Kabul's K Street Project

Kabul's K Street Project
Afghanistan's US ambassador knows that influence comes with a steep price tag in DC. Read his confidential memo pleading for more lobbyists
Mother Jones, June 9, 2009

Help! I'm being outgunned on K Street! That's the message Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States is sending home, according to an internal government memo (PDF) obtained by Mother Jones. His complaint signals that Kabul's man in Washington has learned a fundamental lesson about influence in the nation's capital: With few paid lobbyists to push Afghanistan's agenda, the void is being filled by other regional players, like Pakistan and India, both of which spend millions of dollars each year to ensure that they're heard in Washington's corridors of power.

In his memo to Afghanistan's finance minister, Omar Zakhiwal, which is dated April 21 and marked "confidential," Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad surveys the competition. Pakistan, he writes, employs nine American lobbying firms, including two "that alone represent and promote President Asif Ali Zardari's interests in Washington." According to the ambassador's missive, these include Locke Lord Strategies-LP, which since May 2008 has been on retainer from the Pakistan government for more than $100,000 per month, and JWT Asiatic and Hill & Knowlton, which together collect a monthly payment exceeding $100,000. All told, according to Jawad's estimate, Islamabad spent at least $3 million on Washington lobbyists in 2008 alone. Explaining how he has been outspent, he cites a January 2009 report in the Washington Post stating that India's lobbyists successfully persuaded the Obama administration to remove Kashmir from Richard Holbrooke's portfolio as the White House's special adviser on Pakistan and Afghanistan. In hopes his government might learn from the example, Jawad suggests that Kabul needs "to give serious consideration to allocating financial resources an on annual basis so that—like Pakistan and India and so many other countries—we are also able to effect pro-Afghanistan policy and legislation in Washington."

To see the original Memo, click here
For complete article, click here


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