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Rediff.com  » News » US tax-payer paid $2,374,000,000 Pakistan to fight terror

US tax-payer paid $2,374,000,000 Pakistan to fight terror

August 06, 2009 20:34 IST

Tax-payers in the United States have funded large-scale corruption in Pakistan. That is what a research paper at Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs says.

The paper, posted on the center's website, says there has been widespread agreement in the US that the aid to Pakistan has not been spent effectively over the past decade. It says the aid to Pakistan to fight terror has cost every tax payer $2,374,000,000. That was between 2002-2008.

This paper contributes to the debate in two ways.  First, it provides the most comprehensive survey of the publicly available information on U.S. aid to Pakistan since 2001 to provide an evidence base on which recommendations can be based.

Second, it suggests three ways to improve aid to Pakistan, by proposing three principles which should underlie any conditions which are attached to future aid. They are:

1. Cooperate to Reduce Obstruction, Sanction to Reduce Opposition -- Conditions should only be imposed to prevent clear harm to explicitly expressed U.S. intentions (such as Pakistan spending funds on nuclear weapons). Other outcomes, however desirable, (such as requiring Pakistan to shut madrasas which encourage extremism), should be achieved through cooperation, not conditionality.

2. First, Do No Harm -- It will be counterproductive to use conditions to micromanage specific positive outcomes by institutions beyond U.S. control¡ªthat would be to invite failure. Rather, conditions should focus on preventing harm (i.e. preventing Pakistan moving in the wrong direction, such as reducing civilian oversight over the military budget, for example).

3. Put Conditions Only on How the Aid is Spent -- Pakistan and its electorate are acutely sensitive to the perception that the country may be being bullied or bribed. Some argue that this speaks to the necessity of not imposing any conditions. This is equivalent to arguing that Pakistan's sensitivity licenses it to more years misspending a large proportion of U.S. aid money. A more logical response is to draw a distinction between how Pakistan spends the aid funds and general Pakistani actions which do not directly relate to how Pakistan spends U.S. aid. The most important aspect of this paper is the recommendation that conditions should only be tailored to the actual use of the funds themselves (apart from conditions preventing Pakistan from moving in the wrong direction). The funds should not be used as leverage to impose positive collateral requirements on Pakistan.

The paper elaborates, "The US must also recognize that conditionality is only part of the solution; conditions are not an appropriate means to achieve all the outcomes which the United States seeks. For each, Congress should look into the various options, excluding sanctions, which it has available to it, in a hard©\headed way. The United States must not provide Pakistani institutions with incentives to act counter to U.S. foreign policy objectives in the future. It has done so in the past. But until the spring of 2009, no comprehensive overview of the full funding to Pakistan was possible as the figures were kept secret. Those figures, as well as a full analysis of what is known about how they were spent, can now be evaluated. The available information paints a picture of a systemic lack of supervision in the provision of aid to Pakistan, often lax U.S. oversight, and the incentivization of U.S. taxpayer¨Cfunded corruption in the Pakistani military and security services. The author believes that this is the first attempt to present an overview of U.S. aid to Pakistan since 2001, evaluate it, and present recommendations on how to ensure that mistakes are not repeated and lessons are learned."

The paper adds, "Since 1951, the United States has given significant funding to Pakistan. Since September 11, 2001, U.S. funding has been intended for the following five purposes: to cover the extra cost to Pakistan's military of fighting terrorism; provide Pakistan with military equipment to fight terrorism; to provide development and humanitarian assistance; covert funds (such as bounties or prize money); and cash transfers directly to the Pakistani government's budget.

Pakistan is one of only four countries to receive direct cash transfers. Between 2002 and 2008, this "thank you" to Pakistan for help in fighting terrorism cost the U.S. taxpayer $2,374,000,000. By its nature, these cash transfers became Pakistani sovereign funds, precluding U.S. oversight.

Since 2001, the paper says, there have been significant concerns over the funding:

1. The United States has not been transparent about the funds. Until 2009, information has been either hidden from the public or released in a form too aggregated to allow for effective public oversight. Those who have seen the agreements on how funds are to be spent say they have lacked concrete benchmarks, sometimes even concrete figures, and were too vague to be effective.

2. The United States misused development funds. Operating costs were high, too much of the aid was ineffective, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programmes have been hampered by insufficient resources and security concerns.

3. The United States had inadequate procedures for checking how Pakistan spent the funds. U.S. Embassy staff in Pakistan were not required to check how the Pakistani military actually spent U.S. funds, the Pakistani army insisted that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) -- where much of the money was to be spent -- were too dangerous to visit, making sustained oversight there impossible; the United States has not been able to check Pakistani army records on how the money was being spent; the procedures in place to check how Pakistan spent the money were inadequate, and the decision to give Pakistan funds in the form of reimbursements made adequate oversight impossible.

4. The Pakistani military did not use most of the funds for the agreed objective of fighting terror. Pakistan bought much conventional military equipment. Examples include F©\16s, aircraft©\mounted armaments, anti©\ship and antimissile defense systems, and an air defense radar system costing $200 million, despite the fact that the terrorists in the FATA have no air attack capability. Over half of the total funds¡ª54.9 percent¡ªwere spent on fighter aircraft and weapons, over a quarter¡ª26.62 percent¡ªon support and other aircraft, and 10 percent on advanced weapons systems.

5. There is also clear evidence of corruption within the Pakistani army. The United States provided $1.5 million to reimburse Pakistan for damage to Navy vehicles which had not been used in combat, $15 million for the Pakistani army to build bunkers for which there is no evidence that they exist, and about $30 million for Pakistani road©\building for which there is no such evidence either.

6. Pakistani counterterrorism failed until 2009. During the years 2001 to mid©\2009, significant parts of the FATA were under Taliban control, and according to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, al Qaeda has reconstituted a safe haven in the FATA. Tellingly, when the Pakistani army did launch an effective operation in Malakand in mid©\2009, it was primarily in response to public pressure within Pakistan, not U.S. aid.