US senate clears bill tripling aid to Pak

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the ‘Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Act of 2009’ (PEACE Act), already approved by the House of Representatives, proposing $1.5 billion per annum to Islamabad for the next five years by 16-0.

Unlike the House, it stopped short of imposing conditions on Pakistan with regard to action against Taliban and al-Qaeda, leaving it to the Obama administration to take a call on this as and when required.

However, amendment to the original text of the Kerry-Lugar bill, accepted by the Senate Committee during its Markup Hearing, said: “US security assistance earmarked for Pakistan should be focussed on counterinsurgency capabilities to defeat the Taliban insurgency and deny sanctuary to al-Qaeda and other extremists.”

The amendment in this regard was moved by Senator Tom Casey, who has been very critical of US aid to Pakistan. He moved three amendments, all of which were accepted by the Committee.

Senator Casey’s counterinsurgency amendment declares that the primary objective of security-related assistance to Pakistan should be to defeat the Taliban-backed insurgency. But unlike the House version of the Bill, it does not impose conditions on Pakistan in this regard.

His amendments also specify the need to facilitate political and legal reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan as one of the “uses of funds” spelled out in the legislation. The Committee, during its hearing, also accepted three amendments from Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat, who was very critical of the US aid and had entered into a verbal duel with Richard Holbrooke, Special US envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, who briefed the Committee last month.

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