House Dems refuse funds to close Gitmo, relocate inmates

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By Agence France-Presse
Democrats in the US House of Representatives unveiled a 94.2-billion-dollar emergency spending bill to cover the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, fight a flu pandemic, and a range of other outlays.

Democratic House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey said the panel would meet Thursday to take up the measure, which is 9.3 billion dollars above what US President Barack Obama requested.

Lawmakers dealt a blow to Obama’s push to close the suspected terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by stripping out the roughly 80 million dollars he sought for that purpose.

     

“I personally favor what the administration is talking about doing but so far as we can tell, there is yet no concrete program for that,” said Obey. “I’m not much interested in wasting my energy defending a theoretical program.”

The proposal also ties funding for Obama’s new Pakistan and Afghanistan strategy to requirements that the White House produce a report on both countries’ cooperation and performance in the fight against Islamists.

The House measure includes 78.4 billion dollars for the Defense Department — 4.7 billion dollars more than Obama’s request at a time when US forces are ramping up in Afghanistan and moving towards a full withdrawal from Iraq.

It would provide 3.2 billion dollars for military construction, primarily for hospitals, a 900-million-dollar increase over the administration’s request.

Obey’s plan also sets aside two billion dollars to boost the country’s ability to respond to a potential worsening of the swine flu outbreak. Obama had requested 1.5 billion.

He said the bill would provide 2.3 billion dollars for Pakistan, including 400 million dollars in counterinsurgency funds to Pakistan, but declared himself “extremely dubious” about the prospects for success in the region.

“I don’t believe that the Pakistan government and the Afghan government are sufficiently focused and organized and unified to deal with the problem” of militants, who thrive in the two countries’ lawless border region, he said.

But Obey insisted that he wanted Obama “to have the greatest possible ability to succeed, so we are providing virtually everything the president is asking for in order to give him the best possible chance to succeed.”

At the same time, a summary of the legislation provided by his office noted that funding would be tied to formal White House findings of how the Afghan and Pakistan governments are doing in the fight.

Within one year, Obama would have to provide a formal assessment of the political will “to confront the political and security challenges facing the region,” the status of anti-corruption campaigns, and the performance of security forces in counterinsurgency campaigns.

The report would also cover the role of intelligence agencies “in cooperating fully with the US and not undermining the security of our troops and our objectives in the region.”

And it would also assess “the ability of the government to control the territory within their borders,” according to the summary.

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