Senior U.S. officials urged Congress on Thursday to support long-term military and civilian security assistance for Pakistan, which they say has been essential for the U.S.-led fight against global terrorism. Members of Congress from both political parties were generally supportive of the plan, with some urging faster movement particularly in providing new helicopters for Pakistan's military.
The Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Michele Flournoy, told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee the level of importance the Obama administration attaches to defense cooperation with Pakistan.
"Mr. Chairman, distinguished members, our partnership with Pakistan is fraught with challenges, but it remains vital to our overall goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaida and enhancing stability in a critical region," said Michele Flournoy.
Committee members were supportive, and urged action to further increase educational opportunities for Pakistani officers at U.S. military schools, and faster movement to provide Pakistan with key military hardware, particularly helicopters.
Again, Michele Flournoy:
"This is something we are in discussion with them on with regard to a five-year defense plan that we are working with them to develop in a multi-year approach to security assistance and FMF [Foreign Military Financing]," she said. "They haven't made a decision yet on that, but it is something we are actively discussing with them, and I think they are very open to, frankly."
Flournoy said the United States faces several challenges in its effort to renew its defense relationship with Pakistan, which was dormant for many years. She said the problems include limited Pakistani capability, particularly to sustain control in areas after it flushes out militants, distrust caused by the U.S. pullout from the region in the 1990s and some disagreement over the seriousness of the militant threat, although she said that problem is easing.
At the same time, Flournoy reported that increased U.S. and allied operations in southern Afghanistan and coordinated Pakistani operations in its western region are making life difficult for insurgents who used to operate more freely on both sides of the border.
"I think all of that is starting to have a cumulative effect that is creating a lot of rethinking inside elements of the insurgency on both sides of the border," said Flournoy. "And that's exactly the kind of rethinking we want to stimulate."
Flournoy and other senior officials who spoke to the committee urged House members to provide funding for billions of dollars of planned U.S. military and civilian aid to Pakistan during the next five years.