WASHINGTON. The US has a strong fund tracking system to make sure that Pakistan does not use any direct US money to strengthen its nuclear programme, a top Pentagon official told lawmakers who expressed concern over American aid money to Islamabad given reports that the country has doubled its atomic stockpile.
"I'm confident there is no direct funding going to their nuclear programme because of my confidence in tracking the cost we are reimbursing them for now," General James N Mattis, commander of the US central command said at a Congressional hearing convened by the Senate armed services committee.
The statement came after lawmakers expressed concern over recent reports that Pakistan has doubled its nuclear weapons and the stockpile has crossed the 100-figure mark.
"Obviously, they have their own funding, and whether or not they would spend some of that elsewhere, if we weren't reimbursing," Mattis said.
Senator Jim Webb said while Pakistan may not be using US money directly to fund its nuclear programme but expressed apprehension that American assistance in other areas could have helped the country divert its own money.
Apparently not satisfied with Mattis' response, Webb said: "The concerns that I have is that if we are funding programmes that they otherwise would be funding or they are able to take that money in order to increase their nuclear arsenal, it's not a healthy situation for the region and for us, in my view".
At the same Senate committee hearing, Admiral Eric T Olson, commander of US special operations command noted that Pakistan needs to do more in this war against terrorism, even though it has taken considerable steps in this regard.
"I would say in many ways Pakistan is behaving as a great ally and taking much risk upon their selves. But there is perhaps more that can be done. I think that the senior-level dialogues that are taking place are very productive in this regard," he said.
Olson said he has been in constant touch with Admiral Willard, commander, Pacific command, about the relationship between India and Pakistan.
"India-Pakistan reconciliation has got to be something that they take responsibility for. So we're more on a mode of making certain that what we're doing militarily is never seen as contrary to that trend," he said in response to a question.
Earlier, Senator Carl Levin said the presence of safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan continues to pose a security threat to Afghanistan and to the region.
"While US-Pakistan military cooperation has improved in some respects, the Pakistani army has not yet gone after the sanctuaries for the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan or the Afghan Taliban in and around Quetta, Pakistan," he said.
Mattis told Levin that there have been disconnects where the United States has not always seen eye to eye with Pakistan.
"Part of the reason these groups exist is together with Pakistan we helped create some of them," he said. "Any attempt to look at Pakistan's security interests must include their relationship, their difficult relationship, with India. And over the years, I believe that Pakistan got into position where the very groups that in some cases we helped to give birth to were... became part of the landscape, the Kalashnikov culture, for example," he said.
He said in many areas, Pakistan has acted against such groups and has cost it thousands of troops killed and wounded. "Especially telling is the number of junior officers they've lost, indicating an aggressive effort against these areas," Mattis said.
"But I think, too, it is the most difficult terrain I have ever operated in my 39 years in uniform. And the Pakistan military's movement against these folks is continuing. "We are now into our 24th month of unrelenting campaign against them," Mattis said.