Afghanistan aid package raises Pakistan pressure

John Dimsdale Jan 26, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: President Bush is asking for another $10 billion for Afghanistan. The Taliban’s been stepping up its attacks on the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. And Democrats in Congress want to step up pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban by putting conditions on that $10 billion.

The White House let it be known today it opposes those conditions, as Marketplace’s John Dimsdale explains.

JOHN DIMSDALE: Topping the House Democrats’ agenda in their first 100 hours was approval of recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission. One provision of the bill would restrict military aid to Pakistan unless President Bush certifies the country is doing all it can to fight the Taliban.

Now Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington is lobbying Senate leaders to take the military aid restrictions out. And so is the Bush administration.

The State Department continues to support General Musharraf despite U.S. military complaints that his country is harboring terrorists. Still, analyst Amitabh Dubey at the Eurasia Group says Pakistan is feeling the pressure.

AMITABH DUBEY: The Pakistanis have a dilemma. They have an interest in suppressing these groups who are also enemies of the state. But, on the other hand, there are elements in the Taliban who are willing to do business with Pakistan and Pakistan needs them for leverage in Afghanistan.

. . . Where the U.S.-backed government has expressed open hostility to Pakistan. The U.S. aid in question totals about $3 billion over five years. That’s big bucks for Pakistan. But Walter Anderson, former chief of the Asia division at State, says the congressional threat to cut off aid is only symbolic.

WALTER ANDERSEN: I don’t think it’ll happen, because the Administration considers Pakistani participation in the activities against the Taliban to be sufficiently important. What it does is it demonstrates a sense of unease among many congressmen. This is not at all uncommon that congress introduce a measure that’s meant to express concern that really is not expected to be implemented.

The Senate has yet to put the 9/11 Commission bill on its schedule.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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