White House, Congress at loggerheads over unrestricted aid to Pak

April 30th, 2009 - 2:03 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr.30 (ANI): The Obama administration is attempting to head off efforts in Congress to place tough conditions on the multi-billion dollar assistance package it is seeking for Pakistan.

According to Politico, senior Pentagon officials told lawmakers yesterday that conditions being proposed by both Democrats and Republican in Congress could “severely constrain” the U.S. strategy for Pakistan.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yesterday sent a letter laying out their “strong concerns” about legislation authorizing an additional 1.5 billion dollars a year for Pakistan introduced by Rep. Howard Berman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

But in a statement replying to Gates and Mullen, Berman played down the conditions in his bill.

“I get the impression that those criticizing my bill haven’t actually read it. It doesn’t include any ‘rigid’ or ‘inflexible’ conditions. We are simply asking the President to hold the Pakistanis accountable for their commitments to fight the terrorists who threaten their and our national security,” said Berman.

A similar measure is under consideration in the Senate.

The issue of conditioning aid to Pakistan has the potential to turn into a difficult fight for the White House, because many of those leading the fight to impose restrictions on aid are some of the administration’s closest allies on other issues.

As supportive as these lawmakers normally are, many have lost patience with Pakistan, which has received billions in U.S, aid since 2001 but remains a haven for al Qaeda. Administration officials have the same concerns about Pakistan’s commitment to fighting the insurgency it faces, but they argue that the congressional efforts to restrict aid is too blunt an approach. (ANI)

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