WASHINGTON - Warning that Al-Qaeda and Taliban extremists are posing "an ever more serious threat to Pakistan's very existence", a top US general has sought Congressional support for a three-billion-dollar programme to enhance the country's counterinsurgency capability to deal with the militants. Gen David Petraeus, chief of the US Central Command, made a strong case for the approval of Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capabilities Fund, a new, more-flexible spending stream that would permit more rapid and targeted US training and provide more equipment to Pakistani forces that combat insurgents inside the country's lawless tribal regions. "The Pakistani military has stepped up operations in parts of the tribal areas. Everyone recognises, however, that much further work is required, and the events of recent days underscore that point," Petraeus testified before a panel of the House Appropriations Committee. Specifically, Petraeus said, Pakistan must reconfigure its military forces to deal with counterinsurgency operations rather than to continue its conventional focus on traditional rival India. The fund Petraeus seeks, with a budget of $400m for the rest of fiscal 2009, would be channelled directly through US Central Command, which he oversees. This arrangement would give Central Command greater control over how the money is spent, and the military could withhold equipment from Pakistani forces until they complete required training, according to an outline of the programme. The fund would be similar to those used to train and equip Iraqi and Afghan soldiers and police, Petraeus said, and would be tailored to Pakistani forces engaged in counterinsurgency. Such US military training is underway for small numbers of Pakistani forces that operate in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas and NWFP, he said. About 300 to 350 Frontier Corps forces moved into the district of Buner after the Taliban expanded into the area from the Swat Valley. The Taliban "supposedly have now withdrawn with the arrival of the Frontier Corps forces" in Buner, Petraeus said. "So this capability will help us enormously." Congress is likely to support the new fund for the Pakistan Army at least in the current supplemental spending bill that covers military contingencies for 2009, according to sources. However, there may be a debate over the programme for 2010, with some lawmakers seeking to channel the counterinsurgency funds through the State Department rather than the US military, according to congressional staff members. "Given our relationship with Pakistan and its military over the years, it is important that the United Stats be seen as a reliable ally in assisting with that work," Petraeus argued in his testimony. "The Pakistani military has been fighting a tough battle against extremists for more than seven years. They have sacrificed much and have suffered very tough losses in this campaign, and they deserve our support." Petraeus, who is credited with the success of US troops surge strategy in Iraq, vowed that the US military "will expand our partnership with the Pakistani military and help it build its counterinsurgency capabilities by providing training, equipment and assistance." "We will also expand our exchange programmes to build stronger relationships with Pakistani leaders at all levels." The five-year funding programme Petraeus is seeking will include a budget of $400 million for the rest of fiscal 2009. The US General said India is part of the "portfolio" of Richard Holbrooke, the special US representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, saying that a resolution of the Kashmir dispute would help Islamabad shift its focus from its eastern neighbour to combat the extremists' threat. The Obama administration has so far denied that India was one of tasks in Holbrooke's assignment. But on Friday, General David Petraeus, commander of the US central command, told a congressional hearing, "There are people who have rightly said that ambassador Holbrooke's title should be Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Petraeus said the US has been trying to impress upon Pakistan that India is not their real threat and that New Delhi has shown remarkable restraint even after provocative terrorist activities in recent years. "India did indeed show impressive restraint in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. I mean, that was a 9/11 moment for them. In fact, they did not ratchet up the tensions," he said. Petraeus said that many observers "correctly assess" that India played a very constructive role in avoiding a further increase in tensions that might have been understandable given the death inflicted on its innocent civilians in the financial capital. The US military General said both ambassador Holbrooke and he have met with the Indian national security adviser, the Indian foreign Minister and others and have been in constant touch with them. "Ambassador Holbrooke's first trip to the region, for example, didn't include just Afghanistan and Pakistan. It then continued on into India. It had my deputy with him for those..." he said. Replying to a question from a lawmaker whether an international diplomats effort would help ease the tense India-Pakistan relations, Petraeus said, "(I)f you could resolve that conundrum or even, again, reduce the tensions, again, that could contribute to an ability to focus more, again, intellectually, as well as just sheer forces, physically - on the internal extremist threat".