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Pakistan Enduring Assistance And Cooperation Enhancement Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Unknown

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 1886, the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2009, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of this debate, it's important to emphasize that Congress and the administration are united in our goals toward Pakistan. We want a long-term partnership with a modern, a prosperous, a democratic Pakistan that is at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbors. And we want a Pakistan that does not provide safe haven to al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other militant extremist groups.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hard work that has gone into my good friend Chairman Berman's bill. I also recognize that both amendments in committee, as well as the manager's amendment, have made this a somewhat less objectionable instrument than it was at the outset, but it is still worthy of being objected to.

However, concerns remain, and these are not just my concerns, but they are concerns that, I understand, the White House, the Defense Department and our own intelligence agencies continue to have with H.R. 1886. These concerns are particularly acute in light of the current Pakistani military offensive against the Taliban and against other extremists in the North-West Frontier Province as well as the fact that the new policy is still evolving.

Rather than a forward-looking bill that addresses the current leadership and the current dynamics in Pakistan, this bill before us, H.R. 1886, focuses on past actions and failures attributed to the Pakistani Government, punishing the new leadership for the sins of its predecessors. That is why I will be offering a comprehensive substitute which parallels the results of the administration's strategic review and which fully funds its request for critical nonmilitary and certain military assistance to Pakistan.

Unlike the underlying bill, our measure provides the necessary flexibility for all U.S. agencies to respond quickly and to respond effectively to rapidly unfolding developments on the ground while still retaining robust accountability and congressional oversight of these programs.

As Members will recall, on March 27, the President announced a new strategy to guide U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This strategy focused our efforts, the U.S. efforts, toward meeting a core goal: to disrupt, to dismantle and to defeat al Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Afghanistan or Pakistan.

As our intelligence agencies have made clear, the threats emanating from al Qaeda and from their allies in Pakistan directly endanger our homeland security, the survival of Pakistan as a modern nation-state and the security of our friends and allies around the world.

The President as well as all of his top advisers, including Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates, insist that this new strategy is intended to be a framework, not a straitjacket, for U.S. policy. That is why Secretary Clinton has emphasized that the democratically-elected government in Pakistan shares our goals with respect to tackling militancy, and that is why she urged that Congress not legislate onerous conditionality that might undercut our efforts to work with Pakistanis who share the interests of the United States. That is also why Ambassador Holbrooke noted before our committee this May that certain legislative conditionality could prove seriously counterproductive.

While the authors of H.R. 1886 may have sought to empower our Pakistani partners to undertake the formidable task of fighting and winning against violent extremists, it does the opposite. Further, accountability measures for Afghanistan and Pakistan must be tightly linked to the new U.S. strategy for the region rather than outdated assessments of the situation in Pakistan and preconceived notions about the response from our Pakistani partners.

Mr. Speaker, we have gone down this road before. I recall during the Iraq debate in the last Congress Members expressed great distrust for the judgment of General Petraeus, and they sought to prejudge the surge strategy before it could even be implemented. Let us hope that this will not be repeated with respect to Pakistan and Afghanistan, as General Petraeus is now the chief of Central Command, leading the efforts of the Department of Defense in these countries and, in fact, in the broader theater.

Why does the executive branch need great flexibility in trying to execute a strategy in Pakistan? Look what is happening on the ground right now. Six weeks of fighting between the Pakistani troops and the Taliban insurgencies have forced 2 million people from their homes in the Swat Valley and in other northwestern areas.

According to Islamabad, since the operation began on April 26, 1,305 militants have been killed; 120 have been arrested; 105 soldiers have died; and 306 have been injured. In response, the extremists have launched a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks in Lahore and elsewhere across the country.

As one Pakistani writer noted, ``The terrorist backlash is principally aimed at draining public support from the army's offensive in Swat and to rattle the political and military establishments, weaken national resolve and erode public support for the anti-militancy campaign.''

Fortunately, Pakistan's democratic government has responded with firmness and with new resolve to persevere and to succeed in our mission. Perhaps even more importantly, anti-Taliban sentiment among the Pakistani people appears to be increasing in response to the mayhem that has been unleashed by the militants. But these gains are fragile, Mr. Speaker. Winning the peace could yet prove elusive. There could be little doubt that the political and military challenges ahead for the government and for the people of Pakistan are, indeed, profound.

That is why it is so important to provide this administration with flexible authorities to carry out its new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, focusing on the strategic importance of Pakistan to the United States and to the world and focusing on the need for increased security, for increased governance and for development assistance to help us meet these vitally important goals.

