- The Washington Times - Friday, October 22, 2010

The Obama administration will ask Congress for a $2 billion military assistance package for Pakistan even as U.S. officials express frustration over that country’s reluctance to go after militant groups that provide safe havens for al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday the package is “in keeping with our enduring commitment to help Pakistan plan for its defense needs.”

The Multi-Year Security Assistance Commitment will be spread over a period between 2012 and 2016, and will complement $7.5 billion in funds being provided to Pakistan for civilian projects under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation.

The promise of additional military assistance has created unease in New Delhi, which is worried the money will be used to boost Pakistan’s military capabilities against India.

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has admitted recently that Pakistan had diverted such aid to build its defenses against India.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

President Obama will visit India next month and this week informed Pakistani officials he would visit their country in 2011.

Mrs. Clinton’s comments came on the final day of a U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue in Washington, and she described Pakistan as a strong partner in the fight against extremists.

“We recognize and appreciate the sacrifice and service that the men and women, particularly the soldiers of the military in Pakistan, have made in order to restore order and go after those who threaten the very institutions of the state of Pakistan,” Mrs. Clinton said.

The U.S.-Pakistan military working group this week discussed cooperation on combating terrorism, specifically groups that are based in Pakistan.

“These groups threaten the security, first and foremost, of the people of Pakistan, of neighbors of the United States and indeed of the world,” Mrs. Clinton said.

In his remarks, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi noted skepticism in Washington about Islamabad’s commitment to the fight terrorists.

“It unfortunately seems easy to dismiss Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices. There are still tongue-in-cheek comments even in this capital about Pakistan’s heart not really being in this fight,” Mr. Qureshi said. “We do not know what greater evidence to offer than the blood of our people.”

“We have no doubts about who our enemy is and what we must do to defeat it,” he told Mrs. Clinton.

Even as it provides billions of dollars to Pakistan, and close to $390 million in aid to deal with the humanitarian crisis created by recent floods, the Obama administration has been pressing Pakistan to reform its tax system.

Mrs. Clinton said tough decisions would have to be made in Pakistan, where only a small fraction of people pay their taxes.

She said such reform would create a broader tax base, would provide more funding for infrastructure, and “it will demonstrate to the international community that all segments of Pakistani society are willing to do their own part to rebuild their own country.”

She said both sides were tackling some tough problems. “Nothing is being swept under the rug,” Mrs. Clinton said.

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