WASHINGTON, DC – US Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator Samantha Power has established a two-year pattern of dodging straightforward Congressional inquiries – both in-person during legislative hearings and in writing from dozens of legislators – regarding the lack of USAID programs in Artsakh, a troubling trend that was on display, once again, during her most recent appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Asked straightforward questions about the status of US aid for Artsakh by the panel’s chairman, Bob Menendez, Power – who has been in office two years – again deferred, refusing to answer his question or even meaningfully address the senator’s broader point, by saying, “I don’t have that figure off the top of my head.” Power took credit for conducting “two assessment missions to the region,” failing to note that these were only conducted belatedly as a result of a Congressional mandate spearheaded by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). Asked to provide the Foreign Relations Committee with these assessments, Power agreed.
“Clever dodges and mumbled deferrals don’t distract anyone from the fact that USAID – under President Biden and Administrator Power – has operated zero U.S. humanitarian assistance programs in Artsakh,” said ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian. “After countless Congressional inquiries during its two years in office, it is all too clear that they lack the will to help Artsakh, the strength to stand up to Azerbaijan, or the courage to take ownership of this deeply flawed policy.”
In his opening remarks at the April 26th Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Chairman Menendez complained that at times USAID’s response to crises is “slower than molasses,” noting, “Case in point: The humanitarian crisis for Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh is only getting worse. Where are we? Why aren’t we airlifting humanitarian supplies to those Armenians facing blockade? We need to respond to events quickly and we also need to address root causes.”
With strong support from the ANCA, Congresswoman Lee was successful late last year in including language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L.117-103) directing that the US Department of State and US Agency for International Development provide Congress with an “assistance strategy for addressing humanitarian and recovery needs arising from the [Artsakh] conflict” that identifies the US “resources and programs,” available for this purpose. The Artsakh provision included a 60-day timeline for the Biden Administration to report back to Congress. The deadline to submit the assistance strategy was March 1st; Senate and House members have yet to gain access to the report.