Finally, the rule for this bill made in order a self-executing mechanism whereby House Resolution 1318, a bill to provide duty-free treatment for certain goods from designated Reconstruction Opportunity Zones, ROZs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, will be incorporated into the text of H.R. 1886 even though that legislation has never even been marked up in committee.

While I support the concept of ROZs, this highly irregular maneuver is not the appropriate approach to take on this serious matter. Although we share the majority's goal, we believe that the Republican substitute that I will offer later in this debate affords the best means for the United States Congress and for the U.S. administration to work together to develop an integrated and effective assistance plan to advance our mutual interests in a democratic, stable and prosperous Pakistan that is a strong partner in the struggle against extremism and that maintains responsible controls over its nuclear weapons technology.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of our time.

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, as we have noted here on the floor, too often the relationship between the United States and Pakistan has been characterized by mutual frustration engendered by a growing trust gap. And while the leaderships of the two countries place a high value on our relationship, their publics and their legislatures have viewed each other with suspicion and depicted each other as unreliable allies. But with the advent of a new administration, both in Pakistan and in the United States, we're offered a window of opportunity to redefine, to recalibrate relations.

Both sides need to guard against unrealistic expectations but be prepared to engage in an honest dialogue; and therein lies the rub, Mr. Speaker. As a Pakistani civil society leader and a close confidant of the late Benazir Bhutto has said, ``Conditioning aid turns on its head the very rationale for assistance to stabilize Pakistan and empower it to deal more effectively with security challenges. An approach that treats Pakistan from the paradigm of `hired help' rather than `valued ally' is deeply counterproductive. It only reinforces the transactional nature of ties that are so resented by Pakistanis.''

Mr. Speaker, our overarching goal should and, indeed, must be--do no harm. Unfortunately, the bill before us could hamper, rather than help, vital U.S. security and strategic objectives regarding Pakistan and Afghanistan.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, I feel like I am experiencing deja vu. The seemingly same arguments that opponents of General Petraeus and his Iraq surge strategy used just under 2 years ago about Iraqis and the Iraqi government and their commitment to fighting extremist groups, they are making an appearance today in this Chamber with respect to Pakistan.

U.S. commanders have just begun to assess the situation on the ground to determine the need to implement that new strategy, and some of the speakers today are already tying the U.S.' hands while prejudging the response of Pakistan. We should be focusing on success, on prevailing against al Qaeda, prevailing against the Taliban, not anticipating failure.

While the authors of this bill seek to empower our Pakistani partners to confront insurgency and militarism, I feel that this bill will actually inadvertently have a counterproductive impact by potentially making the Pakistani government appear subservient to the United States, as Senator Kerry suggested. This bill could weaken Pakistani democracy as well as could potentially fuel paranoia, wild conspiracy theories that help give rise to that country's visceral and deep-seated anti-American feelings.

So I urge my colleagues to look at this bill, examine carefully what we are doing to our military, what we are doing to this new administration, and come to the correct conclusion that they should oppose this bill.

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, the substitute amendment reflects input from, and was drafted in coordination with, the ranking members of the Committees on Appropriations, on Armed Services, on Homeland Security and Intelligence. In so doing, this approach emulated to some degree the administration's interagency strategic review.

The substitute recognizes that of all the foreign policy challenges facing the United States, stabilizing and reforming Pakistan may be one of the most daunting. Given the enormous complexities and the ever-changing nature of the situation in Pakistan, we believe that it is critical at this stage that the administration retain the necessary flexibility to craft policies that offer the best chance of successfully partnering with the people of Pakistan, with the government of Pakistan, and with the military of Pakistan to defeat violent extremism.

At the same time, the substitute requires an ongoing policy dialogue between the administration and the Congress regarding U.S. policy toward Pakistan, as well as robust legislative oversight of our strategy, of our implementation plan, as well as allocation and expenditure of U.S. assistance.

The Republican substitute requires that not later than 30 days after the enactment of the Supplemental Appropriations Act for 2009, the President submit to Congress a comprehensive interagency strategy and implementation plan for U.S. efforts to eliminate safe havens and help toward the long-term security and stability in Pakistan.

Let me repeat that again, Mr. Speaker. Thirty days after enactment of the current supplemental under discussion, the President is required to produce a comprehensive interagency strategy and implementation plan. This is more timely than what is in the underlying bill, and it seeks to address immediate as well as evolving dynamics.

