US House committee approves $400 mn for Pakistan counterinsurgency

May 8th, 2009 - 10:38 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar

Washington, May 8 (IANS) A House of Representatives committee has approved $400 million for a new Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, but not before a key member expressed doubts about US strategies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The $400 million requested by the Obama administration for the fund to bolster efforts against the Taliban and extremist groups forms part of the 2009 Supplemental Bill funding ongoing US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and supporting economic and other needs in Pakistan.

At just over $94 billion, the measure exceeds President Barack Obama’s initial request by more than $9 billion. Of the total, $81.6 billion is for US military and intelligence operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than $4 billion goes to help expand and improve capabilities of Afghanistan’s security forces, with over $1.5 billion for development, agriculture and rule of law programmes.

The bill has provisions to expand US government oversight of aid to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It requires a presidential report to Congress on whether Afghanistan and Pakistan are demonstrating the necessary commitment, capability, conduct and unity of purpose to warrant the continuation of Obama’s strategy announced last March.

Before approving the budget, the Appropriations Committee’s Democratic chairman David Obey dismissed suggestions in media reports of differences with the White House but said he remains sceptical that a favourable outcome can be achieved either in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

The measure imposes neither conditions nor timetables, but requires Congress and the administration to assess progress, he said.

“These are not conditions, as I said, these are not timelines. It is simply a requirement for a hard nose (sharply realistic), and I would help fish or cut bait evaluation, but it is up to the administration and it is up to the Congress to evaluate the administration’s report at that time,” he said.

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