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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

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.

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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.

Next Story

US President Donald Trump Understands India Seeking Strong Response After Kashmir Bombing

Simultaneously, Clinton spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee acting more as an interlocutor than a mediator

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Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during an event at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. VOA

US President Donald Trump has said that there was a “dangerous situation” between India and Pakistan because of the terrorist attack in Kashmir and he “understood” why New Delhi is seeking a strong response.

He also hinted on Friday that Washington may also be doing something to defuse the situation.

New Delhi is “looking for something strong” and because India has lost almost 50 people in the Pulwama attack, “I can understand that also”, he said at the White House while replying to a reporter’s question about the situation on the subcontinent.

“A lot of people were just killed and we want to see it stopped. We’re very much involved in that,” he added.

“Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) openly admitted it was behind the February 14 suicide bombing of a Central Reserve Police Force convoy that killed 40 troopers.

“It’s a terrible thing going on right now between Pakistan and India. It’s a very, very bad situation… It’s a very dangerous situation between the two countries. And we would like to see it stop”, Trump said, according to a White House transcript.

Tellingly, Trump’s statements on the situation came in the presence of Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, just before their talks.

Saudi Arabia, Modi, Terrorism
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Feb. 20, 2019. VOA

Trump did not give any details of any diplomatic efforts that his administration may be undertaking to de-escalate the situation or say if it related only to ending Pakistan’s support for terrorism.

He expressed frustration with Islamabad’s continued support for terrorists despite receiving US aid.

“Pakistan was taking very strong advantage of the US under other Presidents and we were paying Pakistan $1.3 billion a year. I ended that payment to Pakistan because they weren’t helping us in a way that they should have,” he said.

The US President, however, said that since stopping $1.3 billion in aid to Islamabad nine months ago, “we’ve developed a much better relationship with Pakistan over the last short period of time than we had”.

He said that he may be setting up some meetings with Pakistan, although it was not clear if it was in the context of the current situation or in general.

Trump and other top US officials have taken a strong unambiguous public stances against Pakistan in the terrorist attack, demanding that Islamabad end support to terrorists, and in support of India.

Speaking on his behalf soon after the attack, Trump’s Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had warned: “This attack only strengthens our resolve to bolster counter-terrorism cooperation and coordination between the US and India.”

Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton had also made an even more overt statement of support for self-defence.

India And USA, India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugs President Donald Trump as Modi departs the White House, June 26, 2017. VOA

In a call to National Security Adviser Ajit Doval earlier this month he said that he “supported India’s right to self-defence against cross-border terrorism”, according to the Indian External Affairs Ministry.

“He offered all assistance to India to bring the perpetrators and backers of the attack promptly to justice,” the ministry statement said.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had tweeted: “We stand with #India as it confronts terrorism. Pakistan must not provide safe haven for terrorists to threaten international security.”

In the past, the US has used its diplomatic prowess to calm things down in South Asia, but subtly without it seeming like mediation as India is against direct third party involvement. Then President Bill Clinton’s initiative during the Kargil conflict could be a roadmap for Trump.

When the two neighbours appeared to be on the brink of war in Kargil in 1999, Clinton launched a forceful diplomatic effort to prevent the situation from exploding.

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He moved away from his predecessors’ traditional neutrality or tilt to Pakistan and required Islamabad to withdraw it troops from Kargil in return for US efforts.

Clinton met then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who went to Washington for help as he faced intense military pressure for war, and forced Pakistan to pull back the armed forces it had sent there.

Simultaneously, Clinton spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee acting more as an interlocutor than a mediator. (IANS)