WASHINGTON (CN) – President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law a bill tripling U.S. aid to Pakistan, bringing the sum to $1.5 billion a year. The money is meant to strengthen democracy as Pakistan struggles with violent extremism.
In May, alarm spread in Congress after the Taliban fought its way to within 60 miles of Islamabad, the capital of the nuclear-armed country.
The increase in non-military aid would be applied during each fiscal year from 2010 to 2014. Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States, Maleeha Lodhi, said earlier this month that the five-year pledge would combat the traditional Pakistani view that “we are seen as hired help. We are not seen as a valued ally.”
Obama had called for an increase in funds to Pakistan in March, saying it would enhance the partnership between the two nations.
The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 is “based on a shared commitment to improving the living conditions of the people of Pakistan through sustainable economic development, strengthening democracy and the rule of law, and combating the extremism that threatens Pakistan and the United States,” the White House said in a statement after the signing.
Foreign Relations Committee Chair Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) applauded the Act, saying it would help Pakistan combat al-Qaida and other violent extremists, and would help “solidify a democratic government.”