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Kerry-Lugar bill on Pakistan after the Recess April 8, 2009

Posted by Molly in Analysis.
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The Senate will join the debate on US assistance to Pakistan when Senators Kerry and Lugar introduce their anticipated Pakistan bill after Congress returns from recess. The bill is based on last year’s Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, introduced by Senators Biden and Lugar and held in legislative limbo by Senator Coburn. The Biden-Lugar bill proposes $7.5 billion over 5 years for economic-related assistance – the same figure proposed in the House – but unlike the House bill, does not include a military assistance component. There are, however, several conditions placed on military assistance with language similar to the House bill.

The Biden-Lugar bill would triple the amount of non-military aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year for five years, dramatically reorienting the substance of US aid to Pakistan from predominantly military assistance to economic and political assistance. According to Senator Lugar’s office, “This is the heart of the bill—shifting the center of gravity in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship from military to non-military engagement. The bill authorizes a figure more than triple the current levels of non-military funding.” The bill takes no position on whether military aid will increase, decrease, or remain at current levels. Read the fact sheet or full text.

Key provisions:

  1. Authorizes $7.5 billion over the next 5 fiscal years in non-military aid. Advocates an additional $7.5 billion over the subsequent 5 years.
  2. Conditions military aid on certification by Secretary of State that Pakistani security forces are working against al Qaeda and the Taliban – further details below.
  3. Urges a reorientation of engagement towards the Pakistani people rather than merely towards the Pakistani government.
  4. Urges accountability and transparent reporting of Coalition Support Funds.
  5. Directs the Secretary of State to develop a comprehensive strategy for the Afghan-Pakistan border area.

The major differences between the House and Senate bills on conditions for military assistance to Pakistan are the following:

  • The House bill puts the responsibility of certifying Pakistan’s compliance with US counterterrorism / counterinsurgency expectations on the president, while the Senate pull gives the responsibility to the Secretary of State.
  • The House bill makes an exception for military assistance for the Pakistan Frontier Corps on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Regardless of Pakistan’s compliance with US counterterrorism / counterinsurgency expectations, military assistance is permitted for that purpose.
  • The Senate bill includes a provision barring sales and exports of major defense equipment to Pakistan if Pakistan is not complaint with US counterterrorism / counterinsurgency expectations.

David Nather at CQ Politics examined the maneuvering that stalled the Biden-Lugar bill last year and the likelihood that it could happen again. The Foreign Relations Committee approved the Biden-Lugar bill in late July 2008 and returned from recess to a packed schedule in September. Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma objected to passing the Biden-Lugar bill by unanimous consent, meaning no objections raised and no vote necessary. The bill was abandoned because there was not enough time for a full debate.

According to Nather, Coburn opposed the bill because he believes that much of the existing US aid to Pakistan is wasted, citing the Government Accountability Office’s on inadequate oversight of Pakistan military aid. “We need to determine if the money we are already spending is making a difference before we spend more money we don’t have,” said Coburn spokesman John Hart. “If we’re not careful, we may end up spending taxpayer dollars to bail out warlords rather than building civil society.”

With Pakistan on the foreign policy front burner and plenty of time for a full debate, the new Kerry-Lugar bill should face no major hurdles in the Senate. With President Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s focus on efficacy and oversight, hopefully Coburn’s concerns will be adequately addressed.

Photo credit: USAID

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Comments»

1. swerveut - May 22, 2009

Besides military aid, if the US wants to meet its foriegn policy objectives and not waste the US taxpayer money, it should put checks and audit spending for every penny it gives to Pakistan to make sure it is being used correctly. Please check this link for some insight: http://swerveut.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/aid-for-pakistan/

2. Notes on the US Budget for FY 2010 as it Affects Afghanistan and Pakistan | America at War - June 1, 2009

[…] from the Departments of State and Defence, and from posts at the Stimson Centre blog (here, here, and here), so as to provide a preliminary consolidated look at budget funds that are envisaged to […]


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