Washington: The influential chairman of the US Senate's Armed Services Committee, Democratic senator Carl Levin, has expressed his skepticism about the usefulness of a Obama administration proposal to extend Pakistan a massive $2.8 billion in military aid, spread over five years, aimed at helping equip and train its armed forces to fight the Taliban menace.
Administration sources, according to media reports, have said that there would be an 'audit trail' which would ensure that the money is not spent by Islamabad to provide it greater capacity to attack another country, primarily India.
The $2.8 billion military aid to Pakistan will be in addition to $7.5 billion in non-military aid over the next five years, as proposed in the Kerry-Lugar Bill, sources said, quoting unnamed Defence Department officials.
US funds to fight terrorism in the past have been used to purchase fighter jets, and related equipment aimed at boosting capabilities against India.
In an interview, US Central Command chief General David Petraeus said the plan for the military-aid will be called the "Pakistani Counterinsurgency Capability Fund". The $2.8 billion fund would be distributed over five years, with the first $400 million advanced in the fiscal year 2009 and another $700 million in the fiscal 2010.
The proposal has drawn a skeptical response from senator Levin, who said Islamabad needed to prove it was determined to fight against extremists on its soil.
"If I thought we could buy stability, I would buy it," Democratic senator Carl Levin told reporters. "I don't think we can buy Pakistan's support," he added.
According to the senator, Islamabad must view the struggle against Islamists operating on its border with Afghanistan as in its own interest, and not just in the interest of Kabul or Washington. "What I need to see is the policy of the Pakistan government as being clear as to what they believe is in their interests," Levin said, adding: "I haven't seen that yet."
Accusing Islamabad of pursuing an appeasement policy, Levin said, "I have seen too much effort on their part to buy peace with people who I don't think you can buy peace with."
According to the senator, it would be a risky policy to rely too heavily on Pakistan to defeat insurgents in Afghanistan."If we depend on Pakistan to slow down the flow of insurgents into Afghanistan, we are relying on a very thin reed. So Afghanistan must defend its own border, and not rely on Pakistan for border control," he said.
Levin's comments came only a day after militants stormed a police academy near Lahore, leaving a number dead and wounded. The Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud claimed responsibility for the assault.
Despite the claimed deployment of more than 100,000 troops, in frontier areas, Pakistan has been unable to stop a wave of attacks by Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants in towns, cities and, more crucially, NATO supply routes, operating with seeming impunity across the north-west and south-west regions of Pakistan.