbrooke said.
Holbrooke said that the troop drawdown scheduled to begin next July “does not mean the end of international support of Afghanistan,” arguing that the country would still need U.S. economic support for a long time to come.