August 7-13, 2002
The United States is the world power whether citizens like it or not, said U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) at the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s first public policy discussion, which took place Monday at George Washington University in Ashburn.
“There are people out there who want to hurt the U.S.,” Wolf said. “The war on terrorism … it is not over. … We need to keep our guard up and be very vigilant.”
Wolf listed recent bills passed by the U.S. House of Representatives before focusing on his visit to Afghanistan, where he wanted to assess the situation of the 10-month counter-offensive against terrorism. Wolf has oversight of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and travels worldwide on human rights issues.
In January, Wolf and U.S. Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) and former U.S. Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio) led the first Congressional delegation to Afghanistan. They were the first congressmen to make the visit since the fall of the Taliban, the terrorist group that seized power in the mid-1990s following the Russian pull-out.
“The American people seem to be forgetting we’re at war,” Wolf said.
WOLF SHOWED a film about his visits to a hospital, school and orphanage in Kabul during his Jan. 2-10 visit to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the American Embassy. Considered Afghanistan’s best facility, the Indira Ghandhi Pediatric Hospital does not have food for the sick and keeps the children in close quarters. Dorkhanai High School, an all-girls school, lacked desks and lunch tables, requiring the girls to sit on the floor.
“The Taliban essentially controlled society,” said Dan Scandling, spokesperson for Wolf.
During Taliban rule, women could not attend school and were required to wear burqua, television was not allowed and a strict reading of the Koran was enforced. “If we walk away from Afghanistan, it will fall back into the same situation it was in before,” Scandling said.
Wolf mentioned continuing problems of malnutrition, a shortage of food, a scarcity of jobs and a lack of infrastructure and a civil society. “The word 'nation-building' is not important in Afghanistan,” he said. “If we don’t stay involved in Afghanistan, it will go back to being a country of terror … and drugs. … We’re going to have to do more to strengthen the existing government. If we do it for them, then you get a dependency.”
Wolf talked about the Congressional response to the war effort, including the House’s passage of the Homeland Security Bill. The bill, which the House passed July 25, will consolidate federal agencies that deal with security into a Department of Homeland Security if the Senate also passes the bill.
“We are better off today and better prepared than we were,” Wolf said. “The world is still a dangerous place.”
THE CHAMBER plans to host three additional public policy discussions this year and continue the program next year. The discussions will cover federal, state and local governmental issues that are important to the county. The Chamber plans to invite county and school officials to speak on local issues.
“Public policy is a big part of what the Chamber does,” said Randy Collins, Chamber president. “We want to bring [government officials] here to make sure the business community knows they’re accessible.”
The Chamber aims to find new ways to provide its 1,200 members with information on important issues, such as homeland defense, transportation issues and corporate responsibility, said Louis Matrone, second vice-chair of the Chamber’s board of directors. “Timing is everything,” he said. “It’s important to talk about things in Loudoun County.”
Nearly 30 people attended the first public policy discussion.