Feb 24, 2009

US military fund for Pakistan short of money

The Defense Department effort to help Pakistan secure its border with Afghanistan and root out Taliban fighters is underfunded by as much as 73 percent - a budget shortfall so severe that it could slow down operations next month, according to a report released Monday.

The conclusion, included in an assessment by the Government Accountability Office, highlights the stark challenges facing the Obama administration as it tries to salvage the war effort, AP reports.

The Defense Department's 'Security Development ProgrMilitary aid for Pakistan short of moneyam' is aimed at training and equipping more than 10,000 Pakistani 'Frontier Corps' fighters for counterinsurgency tasks and is considered a top priority among US officials.

The program received $62.5 million so far this budget year, which began Oct. 1. Defense officials say $167.5 million more is needed before the next budget year begins in eight months, according to the GAO.

The accountants do not say why the program's budget is in trouble. The report states only that as of the end of 2008, 'no existing security assistance funds have been redirected' to the program, and without 'dedicated long-term funding' the training and equipping of Pakistani forces could slow down by March.

The Defense Department had no immediate comment.

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