US House panel imposes limits on Pak aid

Washington: A key US Congressional committee has approved a defence spending bill that would impose limits on US aid to Pakistan, reflecting its frustration with Islamabad`s efforts in the war against terror.

The committee approved the allocation of USD 1.1 billion to Pakistan next year for its counter-insurgency operations under the bill, which would withhold three-fourth of this fund till the Obama administration reports to Congress on how it would spend the money.

This is the first major approval of Pakistan-related funding by the Congress after the killing of Osama bin Laden in a safe house near Islamabad.

The move reflects the changing mood of US lawmakers towards Pakistan as an increasing number of influential Congressmen are questioning the decision of the Obama Administration to give billions in aid to Pakistan as terrorist continue to operate in the country.

The Defence Appropriations Bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee by a voice vote yesterday says that the Congress will withhold 75 per cent of Pakistan Counter-insurgency Capability Funds until the Secretary of Defence provides a report to Congress on a strategy and metrics for the use of these funds, said a press statement issued by the House Appropriations Committee.

According to the Appropriations Bill, the Secretary of Defence also needs to provide to the Congress a listing of the terrorist or extremist organisations in Pakistan opposing US goals in the region and against which America encourages Pakistan to take action.

Metrics that will be used to track progress in achieving the US strategic objectives in Pakistan, to track progress of the Government of Pakistan in combating these terrorist organisations, it said.

The bill includes funding for critical national security needs, and provides the necessary resources to continue the nation`s military efforts abroad.

In addition, the bill provides essential funding for health and quality of life programmes for the men and women of the Armed Services and their families.

In total, the bill contains USD 530 billion in non-emergency funding, an increase of USD 17 billion over last year`s level.

In addition, the bill contains USD 119 billion in emergency spending for Defence activities related to the Global War on Terror.

"As our soldiers and Marines continue to put their lives on the line to eliminate terrorism and protect freedom around the globe, Congress must support and fund their actions in a timely and reasonable manner. This bill sustains our military readiness, facilitating the continued modernization and preservation of the greatest armed forces in the world," House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said.

"Although we are engaged in wars on several fronts, there is also a battle being waged at home ? against skyrocketing, dangerous deficits. No bill or department should be immune from scrutiny during these difficult financial times. This legislation identifies fiscally responsible savings ? savings that will in no way impair the safety of our troops, the success of our military missions, or our military readiness," he said.