WASHINGTON - The House Appropriations Committee has approved a defence spending bill that imposes limits on US aid to Pakistan and creates a special bipartisan group to review the US role in Afghanistan. Lawmakers urged President Barack Obama to step up the pace of US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and endorsed tougher oversight of US spending in Pakistan. The lawmakers expressed growing skepticism about the war in Afghanistan as the House panel approved only $649 billion in defence spending for the 2012 fiscal year, including $118 billion for the wars abroad. The panel gave the go-ahead to the bill on a voice vote Tuesday. The legislation would provide $530 billion for the US Defence Department as the bill is $9 billion less than what President Barack Obama had requested. The bill would withhold 75 per cent of the $1.1 billion in US aid to Pakistan until the administration reports to Congress on how it would spend the money. Reflecting the frustration with Pakistans effort in the war on terrorism, the committee adopted an amendment that gives Congress even more power to review the spending. After the voice vote, the panel forwarded the bill to the full House for consideration, expected later this month. The Senate is still working on its version of the bill. The two houses must pass the same bill before sending it to the President for his signature. The $649 billion for the Pentagons base budget plus overseas operations like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was nearly $22 billion less than the spending approved for the current fiscal year, mainly due to falling costs associated with the Iraq war. But Democratic Representative Norman Dicks warned the cost of the conflict in Afghanistan was becoming unsustainable. I am increasingly convinced that the administration has to accelerate the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and at the same time work for a political settlement, Dicks said. While endorsing the president on Iraq and Afghanistan, Dicks said it is not going to be realistic to continue funding the wars at the current levels in coming years. Are we going to educate the American people, are we going to take care of the unemployed, or are we going to continue doing nation-building in Afghanistan? he asked. I think that is a choice we are all going to have to consider in the days ahead. The panel agreed to a proposal by Representative Jeff Flake to tighten congressional oversight over $1.1 billion in counterinsurgency funds approved for Pakistan. Congress would have 30 days to review administration spending plans before 75 percent of the funds could be released. In other words, Congress will have 30 days to review the panel report and decide whether the money should be sent to Pakistan. The bill approved by the committee cuts nearly $9 billion from Obamas request for 2012 defence spending, mainly by delaying procurement and development costs for some weapons systems to later years. Agencies add: The House Appropriations Committee voted for an assessment of operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan modeled after the 2006 Iraq Study Group. The committee approved an amendment put forward by Rep Frank Wolf, R-Va., that would provide $1 million to form a bipartisan Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group. Wolf said hed talked to John Hamre, president and CEO of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and that Hamre agreed to facilitate the study. However, due to the Houses rules against earmarks, Wolf could not write the amendment so that it specifically directed CSIS to lead the study. Instead, it is left to the Pentagon to choose an independent, private sector entity through competition. Wolf said a $1 million earmark created the Iraq Study Group. The Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group would also be made up of five Democrats and five Republicans and would have 90 to 120 days to complete the study. We need fresh eyes on the target, Wolf said. Some of the best minds Ive spoken to have said this is a good idea. The United States has acknowledged that its relationship with Islamabad has many 'challenges in the light of Osama bin Ladens location deep inside Pakistan, but says its also in both countries long-term national security interest. Obviously, Im not going to comment on the substance of that story, given that it touches on intelligence issues and matters, the State Department spokesman told reporters on Monday when asked about a media report that information about terrorist bomb-making factories given to Pakistan was being leaked. Ill just say that weve been consistent in saying that our relationship with Pakistan has many challenges, but its also in both our countries long-term national security interest, and weve also shared many successes, he said. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 'have said, theres been more terrorists killed and captured in Pakistan than anywhere in the world, and that couldnt have been done without Pakistans cooperation, Toner added. Asked to specify the challenges in relations with Pakistan, the spokesman said: I think everyone recognises some of the challenges in the relationship, especially in light of Osama bin Laden - his whereabouts. Were taking steps to address those, Toner said recalling a series of visits, trips to Pakistan, rather, by senior government officials, including Secretary Clinton. And each of them have pledged our commitment to work through these challenges with Pakistan and move the relationship forward, he said.