Wednesday, April 29, 2009

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) Hearing on the Administration’s Perspective on the Future of the U.S.-Pakistan Military Partnership

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) Hearing on the Administration’s Perspective on the Future of the U.S.-Pakistan Military Partnership

Ike Skelton, Chairman
April 29, 2009

Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing on the Administration’s Perspective on the Future of the U.S.-Pakistan Military Partnership:

“Good afternoon. Today we have with us the Honorable Michèle Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Department of Defense; Vice Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr., Director of Strategic Plans and Policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Ambassador Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs at the Department of State. Thank you all for being with us today to address the future of the U.S.-Pakistan military partnership.

“This is an extremely important and timely hearing. It follows last week’s hearing before this committee on the same topic with an outstanding panel of outside experts, including General David Barno, who testified that Pakistan presents the U.S. with its greatest global strategic challenge. It also follows the recent release of the administration’s Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, as well the administration’s supplemental budget request for a new Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capabilities Fund.

“Moreover, this hearing comes at a time when there is legislation pending in Congress that seeks to both expand U.S. assistance for Pakistan as well as impose limitations and conditions on U.S. security assistance for Pakistan. And as we sit here today, it appears security conditions in Pakistan have become even more worrisome, given the Taliban’s recent eastward advance from the Swat Valley to Buner, only 60 miles or so from Islamabad.

“I agree with General Barno, Pakistan may well pose the greatest strategic challenge facing us today, with serious implications for U.S. national security, Afghanistan, and the region. I’m pleased that Congress and the administration have both prioritized issues involving Pakistan, and are committed to strengthening the U.S.-Pakistan partnership.

“But these issues are complex and progress is not likely to come easily or quickly. I believe the administration’s recent Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy is a step in the right direction. However, the strategy alone does not guarantee success – implementation of the strategy, measures of progress and accountability are all critical, as well as close cooperation with our Pakistani partners in all these areas.

“Moreover, the administration continues to request significant resources from Congress and the American people for efforts in Pakistan. Following 9-11, Pakistan has received almost $12 billion from the U.S., including about $6.4 billion in Department of Defense Coalition Support Fund reimbursements and $2.3 billion in security-related assistance. And the recent supplemental budget request includes $400 million more for the new Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capabilities Fund.

“I hope the witnesses will elaborate on this Fund – and tell us what military objectives it will achieve; why it should fall under the authority of and be executed by the Department of Defense; whether it includes any type of Commanders Emergency Response Program, or CERP, funding for Pakistan; how purchases under this Fund will be distinguished from those under the foreign military financing program; and what necessary authorities the Fund would provide the Department during the remainder of fiscal year 2009.

“I also hope the witnesses will update us on efforts to increase oversight and accountability of Coalition Support Fund reimbursements for Pakistan – and assess whether any alternative constructs could be equally or more effective. There is a growing sense, at least here in the House of Representatives, that the Coalition Support Fund construct is not serving the interests of either the U.S. or Pakistan very well, and the time is right to begin moving away from this mechanism.

“I’d also like the witnesses to share the views of the Department of Defense and the Department of State regarding limitations and conditions on U.S. security assistance for Pakistan, such as those pending in Congress now – and any recommendations for alternative approaches that could achieve the same goals and objectives. And I’d like to thank the Department of Defense for their recent letter on this matter. Finally, I would appreciate an update on the administration’s efforts to develop benchmarks for the new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy.

“I look forward to your thoughts and recommendations. And I now turn to my good friend, the Ranking Member, John McHugh for any comments he may wish to make.”


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