Bush signs bill to help Pakistan meet threats

Posted in Broader Middle East | 18-Dec-04 | Author: Anwar Iqbal| Source: dawn.com (Pakistan)

President Bush, center seated, signs the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 during a ceremony at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, Friday, Dec. 17, 2004 in Washington.
WASHINGTON, Dec 17: President George W. Bush on Friday signed into law a bill that, among other things, binds the US administration to help Pakistan overcome the internal and external threats it faces.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which Mr Bush signed at Washington's Andrew W. Mellon auditorium, advises the administration to maintain the current level of US assistance to Pakistan.

Last month, the US Congress approved an annual assistance of $701 million in military and economic assistance to Pakistan and under the new act, the administration will be required to maintain this level of annual assistance to Islamabad.

"We'll take the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home," said Mr Bush in a seven-minute speech he delivered before signing the bill which seeks to overhaul America's intelligence gathering methods and agencies.

"Our government is adopting to confront and defeat these threats. We're staying on the offensive against the enemy," he said. Inside the ornate auditorium were about 300 spectators.

Onstage with Mr. Bush were Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice, Director of CIA Porter Goss, FBI Director Robert Mueller and several lawmakers involved in passing the bill, including Bill Frist, Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins.

Mr Bush thanked all those involved in the process, including the 9/11 commission which drafted the recommendations that led to the overhauling of America's intelligence gathering system. He noted the families of the victims of the 2001 terrorist attack present in the auditorium and thanked them too.

He cited some of the provisions included in the bill, notably creation of a new director of national intelligence, and said that in fighting terrorism, "instead of mass armies, we face stateless networks".

Sitting briefly at a desk adorned with a placard reading "Protecting America," Mr Bush signed the bill, and stood for applause. He greeted the congressional leaders on stage with handshakes and arm-grabs.

"The bill I sign today continues the essential reorganization of our government," he said. "Those charged with protecting America must have the best possible intelligence information and that information must be closely integrated to form the clearest possible picture of the threats to our country."

The proposed director of national intelligence will serve as the principle adviser to the US president on intelligence matters and unify the intelligence gathering system. The director will also have the authority to order the collection of new intelligence, ensure the sharing of information among agencies and to establish common standards for the intelligence community's personnel.

It will be the director's responsibility to determine the annual budgets for all national intelligence agencies and offices and to direct how these funds are spent. "These authorities vested in a single official who reports directly to me will make all our intelligence efforts better coordinated, more efficient, and more effective," Mr Bush said.

PROPOSALS: The bill includes concrete proposals for ensuring a long-term US engagement with Pakistan. Section 4082 of the act urges the US administration to ensure a promising, stable and secure future for Pakistan and help it resolve its disputes with neighbours, combat "extremists," and become a "participatory democracy".

Section 4083 gives Pakistan a glimpse of US commitment by waiving democracy-related and other sanctions for two years. Section 5108 opens the door to Pakistan receiving more US funding for education reform, with an emphasis on, but not limited to madrassahs.

Section 1003 tries to allay Pakistani apprehensions that it is merely "an ally of convenience" by extending US assistance "at current levels" beyond 2009. Mr Bush signed the bill only a day after the US Congress endorsed a $1.2 billion arms package for Pakistan.

The 2004 intelligence reform act officially binds Washington to engage into a long-term economic and political partnership with its key Muslim allies. The act also suggests various proposals for improving America's image in the Islamic world and for helping its Muslim allies combat internal extremism.

It calls on Mr Bush to submit a report within 90 days with a strategy for addressing and eliminating 'terrorist sanctuaries'. Although the act calls for promoting US interests in the entire Muslim world - from the Far East to North Africa - the emphasis is on the US interaction with three key allies, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The intelligence reform act devotes a large section to the US efforts to build democracy while fighting terrorists and opium cultivation in Afghanistan. The legislation requires Mr Bush to present in not later than six months a five-year strategy addressing a range of goals from security and economic development to the rule of law in Afghanistan.

The new law includes a framework for US-Saudi cooperation in the war on terrorism with specific reference to the financing of terrorists and an examination of steps to "reverse the trend toward extremism in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries in the Middle East."