- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 17, 2013

President Obama’s plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan is “strategically risky and threatens to plunge” the region back into a safe haven for terrorists, a top House Republican said as he announced plans for a congressional hearing this week.

Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio has invited security specialists to testify at a joint hearing of his House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific and the subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, chaired by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican.

“U.S. national security interests in South Asia are both dire and immediate,” Mr. Chabot said. “The 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan is strategically risky and threatens to plunge Afghanistan into a state in which terrorist will once again thrive.”

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen added: “We must do everything we can to prevent al Qaeda, the Taliban and other extremist militants from taking over and undoing the efforts and sacrifices made by the U.S. and our allies for over a decade.”

The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the Taliban regime continued to shelter Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network following the attacks on the United States.

The hearing, which begins at 1 p.m. Tuesday, is part of a busy week of committee action before Congress leaves Washington for its two-week spring break.

Rep. Ed Royce, California Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday on the U.S. response to the crisis in Syria with Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador in Damascus, and other officials.

At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, will convene his subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade to examine the growing threat from the Iranian-back Hezbollah extremists in Lebanon.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, will focus on the threat of computer attacks against the United States when he opens a hearing of his subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and emerging threats on Thursday at 9 a.m.

His star witness will be Richard Bejtlich, chief security officer of Mandiant Corp., which released a major report last month about Chinese army cyberattacks on U.S. targets.

All of the hearings are scheduled for Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

Sebastian Elischer of the German Institute of Global and Area Studies and Farid Esack of South Africa’s University of Johannesburg.

They discuss Islam in Africa in a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Tuesday

Genaro Ariagada, a former Chilean ambassador to the United States, and Sergio Bitar, a former Chilean senator who has headed three Cabinet ministries.

They address the Inter-American Dialogue about the future of Venezuela after the death of Hugo Chavez.

Wednesday

Bulent Aras, chairman of the Center for Strategic Research at the Turkish Foreign Ministry. He addresses the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars about the foreign policy of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

A delegation from the Nigerian legislature: Abike Dabiri, chairwoman of the House Committee on Diaspora Affairs; Uche Ekwenife, chairwoman of the House Committee on Environment; Victor Lar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Anti-Corruption; Rafeequat Arinola Onabamiro, vice chairwoman of the Committee on Women in Parliament; Arabo Yakubu Simon, a member of the House Committee on Aids, Loans and Debt Management. They discuss efforts to combat corruption and better manage Nigeria’s oil and other natural resources in a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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