|Lalit K Jha,
Washington, May 10 - A key US Congressional Committee today overwhelmingly passed a bill that imposes conditions on Pakistan for receiving American economic and military aid which will depend on the action Islamabad takes against terrorists and the menace of improvised explosive devices.
The Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2013, which determines the defence budget for the fiscal 2013, was approved by the powerful House Armed Services Committee this morning following a marathon debate.
The action clears the way for consideration of the bill by the full House, scheduled for next week.
The legislation provides the necessary authorities and funding for America's military.
The overwhelming support to the Pakistan provision of the bill showed it had bipartisan support.
"The bill places appropriate conditions on aid to Pakistan. It is imperative that Pakistan support our counterterrorism efforts and work to prevent the interdiction of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to Afghanistan," House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member, Adam Smith, said yesterday.
The bill prohibits the preferential procurement of goods or services from Pakistan till Islamabad re-opens the crucial NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, which were closed in the aftermath of the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26 in a NATO cross border fire.
It also seeks certification from the Defence Secretary that Pakistan is committed to supporting counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda, its associated movements, the Haqqani Network, and dismantling improvised explosive device (IED) networks and interdicting precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of IEDs, and preventing proliferation of nuclear-related material and expertise.
It also requires from Pakistan the issuing of visas in a timely manner for US visitors engaged in counterterrorism efforts and assistance programmes in Pakistan.
The Act notes that the Taliban, Haqqanis, and associated insurgents continue to enjoy safe havens in Pakistan, but are unlikely to be capable of overthrowing the Afghan Government unless the US withdraws forces precipitously from Afghanistan.
The bill authorises USD 554 billion for national defence and USD 88.5 billion for Overseas Contingencies Operations. It is nearly USD 4 billion more than the President's budget request.
According to a statement issued by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, NDAA requires the President to notify Congress of any planned force reductions in Afghanistan, and justify those reductions based on conditions on the ground.
It prohibits use of private security contractors for force protection of US troops in Afghanistan and requires Combatant Commanders to give their assessment of capability gaps against North Korea, China, and Iran.
The NDAA reinforces the United States' commitment to use all elements of national power to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and enhances the credibility of the military option, should it prove necessary. PTI