Tuesday, May 05, 2009

No blank cheque for Pakistan; US Congress adds strings to trebled American aid

Comment / Analysis / May 5, 2009

So, for all the bluff and bluster of his Administration, US President Barack Hussein Obama, who wants to treble American military and civilian aid to Pakistan as a ‘reward’ for Washington’s ‘frontline ally’ in the war on terror, has not been able to have his way. He wanted to write out a $ 1.5 billion cheque without any strings attached; lawmakers on the Hill said nothing doing. His Administration argued that tying down American aid to Pakistan delivering on its many (all unkept) promises of taking on the Taliban and Al Qaeda would rob the President of “flexibility”! What they meant was Mr Obama would not be able to hand out money for nothing. Well, he can’t. And there’s no dole waiting for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has he reaches Washington, DC, for what is bound to be no more than yet another photo-op.

A PTI report provides interesting details of the conditionalities being attached to the new aid package:

Lalit K Jha

The Kerry-Lugar Bill, which triples the United States' civilian aid to Pakistan to $ 1.5 billion per annum for next five years, does not offer a blank check to Islamabad, as was being sought by the establishment in the nuclear-armed country.
The Bill, introduced in the US Senate on Monday, May 4, subjects US security assistance to a "certification" that the Pakistani government is using the money to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda. An identical Bill has already been introduced in the House of Representatives.
"While our Bill envisions sustained economic and political cooperation with Pakistan, it is not a blank check. It expects that the military institutions in Pakistan will turn their attention to the extremist dangers within Pakistan's borders," Republican Senator Richard Lugar said on the Senate Floor while introducing the Bill.
A Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar said the Bill calls for tangible progress in governance, including an independent judiciary, greater accountability by the Federal Government, respect for human rights, and civilian control of the levers of power, including the military and the intelligence agencies.
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator John Kerry is other co-sponsor of the bill, which has the backing of the Obama Administration.
"Once money begins to flow, the Administration must report every six months on how the money is spent and what impact it is having," Lugar said. "In addition, the Bill provides that before the Administration spends more than half of the $ 1.5 billion authorised in any fiscal year, it must certify that the assistance provided to that date is making substantial progress toward the principal objectives contained in the Administration's strategy report," he said.
"We also have asked the Government Accountability Office to review annually the Administration's progress on stated goals. To ensure that sufficient resources will be available to oversee our programmes in Pakistan, we authorise $ 20 million each year for audits and programe reviews by the Inspectors-General of the State Department, USAID, and other relevant agencies," the Senator said.
Under Kerry-Lugar, economic assistance is no longer the poor cousin to military aid. Rather than locking in a level of such aid which might not be in line with rapidly- changing Pakistani capabilities and commitment, the bill leaves the level of security aid to be determined on a year-by-year basis.
It conditions military assistance on certification that the Pakistani security forces are making concerted efforts to prevent Al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups from operating in the territory of Pakistan, making concerted efforts to prevent the Taliban from using the territory of Pakistan as a sanctuary from which to launch attacks within Afghanistan; and are not materially interfering in the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.

Left with no option, on Tuesday the White House said US President Barack Hussein Obama supports the lawmakers' calls for accountability measures for the American aid to Pakistan. "The President supports the building in of accountability measures to ensure that we're making progress, and that if progress isn't made, then we'll readjust our strategy," the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at his daily Press briefing yesterday.
"He said that in ordering and conducting the review of our strategy in this region, and in the delivery of that review just a little while ago," he said, referring to the statements made by Obama that "there shouldn't and there wouldn't be blank cheques".
Obama would be meeting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, at the White House on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, according to the US Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, the US has invested about $ 100 million in helping Pakistan secure its nuclear weapons!

The US Administration is either frightfully naïve or utterly stupid!

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