Wednesday, February 16, 2011

US aid chief Rajiv Shah warned American lawmakers on Saturday that slashing assistance to Pakistan and Afghanistan could undermine US national security.

Mr Shah`s warning follows a recommendation from a 165-member Republican Study Group for a $100 billion cut in the government`s spending during the current fiscal year.
The proposal — by a group which now controls the lower house of the Congress — represents the deepest annual cut in funding in recent US history.
The Republican plan calls for $1.39 billion in annual savings from the US Agency for International Development. The USAID operating budget for fiscal 2010 was approximately $1.65 billion.
Mr Shah warned that the proposed slashing had real and drastic negative implications for American power and the ongoing missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“That first and foremost puts our national security in real jeopardy because we are working hand and glove with our military to keep us safe,” Mr Shah told The Cable, which is affiliated with the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine.
In places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr Shah noted, USAID missions were helping secure US national security by providing the much-needed economic and humanitarian support to local authorities.
The proposed cuts would have “massive negative implications for our fundamental security”, Mr Shah said.
Mr Shah warned that reducing humanitarian aid also had serious implications for the countries receiving the assistance. He urged the lawmakers also to think “what that would mean for literally taking children that we feed and keep alive through medicines or food and leaving them to starve. I think those are the types of things people will back away from”. Next month, Mr Shah is scheduled to unveil the first USAID policy on combating violent extremism and executing counter-insurgency, arguing that US security interests are closely linked to the development and humanitarian aid it provides to allied nations.
The plan focuses USAID`s efforts on hotspots like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa, while transitioning away from other countries that are faring well.
Mr Shah pointed out that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, and Isaf Commander Gen. David Petraeus have all come out in strong support of increasing USAID`s capacity to do foreign aid.
“In the military they call us a high-value, low-density partner because we are of high value to the national security mission but there aren`t enough of us and we don`t have enough capability,” he said.
“This is actually a much, much, much more efficient investment than sending in our troops, not even counting the tremendous risk to American lives when we have to do that.”
Mr Shah insisted that if the US wanted to be competitive and create jobs at home, it could not ignore the billions of people who were currently earning low incomes but will form a major new middle-class market in the next two decades.source

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