By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 5, 2007
JERUSALEM, Nov. 4 -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that the United States would review its $150 million-a-month assistance program to Pakistan in response to the declaration of emergency rule by the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Any reassessment will have to keep in mind that "some of the assistance that has been going to Pakistan is directly related to the counterterrorism mission," Rice said. "I would be very surprised if anybody wants the president to ignore or set aside our concerns about terrorism. . . . But obviously the situation has changed and we have to review where we are."
The Bush administration seemed to still be reeling from Musharraf's announcement Saturday and waiting for the rapidly shifting events to settle before making any move beyond expressing strong disapproval.
U.S. aid to Pakistan over the past six years has totaled nearly $11 billion, most of it in military hardware and budget support. Immediately after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, President Bush lifted aid sanctions imposed on Pakistan and India after both countries tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Additional sanctions set against Pakistan after Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 were also waived.
"We have to see what may be triggered by certain statutes," Rice said in remarks to reporters traveling with her to Israel and the West Bank. The review, she said, would include "all of our assistance programs."
She emphasized that U.S. economic and educational assistance was "not to Musharraf, but to a Pakistan you could argue was making significant strides on a number of fronts."
Rice said she last spoke directly with Musharraf on Wednesday, when she said she emphasized that the United States would not support any extra-constitutional measures.
Although Musharraf said Saturday that his actions were a necessary response to rising security threats, one senior U.S. official who was not authorized to speak on the record said the Pakistani leader told the administration last week that the Supreme Court would soon rule him ineligible for reelection.
Asked about reports from Pakistan that elections might be delayed for as long as a year, Rice said she had heard no official word from Islamabad. But, she said, "we have a very clear view that the elections need to take place on time, which would mean the beginning of the year."
Rice denied that U.S. policy had been set back in Pakistan. "It is a setback on the democratic path for Pakistan," she said. "But it does not have to remain one if the constitutional order returns and if Pakistan holds these elections on time."
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), a Democratic presidential candidate, said Sunday he agreed that U.S. aid to Pakistan should be under review.
"I'm not sure how much good that military aid we're giving him to fight the, quote, extremists is doing us anyway right now," Biden said on the CBS News program "Face the Nation."
Noting that he had received a White House briefing Saturday night, Biden said: "I don't know that they have any notion of what they're going to do right now. There's still this faint hope that this martial law will last only a day or two . . . but I think we're kidding ourselves."