WASHINGTON: Lawmakers in the House of Representatives debating the $642.5 billion National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2013, approved it following a vote 299-120 in favour.
As the bill was approved, enroute, an amendment was proposed which could block up to $650 million in proposed payments to Pakistan unless Islamabad lets coalition forces resume shipment of war supplies across its territory. Lawmakers voted 412-1 in favour of the amendment.
War-weary US lawmakers clashed over Afghanistan policy and vented their frustration with Pakistan's border closing on Thursday as they debated an annual defense policy bill that seeks $642.5 billion in military spending for the 2013 fiscal year.
The moves came as lawmakers debated more than 140 amendments to the policy bill, which seeks $554 billion in base defense spending for fiscal year (FY) 2013 and $88.5 billion for the Afghan war and other overseas operations.
The pressure for an accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan came ahead of a two-day NATO summit in Chicago starting on Sunday where leaders will discuss the final transition to Afghan security control and the withdrawal of international forces by the end of 2014.
Democratic lawmakers tried to urge Obama to complete an accelerated handover of security to Afghan forces by the end of 2013 and to remove US troops by the end of 2014.
Islamabad closed the frontier to NATO supply convoys after an air strike in November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. A US official said on Wednesday the two sides were on the verge of clinching a deal to reopen the supply lines.
Sherry Rehman holds meetings with US Congressmen
On a related note, The Express Tribune learned from the Embassy of Pakistan that the Ambassador Sherry Rehman has been meeting with senior Republican and Democratic leaders in the Congress on the subject of US-Pakistan relations and the parliamentary review. The Ambassador is said to have met with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Senators John Kerry, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin amongst others.
The Express Tribune was told that during the discussions, Congressional leaders were told that the recent amendments on US assistance to Pakistan "would not help bring the relationship back on track," and that Pakistan "stood to gain more from peace and stability in Afghanistan than Pakistan and it was therefore incorrect to blame Pakistan for the difficulties in Afghanistan."
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