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History of US aid to Pakistan: 1950-2014

Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad have alleged that Pakistan misspent some 70 percent of the U.S. funds that paid the Pakistani military to run missions in the unwieldy provinces along the Afghan border

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A big part of that answer lies in determining how much bang the United States has gotten for its buck so far—whether or not some of the money was syphoned off along the way to fund Army generals' new houses or Taliban elements. Wikimedia Commons
A big part of that answer lies in determining how much bang the United States has gotten for its buck so far—whether or not some of the money was syphoned off along the way to fund Army generals' new houses or Taliban elements. Wikimedia Commons
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It was with the best of intentions that the U.S. funnelled nearly $5.3 billion to Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. After all, that money helped strike down a Cold War adversary. But there were unintended consequences too—namely, the Taliban. Since 9/11, the U.S. has turned on the spigot again, sending more than $15 billion US aid in assistance to Pakistan. It also bolsters development efforts, which, according to bill coauthor Sen. John Kerry, will “build a relationship with the people [of Pakistan] to show that what we want is a relationship that meets their interests and needs.”

But how effective will this round of money be? Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad have alleged that Pakistan misspent some 70 percent of the U.S. funds that paid the Pakistani military to run missions in the unwieldy provinces along the Afghan border. U.S. officials accuse Pakistan of running a double game with the money, keeping the Taliban at bay just enough to persuade American benefactors to keep their wallets open, thereby ensuring a lifeline for the country’s mangled economy. All of which raises the question: will any amount of money produce results?

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As the Cold War heated up, a 1954 security agreement prompted the United States to provide nearly $2.5 billion in economic aid and $700 million in military aid to Pakistan. Wikimedia Commons
As the Cold War heated up, a 1954 security agreement prompted the United States to provide nearly $2.5 billion in economic aid and $700 million in military aid to Pakistan. Wikimedia Commons

A big part of that answer lies in determining how much bang the United States has gotten for its buck so far—whether or not some of the money was syphoned off along the way to fund Army generals’ new houses or Taliban elements. Here’s an accounting of US aid to Pakistan in recent decades, divided into eras based on the ebbs and flows of assistance. (Figures are in historical dollars.)

1950-1964: As the Cold War heated up, a 1954 security agreement prompted the United States to provide nearly $2.5 billion in economic aid and $700 million in military aid to Pakistan.

1965-1979: With the Indo-Pakistani hostilities in the late 1960s, the United States retreated. Between 1965 and 1971, the U.S. sent only $26 million in military US aid, which was cut back even further to $2.9 million through the end of the decade. Meanwhile, economic US aid kept flowing, totalling $2.55 billion over the 15 years.

Everything came to a halt in 1979, however, when the Carter administration cut off all but food aid after discovering a uranium-enrichment facility in Pakistan. Pakistani leader Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq refused $400 million, split for economic and military US aid from President Jimmy Carter, calling it “peanuts.” The following year, he was rewarded with a much more attractive offer.

1979-1990: The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan changed everything. Pakistan’s ISI security apparatus became the primary means of funnelling covert U.S. assistance to anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan. From 1980 to 1990, the United States ramped up its contributions for both development and military purposes, sending more than $5 billion over the course of the decade.

From 1980 to 1990, the United States ramped up its contributions for both development and military purposes, sending more than $5 billion over the course of the decade. Wikimedia Commons
From 1980 to 1990, the United States ramped up its contributions for both development and military purposes, sending more than $5 billion over the course of the decade. Wikimedia Commons

1991-2000: But even while Pakistan was serving a strategic Cold War purpose, concerns persisted about the country’s nuclear ambitions. That gave President George H.W. Bush an easy out from the massive funding commitments in 1990, after the fall of the Soviet Union.

US Aid over the next decade withered to $429 million in economic assistance and $5.2 million in military assistance, a drop-off Pakistanis still cite bitterly, accusing the United States of leaving them high and dry during the decade.

ALSO READ: Will Pakistan listen to the USA and Stop Harboring Taliban and other terrorist groups?

2001-2009: Since 9/11, the United States has once again bolstered its funding commitments, sending nearly $9 billion in military assistance both to aid and reimburse Pakistan for its operations in the unwieldy border regions with Afghanistan. Another $3.6 billion has funded economic and diplomatic initiatives. But U.S. officials and journalists’ accounts have raised concerns that such funds are not being used as intended, and not just because of the typical concerns about corruption.

Documented military and civilian government deals with Taliban elements, like a 2004 agreement with Waziri militant leader Nek Mohammed, have confirmed that money intended to fight the Taliban is, in many cases, being used instead to pay them off. (Islamabad is currently battling Taliban fighters in Waziristan.) When the deals fall through, as rapidly shifting alliances in Pakistan’s tribal regions often do, that money ultimately ends up funding the insurgency. U.S. officials have expressed particular concerns about the Pakistani government’s links to the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, which reportedly has ties to Al Qaeda. At the same time, former president Pervez Musharraf has recently admitted to using U.S. military funding to strengthen defences against India.

