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Benchmarks Metrics, Missing Sweet Spots, And Af-Pak

One thing that you didn’t get from Ambassador Richard Holbrooke in yesterday’s hearing on Pakistan: a sense of precisely what accountability measures the Obama administration finds too “inflexible” in the House’s Pakistan funding bill. Nor did he say what the administration’s metrics — I’m told the word “benchmarks” are too reminiscent of the Iraq debate — for measuring progress will be. “If we’re succeeding, we’re gonna know it,” he said, allowing that he’d work with the committee to find the “sweet spot” between accountability and flexibility. OK then. If you don’t know where that spot is, Holbrooke is not helping you find it.

Evidently, Congress isn’t so happy about that.

The House’s Pakistan bill blocks military assistance — with an option for waiving the restriction — if the president doesn’t determine that Pakistan is making progress against insurgent and terrorist groups. Its counterpart in the Senate does the same thing, adding on further restrictions designed to curb anti-Indian terrorist groups and terrorist influence on Pakistan’s political and judicial processes. Going way beyond that, Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), the top appropriator in the House, said during the unveiling of the supplemental war funding bill on Monday that he would give the Obama administration one year to demonstrate progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan before considering cutting the joint effort’s purse strings, as CQ’s Josh Rogin reports.

A the State Department this morning, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari by pledging wide-ranging U.S. aid to both countries. “This is not just me speaking, but this is the American Government speaking,” she said. If the administration doesn’t start detailing what accountability measures it can accept for Af-Pak, that won’t be true for much longer.

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