- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The U.S. should rethink its approach in Pakistan, including a multimillion-dollar program aimed at training and equipping tribal militants, unless Islamabad does more to keep terrorists from crossing the Afghan border, a top Democrat said yesterday.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters after a three-day trip to the region that U.S. officials have little confidence that segments of the Pakistani government, particularly its army, are working actively to stop the flow of Taliban fighters and weapons into Afghanistan. In some instances, these groups might even be providing terrorists’ support, he said.

“If that’s our intelligence assessment, then there’s a real question as to whether or not we should be putting money into strengthening the Frontier Corps on the Pakistan side,” Mr. Levin, Michigan Democrat, said in a conference call from Qatar.

Mr. Levin is among a growing chorus of Democrats questioning the more than $10 billion in U.S. military and economic aid given to Pakistan to fight terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks. Last month, a report by the Government Accountability Office found that despite the money, terrorists are still operating freely along the Afghan border.

In Washington yesterday, the Bush administration moved to impose financial sanctions on four people accused of being leaders in a Pakistan-based terrorist group linked to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network.

The United States says the four hold leadership positions in Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, also known as LET. The action means that any assets found in the United States belonging to those named must be blocked. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with them.

According to Treasury, the four are Muhammad Saeed, the group’s overall leader who plays a key role in LET’s operational and fundraising activities worldwide; Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the group’s chief of operations; Haji Muhammad Ashraf, LET’s chief of finance; and Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq, a main LET financier.

“LET is a dangerous al Qaeda affiliate that has demonstrated its willingness to murder innocent civilians. LET’s transnational nature makes it crucial for governments worldwide to do all they can to stifle LET’s fundraising and operations,” said Stuart Levey, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Mr. Levin, who oversees a major policy bill authorizing more than $600 billion in annual defense spending, said he is interested in restricting $70 million designated for the Pakistan’s Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force operating in the western tribal region.

He stopped short of saying the U.S. should conduct anti-terrorism strikes inside Pakistan without Islamabad’s permission, at least for now. Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama caused a stir in August when he said the United States should act on intelligence about top terrorist targets in Pakistan even if President Pervez Musharraf refuses. His comments prompted Pakistani officials to warn against U.S. incursions into their country.

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