Pakistan Fights, Congress Sleeps
Democrats slow-roll aid to an ally.
Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2009
More now than ever, Pakistan is acting as if it is committed to fighting the Taliban. The military in recent days has expanded a high-stakes offensive along the Afghan border, while the government enjoys wide public support, even as casualties and refugees mount.
So naturally, the U.S. Congress is finding a way not to help. An aid package has hit repeated hurdles on Capitol Hill, while U.S. allies shortchange Pakistan on humanitarian assistance for the people displaced by the fighting. This is myopic and dangerous. If Pakistan fails to defeat the Islamist insurgency, the consequences will resonate far and wide, in the worst case with al Qaeda getting Pakistan's nuclear stockpile.
Earlier this year, the Obama Administration prodded, pleaded and shamed Pakistan to fight. Passive acceptance of Taliban gains turned into the current counteroffensive. The military has since taken back the Swat Valley and shifted its sights to such tribal regions as Waziristan. Count that a tentative success for Pakistan and the Obama foreign policy team.
Those gains are fragile, however, and need urgent shoring up. General David Petraeus got $400 million in the supplemental budget this spring to improve Pakistani military capabilities. The U.S. is speeding up the delivery of helicopters and other hardware for counterinsurgency. In the past, the Pakistanis were all too happy to upgrade their F-16s and put them on the border with India while ignoring the Taliban threat.
More disappointing has been the slow Congressional progress of the five-year, $7.5 billion aid package requested by President Obama. The bill got bogged down in the House over Pakistan's past sins of nuclear proliferation and abetting of terrorism. We share the anger over atomic salesman A.Q. Khan and the use of Pakistani safe havens to launch attacks against Afghanistan and in November against Mumbai. But the explicit certification requirements written into the House bill by California Democrat Howard Berman would have tied the Administration's hands and angered Pakistanis.
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