House committee seeks to impose restrictions on Pakistani aid

In theory, this is a good idea; getting the administration to explain how the billions in aid we are sending to Pakistan will assist that country in combating terror.

But like many theories, when put in practice, it fails to take into account certain realities that are driving our relationship.

A provision in the 2012 Pentagon appropriations bill that the panel unanimously approved Tuesday would keep all but 25 percent of $1.1 billion in aid intended for Islamabad in the bank until the White House provides clear details on how it would spend the cash.

The remaining 75 percent of the "Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund" would be subject to the Obama administration providing lawmakers a report detailing its "strategy to utilize the fund and the metrics used to determine progress with respect to the fund," according to a report accompanying the committee's bill.

The move comes as more and more U.S. lawmakers and voters express support for ending the Afghanistan war in the wake of bin Laden's death in Pakistan at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs.

The report also would have to specify the administration's strategic goals in Pakistan, and state which terrorist and anti-U.S. groups are operating from there.

The House panel also wants details on the "gaps" in the capabilities of Pakistan's indigenous security forces, and an explanation of how aid funds would address such shortcomings.

One of those realities is that the Pakistani military is extremely sensitive to these kinds of restrictions, seeing them as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. The military also views aid restrictions as a threat to their power. The idea that the civilian authority can dictate to the military where to spend money on security is an anathema.

This is essentially what the White House will be forced to do in reporting to congress on where the aid money will be spent. In placing President Zardari in a preeminent position over the military by requiring him to give us details on what the money will do, we are asking for trouble. It is not likely that these restrictions will be in the final defense authorization bill passed by congress.

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