US Senate approves defence funds for Pakistan

WASHINGTON: The US Senate has approved a measure which 550px-Tail_wings_of_Pakistani_army's_Puma_330smay lead to the clearance of $1.3 billion of outstanding defence bills for Pakistan and will also enable Islamabad to received additional $700 million from the counter-insurgency fund.

The measure was approved with a $680 billion US defence budget for 2009-10, which includes counter-insurgency and coalition support funds for Pakistan, Afghanistan, Jordan and some other countries.

The measure was approved without any new condition on Pakistan; although the Indian lobby on Capitol Hill campaigned hard for new restrictions, arguing that in the past Islamabad had used US assistance for building its defence capability against India.

The coalition support fund is used to reimburse Pakistan’s costs for fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents along the Afghan border. So far Pakistan has outstanding claims of $1.3 billion for the period ending in April 2009.

The congressional approval will expedite the reimbursement. Although the Senate also approved a bipartisan amendment moved by Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Bob Corker, it includes no new conditions.

It does require a certification by the secretaries of state and defence, saying that paying Islamabad from the coalition support fund is in US national interests and the fund will be used for fighting the insurgents.

But such certification is also mandated in the Kerry-Lugar bill for tripling US aid to Pakistan passed earlier.

‘The fight against these extremists is crucial for our own security, which is why we have to certify that our support is in fact doing what we intend it to do and is not being used for other purposes,’ said Senator Menendez.

‘This is an issue of national security and of responsibility with taxpayer dollars, and it is important that passed the Senate.’

The US, he said, appreciated the important role Pakistan had played in the fight to eliminate terrorist safe havens within its borders.

‘But we also owe it to our service members and the American taxpayer to ensure that the funds provided to Pakistan out of the Coalition Support Funds are in fact being directed toward those efforts and not misdirected,’ Senator Corker said.

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