Quick approval urged for US aid to Pakistan

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, has urged the Congress to quickly approve legislation to triple non-military US aid to Pakistan, saying the US has a vital stake in the country.

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“This is as tough as anything I’ve ever seen before, anything I’ve ever worked on,” Holbrooke said Tuesday, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the US policy for Pakistan.

“We are in Afghanistan and Pakistan because of 9/11, because Al Qaeda and its allies are camped out in western Pakistan and have pledged and promised and predicted and threatened to do it again to us and other countries.”

Holbrooke said the legislation proposed by committee chairman John Kerry and senior Republican on the panel Richard Lugar to increase US aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year for five years had already attracted attention throughout the region.

“The only beneficiary of a delay in this bill is the enemies of our nation, the people who are trying to have the next 9/11,” he said.

A stable, secure, democratic Pakistan is vital to US national security interests, Holbrooke said.

“We must support and strengthen the democratic government of Pakistan in order to eliminate, once and for all, the extremist threat from Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups,” he added.

Holbrooke restated President Barack Obama’s strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has the strategic goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda, and eliminating safe havens in the two countries.

Obama’s strategy “makes clear the importance of Pakistan’s future and stability to the United States and the rest of the world, and the need for increased security, governance and development assistance to Pakistan”, Holbrooke said.