Senators question aid plan for Pakistan

Afghan boys watch U.S. soldiers from the Alpha Company, 32nd Infatry Regiment cross a river in eastern Afghanistan.  President Obama is asking Congress for funds for the war effort in Afghanistan.
Afghan boys watch U.S. soldiers from the Alpha Company, 32nd Infatry Regiment cross a river in eastern Afghanistan. President Obama is asking Congress for funds for the war effort in Afghanistan.


    WASHINGTON — A leading Democrat joined Republicans in sharply questioning the Obama administration's strategy for Pakistan on Tuesday. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said he hadn't heard enough detail about a plan to spend $7.5 billion over the next five years on civilian aid to that country.
    The administration has yet to lay out a comprehensive strategy for bringing together humanitarian, military and intelligence resources to help Pakistan fight its Taliban insurgency, Menendez told Richard Holbrooke, the senior diplomat in charge of Afghanistan and Pakistan, at a hearing of the Foreign Relations Committee.

    A recent report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, faulted the Bush administration for spending $12 billion on mostly military aid to Pakistan without such a strategy.
    Obama is asking Congress to approve $7.5 billion in civilian aid for Pakistan and in funds for the war effort in Afghanistan.
    "You're asking us to vote for a whole new set of money without knowing whether there are going to be benchmarks" or whether we will have a better system of accountability, said Menendez, who chairs the subcommittee in charge of foreign assistance.
    His view was echoed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who told Holbrooke he wanted to ensure the money doesn't "end up in a bank account in Switzerland."
    "For us to pass a large amount of funding and yet then ask for you to tell us what you're going to do with it, to me seems backwards," Corker said.
    Holbrooke said it's not "quite fair to say that we haven't outlined what we do with it." He pointed to his earlier testimony that the money would be spent on "health, education, livelihoods, women's microcredit, capacity-building" and boosting the Frontier Corps, the military force in insurgent-infested tribal areas.
    Pressed for more details by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Holbrooke promised to get him the information later.
    The exchange came on a day when 11 Taliban suicide bombers struck government buildings in Afghanistan, sparking gunbattles with U.S. and Afghan forces that killed 20 people and wounded three Americans.
    At the hearing, Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, said a recent visit to Afghanistan left him "stunned by the lack of progress … it is terribly depressing.
     
     
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