Pentagon Seeks More Financial Aid for Pakistani Military

On Thursday, Pentagon officials announced a plan to spend $3 billion over the next five years to help Pakistan fight Taliban and Al Qaeda elements stationed in the country’s tribal regions.  The funds would include $500 million as part of an annual emergency war budget that the Obama administration will submit to Congress next week.

 

For years, Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters have attacked American soldiers in Afghanistan from bases in Pakistan where the central government has virtually no authority.  The Pakistani military has sporadically engaged the insurgents and terrorists in combat, but American officials have been trying to persuade the Pakistanis to take stronger action against them.  The government in Islamabad has made several cease-fire agreements with the Taliban during the last few years which have been repeatedly broken by the latter.  A similar deal is currently in effect.  Critics of the pacts argue that they strengthen the Taliban and give them the opportunity to rearm and regroup before carrying out more attacks.

 

The new spending would help train Pakistan’s special operations forces and Frontier Corps troops for counterinsurgency warfare and also provide materiel such as helicopters, night visions goggles and other equipment.  Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the US has provided $12 worth of military and economic assistance to Pakistan, $1 billion of which reimburses Pakistan for deploying 100,000 troops along its border with Afghanistan.  Critics of the program argue that much of the funds have been siphoned off by corrupt Pakistani officials.

 

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged that there has not been sufficient oversight with regard to the foreign aid.

 

In an interview with the New York Times, Mullen said “There hasn’t been an audit trail, and there haven’t been accountability measures put in place, and there needs to be for all the funds.  So we’re going to do that.  For this counterinsurgency money, which is important, it is critical that it goes for exactly that and nothing else.”

 

It is understandable why the US wants to assist the Pakistani government in the manner described.  However, the Pakistanis have thus far been unwilling to sustain a campaign against the Taliban and it is not because they lack the money to do so.  The absence of resolve is due to the fact that the Taliban are perceived as being primarily an enemy of the US, and elements of Pakistan’s security forces are sympathetic to the militants and have actively supported them.  It is doubtful that a few billion dollars in American aid over a five year period is going to change the mindset of Pakistani leaders.  The US should wait until it sees a more serious commitment from Pakistan before doling out more funds.  Even if the Pakistanis demonstrate a greater willingness to take on the insurgents, there is still a chance that the money given to them will be stolen or used to assist the people that the financial assistance is intended to thwart.  Although there is a rational basis for the plan, there is a significant possibility that it will fail or backfire.

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