WASHINGTON: The United States has earmarked $700 million in its budget for the next fiscal year for training and equipment to improve Pakistan’s counterinsurgency capability.
This is a major increase from the $400 million set aside for this purpose in the current fiscal year which expires on Sept. 30.
This marks the first time since 2003 that the Afghan war funding surpassed the outlay for Iraq. The Pentagon is seeking $130 billion in war funds for 2010, including $65 billion for Afghanistan and $61 billion for Iraq. For 2009, the Pentagon had request $87 billion for Iraq and $47 billion for Afghanistan.
The move demonstrates a shift in US priorities as the Obama administration increases its focus on fighting the militants it holds responsible for planning and executing the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The proposed fund for Afghanistan covers the deployment of 21,000 additional US troops this year, raising the total to 68,000. More funds would be required if President Obama decides to meet the request of US commanders for 10,000 more troops next year.
The Pentagon’s $534 billion base budget is $21 billion, or four per cent, larger than last year’s. It includes key initiatives to reshape the US military to fight insurgencies across the world.
Major spending increases include $2 billion on intelligence and reconnaissance, $500 million to field and maintain helicopters, and funds to add 2,400 personnel to Special Operations Forces in 2010 as well as aircraft to support them. More will be spent on some modern weapons systems, with an increase in the purchase of littoral combat ships and the ‘fifth generation’ F-35 fighter jets.
The 2010 Pentagon eliminates $8.8 billion in weapons programmes that were in the 2009 budget. It would halt the programme for the F-22 fighter jet after 187 are manufactured.
Other major cuts include ending the $13 billion presidential helicopter programme, which has more than doubled in cost; the $19 billion transformational satellite programme; and the Air Force combat search-and-rescue helicopter programme, as well as cutting $1.2 billion from missile defence.