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Obama seeks $1.5 billion more per year for civilian projects

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-05-05

US President Barack Obama is seeking an additional $1.5 billion for each of the next five years for civilian projects in Pakistan as part of a broader US strategy for the region. The funding will primarily go to building roads, schools and hospitals.

US President Barack Obama is calling for an additional $1.5 billion in spending annually for five years to boost civilian development in Pakistan as part of his strategy for the region.

Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar introduced a bill on Monday to authorize the funds, primarily for projects like roads, schools and hospitals. Kerry said while the funding was mainly intended for civilian projects, the administration could submit a plan directing some of it to military uses.

Congress is considering an additional $2.3 billion in aid for Pakistan, including $400 million for counterinsurgency.

While requesting huge boosts in assistance for Pakistan, the US administration has sounded increasingly frustrated with the civilian government.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused Islamabad of abdicating to the Taliban by agreeing to impose Islamic law in the Swat valley, and Obama has expressed concern the government is "very fragile" and unable to deliver basic services.

As he seeks to wind down the war in Iraq, Obama's strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan has won some praise for its focus on boosting aid and development and not relying entirely on a military solution to the fight against al Qaeda.

"Today the war is being lost in Afghanistan, but is not yet lost," Bruce Riedel, an author of Obama's strategy, wrote in a piece for the Brookings Institution last week. "President Obama has decided to send the resources to the war to break the movement of the Taliban. He is right to do so."

But some argue it does not go far enough to change past policies that have failed to yield results. Many Pakistanis are angry that US drone attacks have continued under Obama. Aimed at al Qaeda's leaders, the strikes from unmanned aircraft have often killed civilians.

Others complain the United States has undermined democracy in Pakistan for decades by supporting its powerful military.

Date created : 2009-05-05