Senators Seek Analysis of U.S. Aid to Pakistan
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2008 The Senate Armed Services Committee today requested a report on the effectiveness of U.S.-funded Pakistani operations against an insurgency spreading along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Senators appealed to the Pentagon’s top civilian and military officials for further analysis of the military aid during a hearing today, which convened a day after the top U.S. intelligence official described Pakistan as facing an existential crisis due to a spike in deadly terrorist attacks over the past year.
Appearing before the panel today, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates echoed concerns that Director of National Intelligence John M. (Mike) McConnell expressed yesterday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“I think it’s a fairly recent development and probably (was) brought home most vividly to them by the assassination of Mrs. Bhutto, that this is a serious threat,” Gates said, referring to the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto following a Dec. 27 political rally.
Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed asked Gates if he agrees with McConnell’s assessment that al Qaeda, using Pakistan’s federally administrated tribal areas as a safe haven, is growing in its capacity to attack regional U.S. forces.
“I think that (he) is correct in saying that al Qaeda is taking advantage of the safe havens on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border to expand and train for attacks,” the secretary said. “There’s clearly no doubt that they have the intent of attacking the United States, and frankly, I think that’s one of the reasons why you’re seeing a major push of equipment (into Pakistan) over the next 24 months.”
According to a Dec. 24 New York Times article, Pakistan’s military relies on Washington for roughly a quarter of its entire $4 billion budget. But much of the funding appropriated to bolster the Pakistani military’s efforts against al Qaeda and Taliban extremists is being misused, the article alleges.
Gates told the senators that U.S. military aid has supported some 90 Pakistani army operations and allows about 100,000 troops to be positioned in Pakistan’s northwest region. “Based on the information available to me, … I think they are (using U.S. funds appropriately),” he said, disputing allegations made by anonymous sources quoted in the Times article.
Describing the funding process, Gates said Pakistanis must first gain validation from the U.S. embassy in Islamabad that an operation supports U.S. military and security objectives. Subsequently, U.S. Central Command validates its military legitimacy and cost before the Defense Department provides final authorization.
The committee agreed with the secretary’s suggestion that Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command, prepare a report on the U.S. investment in Pakistan’s army. Senators asked that Fallon prepare the findings before his expected appearance before the panel in March.
Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told senators their request is timely, given that threats emanating from Pakistan are “expanding and turning inward.” The chairman said he has had specific conversations with Fallon on the effectiveness of U.S.-subsidized Pakistani operations, noting to the panel the importance of continued financial support.
“We think generally (that funding) has flown in the right direction,” Mullen said. “I would hope we would have answers down the road that could put your concerns at ease.”
During yesterday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency raised doubts about Pakistani current operations against extremists along the Afghanistan border. He noted that incorporating nonmilitary approaches would improve efforts overall.
“Pakistani military operations in the federally administrated tribal areas have had limited effect on al Qaeda,” Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples said. “However, Pakistan recognizes the threat and realizes the need to develop more effective counterinsurgency capabilities to complement their conventional military.”