No direct funding to Pak nuke programme: Pentagon

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - 10:26

Washington: The US has a strong fund
tracking system to make sure that Pakistan does not use any
direct US money to strengthen its nuclear programme, a top
Pentagon official told lawmakers who expressed concern over
American aid money to Islamabad given reports that the country
has doubled its atomic stockpile.

"I`m confident there is no direct funding going to
their nuclear programme because of my confidence in tracking
the cost we are reimbursing them for now," General James N
Mattis, Commander of the US Central Command said at a
Congressional hearing convened by the Senate Armed Services
Committee.
The statement came after lawmakers expressed concern
over recent reports that Pakistan has doubled its nuclear
weapons and the stockpile has crossed the 100-figure mark.

"Obviously, they have their own funding, and whether
or not they would spend some of that elsewhere, if we weren`t
reimbursing," Mattis said.

Senator Jim Webb said while Pakistan may not be using
US money directly to fund its nuclear programme but expressed
apprehension that American assistance in other areas could
have helped the country divert its own money.

Apparently not satisfied with Mattis` response, Webb
said: "The concerns that I have is that if we are funding
programmes that they otherwise would be funding or they are
able to take that money in order to increase their nuclear
arsenal, it`s not a healthy situation for the region and for
us, in my view".

At the same Senate Committee hearing, Admiral Eric T
Olson, Commander of US Special Operations Command noted that
Pakistan needs to do more in this war against terrorism, even
though it has taken considerable steps in this regard.

"I would say in many ways Pakistan is behaving as a
great ally and taking much risk upon their selves. But there
is perhaps more that can be done. I think that the
senior-level dialogues that are taking place are very
productive in this regard," he said.

Olson said he has been in constant touch with Admiral
Willard, Commander, Pacific Command, about the relationship
between India and Pakistan.

"India-Pakistan reconciliation has got to be something
that they take responsibility for. So we`re more on a mode of
making certain that what we`re doing militarily is never seen
as contrary to that trend," he said in response to a question.

Earlier, Senator Carl Levin said the presence of
safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan continues to pose a
security threat to Afghanistan and to the region.

"While US-Pakistan military cooperation has improved
in some respects, the Pakistani army has not yet gone after
the sanctuaries for the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan or
the Afghan Taliban in and around Quetta, Pakistan," he said.
Mattis told Levin that there have been disconnects
where the United States has not always seen eye to eye with
Pakistan.

"Part of the reason these groups exist is together
with Pakistan we helped create some of them," he said.

"Any attempt to look at Pakistan`s security interests
must include their relationship, their difficult relationship,
with India. And over the years, I believe that Pakistan got
into position where the very groups that in some cases we
helped to give birth to were... became part of the landscape,
the Kalashnikov culture, for example," he said.

He said in many areas, Pakistan has acted against such
groups and has cost it thousands of troops killed and wounded.

"Especially telling is the number of junior officers
they`ve lost, indicating an aggressive effort against these
areas," Mattis said.

"But I think, too, it is the most difficult terrain I
have ever operated in my 39 years in uniform. And the Pakistan
military`s movement against these folks is continuing.

"We are now into our 24th month of unrelenting
campaign against them," Mattis said.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - 10:26

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