Benchmarks, Sure, But Not Those. Maybe The Others On The Other Shelf

I don’t know what benchmarks the Obama administration wants to place on its aid and commitments to Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Well, more on that in a moment.) But I do know what benchmarks they don’t want. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy told the House Armed Services Committee yesterday that the Pakistan aid bill introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) "is too inflexible," especially regarding "the conditions and limits it would place on the equipment we would provide to our Pakistani partners." What did she mean?

The sticking point appears to come in section 206 of H.R. 1886, the cutely-acronymed PEACE Act ("Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act," to be formal), which places a number of restrictions on Pakistani aid. Under the section, President Obama would have to determine in four months and annually thereafter that Pakistan is cooperating with U.S. efforts to "dismantle supplier networks relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons-related materials," a reference to Pakistani hero and criminal proliferator A.Q. Khan. He’d have to annually vouch for Pakistan doing the following things:

(A) ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, including Afghanistan National Security Forces, or against the territory of India or the people of India

(B) closing terrorist camps in the FATA, dismantling terrorist bases of operations in other parts of the country, including Quetta and Muridke, and taking action when provided with intelligence about high-level terrorist targets

(C) preventing cross border attacks into neighboring countries; and

(D) strengthening counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering laws.

And if he doesn’t, Pakistan doesn’t get any money. But the bill has a provision allowing Obama to waive certification if doing so "is vital to the national security interest of the United States," so it’s hardly ironclad. And to get intrigue-y, there’s also a democratization requirement, stipulating that money made available under the PEACE Act  "may only be provided or made to, or received from, civilian authorities of a government of Pakistan constituted through a free and fair election." But there’s a provision for Obama to waive that too, for the "vital national security" reason. (Like if, say, a U.S.-friendly military coup took place.)

So what would Flournoy prefer? "We support the approach to accountability as set forth in the Biden-Lugar bill introduced in the last Congress," she said. OK then. Here’s the relevant portion of that bill’s summary from OpenCongress:

Limits certain military assistance and arms transfers to Pakistan until the Secretary of State certifies that Pakistan’s security forces:
(1) are making concerted efforts to prevent al Qaeda and the Taliban from operating in Pakistan’s territory; and
(2) are not materially interfering in Pakistan’s political or judicial processes. Directs the Secretary to develop a comprehensive, cross-border strategy for working with the government of Pakistan, the government of Afghanistan, the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO), and other allies to implement effective counterterrorism and counterinsurgency measurers along the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Stricter, sure, in the PEACE Act, but all along the lines of enforcing stated administration goals. Flournoy added that the administration was "in the process of developing robust measures of effectiveness that will allow us — and you — to hold us and our Pakistani partners accountable." Still waiting for those.

Crossposted to The Streak.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman