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Pakistan War Powers Resolution

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the resolution, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time in 4 months we are debating a resolution under the War Powers Act. I welcome congressional scrutiny of the commitment of U.S. forces abroad, and I appreciate the gentleman from Ohio's effort to focus attention on one of the most sacred duties of Congress.

But once again, I have to take issue with the invocation of Section 5(c) of the War Powers Act as the basis for this debate. That section authorizes a privileged resolution, like the one before us today, to require the withdrawal of U.S. Armed Forces when they are engaged in hostilities and Congress has not authorized the use of military force.

Whereas the Afghanistan war powers debate focused on whether there was an authorization for U.S. military force, here we do not even reach that question because, based on everything I know, U.S. forces are not engaged in hostilities in Pakistan.

The Wall Street Journal article distributed by my friend from Ohio refers to the U.S. military's role in training and humanitarian assistance programs in Pakistan. That's not ``engaging in hostilities.'' In fact, our Armed Forces participate in these types of programs in dozens of countries around the world.

The gentleman refers to the terrible tragedy of three U.S. forces killed by an IED. They were on a humanitarian aid mission. We have people on such missions, people involved in military training, uniformed officers, who have been killed in many different parts of the world. From that, one does not draw the conclusion that the U.S. is engaged in hostilities with enemy forces. In fact, since U.S. forces are not engaged in hostilities in Pakistan, there is no factual basis for invoking the War Powers Act.

Mr. Speaker, Pakistan is an important partner in the fight against extremism.

Last year Congress demonstrated America's long-term commitment to Pakistan by passing the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009. Any attempt to cut the military ties between our two countries would be counterproductive for our national security interest in the region.

No matter what your position on the situation in Afghanistan, whether you think we should withdraw tomorrow, shift from a counterinsurgency strategy to a counterterrorism strategy, or send in even more troops, there is no reason to automatically conclude that we should cease our efforts to help Pakistan address the dire threats to its security.

In 1990, we stopped providing military assistance and training to Pakistan for what seemed like a good reason at the time. But as a result, a whole generation of Pakistani military officers rose through the ranks without any connection or affinity with the United States, and that contributed to some of the suspicion and mistrust that we are still struggling to overcome.

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that Pakistan needs to step up in a number of important areas. We hope to improve cooperation on various security issues, strengthen the role of Pakistan's democratically elected government and achieve a greater parity between military and civilian assistance. The United States is aiding Pakistan because it is in our interest to ensure an economically and politically stable Pakistan does not provide sanctuary for al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

The reports in recent days that elements of the Pakistani intelligence service may have been aiding our enemies is nothing new to those of us who have been following this issue and is not a reason to abandon our many friends in Pakistan who are struggling to modernize their economy, their political system, and their military. The security forces of Pakistan are steadily taking on a Taliban-backed insurgency, taking direct action against those who threaten Pakistan's security instability, including military operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the North West Frontier Province.

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that using the War Powers Act to call for the removal of U.S. combat forces, which do not exist, will only serve to inflame Pakistan's sensibilities and do nothing to strengthen the partnership that we need to achieve our goals in this critical region.

I urge my colleagues to oppose the resolution.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 30 seconds in response to my friend from California's point.

The War Powers Act, I repeat again, doesn't deal with the presence of military forces without an authorization from Congress. It deals with engaging in hostilities or imminent hostilities without the authorization of Congress.

We have uniform personnel in Pakistan. They are working on the military assistance program. They are working in training Pakistani military. They are involved, as the Wall Street Journal revealed, in the delivering of humanitarian assistance in areas that are not secure enough for AID and civilian personnel to go.

The WikiLeaks documents, with all the transparency that it provided for us about what the situation is, I'm unaware of any excerpt which indicates reports of U.S. military forces engaged in hostilities in Pakistan.


Mr. BERMAN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to just, if I might, Mr. Speaker, respond to my friend from California who is in my neighboring district, the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. He made a reference to House leadership. He couldn't understand why it was setting this for debate.

Firstly, this is a privileged resolution pursuant to the War Powers Act. That's why it is being set for debate. It is a privileged resolution. It is not up to the leadership whether or not to debate this issue unless we change the statute.

Secondly, while I disagree with my friend from Ohio about whether the requisite requirements of the War Powers Act are met--because my conclusion is we are not engaged in hostilities as that term is used in the War Powers Act--I do want to say I don't understand, when seeking oversight, when making sure that taxpayers' funds are well spent, that our troops are protected and are being well served, and that our interests are being pursued by a particular operation, why the debate of that on the House floor is evidence of not supporting the troops.

To the contrary, had we had more debate on the House floor over the past 10 years, perhaps $8 billion in military assistance to Iraq, which was lost and can't be accounted for, might not have happened.

I know one thing. Perhaps we wouldn't have given the military leader of Pakistan free rein to cut deals with Talibani groups, appeasement agreements, in various parts of Pakistan during the period prior to his removal from office. Perhaps we would have a greater sense--and here we do have a greater sense--of knowledge of where our defense aid is going and what our military assistance is being used for than ever before, in large part, thanks to the oversight responsibilities of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. These are useful processes. They are much better than simply providing the money and then turning away until it is all over.

I commend the gentleman for using what, I think, is the wrong vehicle but the appropriate subject of having an open discussion about the wisdom of what we are doing. I think that serves our forces. I think it serves our country.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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