The Cable

Sens. Levin and Graham: Pakistan military can have its money

The Pakistani military is entitled to the $1.1 billion of U.S. taxpayer money that the Pentagon is asking Congress to approve giving them, according to top Senators from both parties.

The Obama administration has told Pakistan it will release $1.1 billion of Coalition Support Funds (CSF) to the Pakistan military now that Islamabad has reopened the Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) through which the U.S. supplies troops in Afghanistan. The funds are reimbursement money that Pakistan has already spent in the joint effort to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban that were already authorized by Congress.The U.S. government has been holding up the money over the past six months while the supply lines were closed.

Pakistan had closed those supply lines after NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border in November, but opened them this week after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally, publically, said "we're sorry" for the mistakes that led to those killings. The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) could hold up the funds, but its leaders say they don't plan to do so.

"I would approve it," SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) told The Cable on Tuesday in a short interview. "They've presumably earned it by the money they've laid out in terms of their anti-terrorist activities and protecting our  flow of oil."

There are costs incurred by Pakistan in facilitating the movement of oil and training and equipping their own forces engaged in the fight againstinsurgents, Levin said.

"This is not supposed to be a gift, this is supposed to be a reimbursement," he explained. "That's the theory."

But Levin is still not satisfied with Pakistan's level of cooperation when it comes to combatting terrorist safe havens on their soil and protecting their side of the Afghanistan border.

"I think they've done an adequate job in some areas, a spotty job, a job that is not consistent. I wouldn't give them a grade A, I would give them a grade C on the work that they've undertaken," he said. "But the deal was therewould be reimbursement for their costs and that's what's been held up."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, told The Cable today that he also believes the CSF money should go through.

"The money's been stuck in a pipeline and the reason it hasn't flowed faster is that we can't be sure it's going to be spent wisely. If our commanders believe releasing the funds helps the war effort, I don't want to second guess them," Graham said in a short interview.

He said the biggest beneficiary of the opening of the supply lines were U.S. and international troops on the ground and he said the money is one of the only bargaining chips Washington has left when dealing with Islamabad.

"Pakistan on a good day is very hard. They are an unreliable ally. You can't trust them, you can't abandon them," Graham said. "But if you cut the money off, what leverage do you have? There may come a day when we do that, but not yet."

The Pentagon said they have been working with Congressional leaders and they are hopeful the funds will be released. "We look forward to working closely with Congress to process these claims," Capt. John Kirby,  a Pentagon spokesman, said last week.

There's only one hurdle left for the funds to cross over. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) plans to attempt to force a vote to cut off all aid to Pakistan later this month and will try to include the CSF funding in that effort.

The Cable

Where are they today?

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Vietnamese Communist Party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong in Hanoi, and discussed issues including Agent Orange, soldiers missing in action, and deepening cultural and economic bilateral ties with Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh. "The United States greatly appreciates Vietnam's contributions to a collaborative, diplomatic resolution of disputes and a reduction of tensions in the South China Sea," said the secretary, who is accompanied by Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Robert Hormats, Chief of Protocol Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, and Director of Policy Planning Jake Sullivan. Tomorrow Clinton will arrive in Vientiane, Laos, for meetings with Prime Minister Thonsing Thammavong and other senior government officials, making her the first secretary of state to visit the country in 57 years.

Elsewhere:

  • Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns is traveling to Yemen, Israel, the West Bank, and Lebanon through July 13. In Sanaa, Yemen, the deputy secretary is meeting with political leaders and civil society representatives to discuss bilateral security interests and Yemen's ongoing humanitarian crisis. From Sanaa, Burns will travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah to meet with senior Israeli officials as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad.
  • In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer will participate in the Women's Leadership Forum and the Community of Democracies' Governing Council Meeting. She will also meet with female leaders from government and civil society. She then travels to Siem Reap, Cambodia, with Special Representative for Global Partnerships Kris Balderston for the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Policy Dialogue for the Lower Mekong Initiative.
  • In Turkey, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Maria Otero will meet with government officials, human rights activists, youth, and non-governmental and international organizations to discuss human rights issues.
  • Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Phil Gordon is traveling to Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Cyprus to meet with senior government officials and EU political directors.
  • Assistant Secretary for Democracy, human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner is traveling to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Egypt through July 16.
  • Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal is traveling in Germany and Poland through July 15.