The Republican substitute relies on the President's leadership and his commitment in providing the strategy and implementation plan to the Congress, but does require that plan to include a description of how the U.S. assistance will be used in order to achieve our U.S. foreign policy objectives.

What does that include? Enhancing stable democratic governments, making sure that we have economic growth, developing Pakistani counterinsurgency capabilities, success in shutting down safe havens for extremists, improving the capacity and capability of Pakistan to hold and build areas cleared of insurgents to prevent their return, and developing and strengthening mechanisms for Pakistan-Afghanistan cooperation, for they cannot be separated.

The substitute also requires that the report include a detailed financial plan of the resources, of the programming and of the management of U.S. assistance to Pakistan and the criteria used to determine their need and value in advancing our U.S. objectives.

This substitute seeks to ensure that congressional oversight and notification keeps pace with changing conditions on the ground, and in turn, changes in strategy and their implementation.

The Republican substitute also fully funds the administration's request for the critically important new Pakistan counterinsurgency capability fund.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, the Republican substitute, as I was saying, also fully funds the administration's request for the critically important new Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund, PCCF. Forging an effective partnership with Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus has not been a straightforward affair. Although the United States has enjoyed some success, our efforts have also been hampered by a series of exceptionally difficult problems.

One is a matter of a threat perception and divergent strategic priorities, with Pakistan almost obsessively focused on their traditional rival in India.

Another problem is the legacy of mistrust on both sides, a trust deficit, as I discussed earlier, that continues to greatly complicate our bilateral relations.

A third problem is a limited Pakistani ability to conduct modern counterinsurgency, and to some degree counterterrorism operations, against al Qaeda and their allies in the tribal areas. There is no question, for example, that Pakistan needs to fully cooperate with New Delhi in holding accountable all of those responsible for the brutal assault in Mumbai as well as work with the U.S. and others on critical nonproliferation concerns.

We do not disagree with the overarching goals and the strategic priorities that we want to achieve in relation to Pakistan. Our disagreement is that at this juncture we believe that the best way to achieve critical interests is to give the administration the scope to develop intensive, multiple approaches to rebuild, to strengthen relationships with Pakistan, and address threats common to both of our nations.

We believe the Republican substitute is a more workable basis than the underlying bill for being a partner with Pakistan at this critical time.

The substitute heeds the concerns raised by Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs Chairman, Admiral Mullen, who wrote about this underlying bill.

The Department is concerned about aspects of this bill, in particular, those provisions that impose conditions on the furnishing of military assistance that may undermine current administration authorities such as the Global Train and Equip authority. And furthermore, this will allow the Department to use the funds expeditiously and effectively without these purse strings, as evolving circumstance may warrant, in an effort to implement the President's strategy for the region most effectively.

And I think that this Republican substitute gets to what the Department of Defense wishes to do, what the Obama administration wants to achieve, what our democratic allies in Pakistan and here, our strong military in the U.S., wants to achieve; a robust, free and democratic Pakistan upon which we can build that level of trust again.

I hope our colleagues support our Republican substitute.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I would like to yield myself 1 minute.

We fully agree with the chairman that much of the prior investment in Pakistan has failed to yield all of the results that we hoped for and that it is appropriate to require the administration to develop scientific, specific, meaningful performance-based measures.

Where we differ, Mr. Speaker, is that we do not mandate that the executive branch follow a specific new congressionally mandated methodology, which may not even be technically correct, even before the new administration has had time to operationalize their new South Asia strategy.

Our substitute, therefore, requires that as part of the comprehensive interagency strategy and implementation plan mandated by the legislation that the administration put forth a robust and detailed financial plan, a description of the resources, of the programming, of the management of the United States foreign assistance to Pakistan, including the criteria used to determine this prioritization. We believe that this is the correct approach.

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I would like to take up the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, our Republican substitute will allow for the development of specific, credible measures of effectiveness that are tightly linked to the President's strategy for the region and are therefore preferable to those that stem from the legislation. And I would like to just briefly address, and I don't have much time, some of the issues raised in favor of the underlying bill and against my substitute.

First, some of the speakers are seeking to fuel distrust between Pakistan and India, and they use the Congress' strong support for the world's largest democracy, India, to create the impression that U.S. assistance has been and would be used against India. That is counterproductive. It is not correct. It is dangerous and disingenuous.

I urge my colleagues to adopt the Republican substitute and reject the underlying bill.

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