The Obama administration’s budget for 2010 includes an unspecified amount of military and civilian aid for Pakistan.
Although Pakistan has asked for drone aircraft, helicopters and other equipment, the US administration has not yet said what equipment it was willing to provide.
Two top US defence officials – Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen – held extensive talks with Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani in Washington earlier this week.
Mr Gates also met a Pakistani delegation, which included the ISI chief and was headed by the foreign minister.
‘Well, I think one of the themes that, certainly, in my meetings with Pakistanis have been, how can we work more closely together? How can we help them be effective? How can we help ourselves by helping them?’ said Secretary Gates explaining what Pakistan expected from the United States.
‘Clearly, more intelligence is an important aspect of that. In terms of the drones specifically, that hasn't come up in my talks, but figuring out ways to help them have better intelligence to guide their operations, I think, is a positive thing and we ought to do as much as we can,’ he added.
Admiral Mullen also stressed the need to help Pakistan, saying: ‘It's very important that we help resource them and develop this comprehensive strategy with Pakistan over a number of years. And I'm delighted to see that kind of support in the ‘10 budget.’
Explaining what he believes Pakistan needs to fight terrorists, Admiral Mullen said: ‘The kind of capabilities —not just drones but other military capabilities support more precision, faster reaction, better operations, which is one of the things we focus on to try to assist the Pakistani military for a long time —certainly, newer —new capabilities, as we learn lessons.’
Pakistan, he said, has asked for equipment that would allow enhancing its defence capabilities and ‘I think we need to be mindful of that in trying to help them get better.’
Asked what kind of capabilities he was looking at, Admiral Mullen said: ‘In this case, it's the full spectrum of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, but it's what we've learned and used and how can we best, in the future, assist them in their operations with those kinds of capabilities.’
The fiscal year 2010 budget, sought by the Obama Administration, refocuses US resources to increase economic and military assistance for both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to the State Department, the budgetary request made to Congress in the new fiscal year, beginning October 1, 2009, ‘increases non-military aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan to revitalise economic development and confront the resurgence of the Taliban.’ The budget increases non-military assistance to both countries, providing additional funding for governance, reconstruction, counter-narcotics, and other development activities that will help counter extremists.
The budget expands the number of civilian personnel in Afghanistan and Pakistan in an effort to stabilise these countries, build government capacity, and successfully manage expanded assistance programs.
The administration’s request provides $533.7 billion for the Department of Defence base budget in 2010, a four-per cent increase over 2009, which includes appropriating resources on achieving the US objectives in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has been recognised as a keystone for regional stability. ‘In addition, we must leverage allied support to help struggling states such as Pakistan, which are the keystone for regional stability,’ a Defence Department budget request overview said.