2009-2014: A new five-year, $7.5 billion assistance package was passed by Congress in September and signed by President Obama in October, with stipulations explicitly prohibiting funds from being used for nuclear proliferation, to support terrorist groups, or to pay for attacks in neighbouring countries. It also puts a new emphasis on the bottom line, reserving the right to cut off US aid if Pakistan fails to crack down on militants.

Those restrictions have opened a rift between the military and the civilian government in Pakistan, which maintain an uneasy relationship following nearly a decade of military rule under Musharraf. Military leaders worry they are being sidelined by the increased U.S. emphasis on development and accountability, claiming the bill threatens Pakistan’s sovereignty. But supporters of the bill say the restrictions are no more stringent than previous ones and accuse Pakistani military leaders of manufacturing a crisis to undermine the civilian government.

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China, Pakistan and Afghanistan Sign a Deal to Enhance Counter Terrorism

China has said it would help build roads and railways to connect it with Afghanistan.

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Pakistan, CHina, Afghanistan
Afghanistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Salahuddin Rabbani, center, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, first right, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, first left, shake hands after signing the agreement at the presidential palace in Kabul, Dec. 15, 2018. VOA

China, Pakistan and Afghanistan signed a trilateral understanding Saturday to enhance counterterrorism security cooperation, and collectively reiterated their call for the Taliban insurgency to join Afghan peace talks.

The foreign ministers of the three countries met in Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul, for a second round of talks, where they put the understanding into effect and also pledged to jointly work for regional connectivity, as well as economic development.

Beijing initiated the platform and hosted the inaugural meeting last year with a mission to help ease tensions and suspicions that have long plagued Afghanistan’s relationship with Pakistan. Critics say the tensions have hampered the effort to fight terrorism and promote regional peace, as well as economic connectivity.

 

Afghanistan, China, Pakistan
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, shake hands at the end of a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Jan. 26, 2016. VOA

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a joint news conference after the meeting that his country will continue diplomatic efforts to help improve Kabul’s strained relations with Islamabad to further Beijing’s mission of regional peace and development.

 

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi noted terrorist entities — such as Islamic State (IS), the anti-China East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — threaten regional peace and could only be defeated through joint efforts.

Chinese officials worry that continued Afghan instability could encourage ETIM to foment problems in the western Xinjiang region, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We signed today an MoU [memorandum of understanding] on counterterrorism and security. This is a step forward and I think it will help us achieve what we collectively want to achieve,” Qureshi told reporters.

He emphasized that Pakistan is making efforts to promote a reconciliation process in Afghanistan, but he said it is up to Afghans themselves to decide how they want to achieve a political settlement to the war.

Pakistan, China
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi gestures during a briefing at foreign ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. VOA

Afghan officials allege that Pakistan allows Taliban leaders to hide in the neighboring country and direct their violent insurgency from there. Kabul accuses Islamabad of not upholding its commitments made in bilateral and multilateral forums to prevent the Taliban from using Pakistani soil.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, while addressing the news conference, called on Islamabad to play its “important role” to facilitate Kabul’s peace talks with the Taliban. He stopped short, though, of reiterating accusations that Pakistan is behind the deadly insurgency in his country.

“There are groups in the region who have been getting support and who have been involved in this violence in Afghanistan. We need to see countries in the region, particularly in this case Pakistan, to support this initiative of peace and reconciliation and support us in reducing this growing violence and ultimately eliminate the violence throughout Afghanistan,” Rabbani said.

But his remarks drew a strong reaction from the Pakistani foreign minister, who urged both sides to stop pointing fingers at each other.

Pakistan, China
Ahsan Iqbal (L), Pakistan’s Minister of Planning and Development and Yao Jing, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan attend the launching ceremoney of CPEC long-term cooperation plan in Islamabad, Pakistan December 18, 2017. VOA

“We will have to be more positive. We will have to realize that by blaming each other we are going nowhere. We have spent decades, we have seen devastation, we have seen people killed and maimed on both sides of the border. Time has come to move on. Time has come to stop pointing fingers,” Qureshi lamented.

The Pakistani foreign minister said his delegation’s visit to Kabul and participation in the trilateral meeting are all aimed at building mutual political trust and facilitating the Afghan peace process.

The allegations and counter allegations at the news conference once again underscored a deeply mistrusted relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

China, a close ally of Pakistan, lately has deepened its economic and political ties with Afghanistan. It has been actively using its influence to bring the two uneasy South Asian neighbors closer. Beijing also maintains contacts with the Taliban and repeatedly has urged the insurgents to engage in peace talks to seek a solution to their concerns.

The Chinese and Pakistani foreign ministers on Saturday invited and encouraged the Afghan government to join their bilateral multi-billion-dollar infrastructure-building project that Beijing is carrying out in Pakistan as part of its global Belt and Road Initiative.

Imran Khan, Pakistan, China
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a ceremony in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA
Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China has said it would help build roads and railways to connect it with Afghanistan. Qureshi urged his Afghan counterpart to send a delegation to Pakistan to examine projects in which they might want to take part.
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He said the regional connectivity will be crucial for building war-ravaged Afghanistan. Pakistan also believes linking Afghanistan to CPEC would give it better access to trade with Central Asian markets.

Foreign Minister Rabbani said a third meeting of the trilateral dialogue will take place in Islamabad next year. (VOA)