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Afghan Ambassador Seeks More Lobbyists

Mother Jones’ Bruce Falconer has a great story about a memo that Said Jawad, the Afghan ambassador to the U.S., sent in April to Kabul pleading for more money to hire lobbyists, lest Afghanistan’s interests suffer from the glut of lobbyists hired by Pakistan and India. According to Jawad’s estimates in the memo, Pakistan spends roughly $250,000 per month on lobbying in Washington, and he proposes that the Afghan Finance Ministry devote to him “at least roughly one tenth of what Pakistan spends on lobbying in Washington every year,” which would put the Afghan embassy’s lobbying expenditures in the neighborhood of $300,000 annually. Has the memo had any effect?

No, he said, adding that Kabul “doesn’t know exactly how Washington operates. … They ask, ‘Is this legal, to buy influence?’ Yes, everybody’s doing it!” Jawad told me that he doesn’t even have enough money to properly entertain embassy guests. “People like you,” he said. “If you are interested, I can give you a book on Afghanistan, but nothing else.”

Deja vu! Jawad generously gave me Bijan Omrani and Matthew Leeming’s “Afghanistan: A Companion And Guide” ahead of my trip there last year.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the memo, which Jawad wrote ahead of the second round of U.S.-Pakistan-Afghanistan trilateral talks in early May, is the surprising assessment that Afghanistan doesn’t have sufficient juice in Washington after seven years of war and an administration that came into office vowing a new focus on the beleaguered country.

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