May 17th, 2011
04:16 PM ET

Don't cut U.S. aid to Pakistan

Editor's Note: The following is an expert opinion from CFR.org's E. Candace Putnam, the Cyrus Vance Fellow in Diplomatic Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

By E. Candace Putnam, CFR.org

The fact that Osama bin Laden hid in Pakistan for five years demonstrates that Pakistan's military was either complicit or incompetent. Either prospect is deeply troubling, but another abrupt cut in U.S. aid will only endanger security cooperation that has been effective, if insufficient, in making America safer.

The United States is constrained by three harsh realities:

– Closing terrorist safe-havens and keeping Pakistan's nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands requires sustained Pakistani action.

– We cannot fight in Afghanistan without the 80 percent of fuel and dry goods shipped through Pakistan. A responsible withdrawal of U.S. forces depends on an Afghan political solution that Pakistan will influence.

– Pakistan's stability affects India, Afghanistan, China, and Iran. It is a country of 180 million Muslims struggling with a weak civilian government, massive debt, and growing religious extremism fueled by widespread poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. U.S. sanctions would precipitate an economic crisis that likely would bring down the current government.

Pakistan hedges its bets, primarily through official and unofficial support for proxy terrorist forces they use to protect what they believe are existential strategic interests in Afghanistan and India. These proxies are killing our soldiers in Afghanistan and have growing global terrorist ambitions.

America has cut off aid before, with disastrous results. We funneled millions through Pakistan to oust the Soviets from Kabul, but we later cut all assistance for twelve years under nuclear-related sanctions. After 9/11, we came back with primarily military aid and demands they fight the Taliban. Today, the Pakistani people distrust us as a fair-weather friend that supports military dictators. The rising generation of Pakistani generals, barred under sanctions from U.S. training, remains wary of cooperation just when we need them to help us defeat al-Qaeda.

Through bilateral cooperation, more al-Qaeda leaders have been captured or killed in Pakistan than in any other country. But Pakistan hedges its bets, primarily through official and unofficial support for proxy terrorist forces they use to protect what they believe are existential strategic interests in Afghanistan and India. These proxies are killing our soldiers in Afghanistan and have growing global terrorist ambitions. So, the United States also hedges bets with unilateral actions like the raid on Osama.

The Osama raid was a wake-up call that it is now Pakistan's turn to demonstrate its reliability as an ally. Pakistan's parliament, media, and citizens are publicly questioning a deeply embarrassed military/intelligence establishment. The United States has also demanded answers about Osama's support network and should support an investigation that increases military accountability to the civilian government. An investigation won't produce public admissions of failure, but it could lead to a strategic policy reassessment that is in U.S. interests. We need to remain engaged to make this happen.

For more views on whether to continue U.S. aid to Pakistan, visit the Council on Foreign Relations.

Post by:
Topics: Pakistan • United States

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Tom

    Here is my rebuttal.
    "– Closing terrorist safe-havens and keeping Pakistan's nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands requires sustained Pakistani action."
    Pakistan has not reduced terrorist safe havens and will continue to support them as long as we continue current policy . If Pakistan wants to hand over nuclear weapons to terrorists there is nothing that is stopping them even now.

    "– We cannot fight in Afghanistan without the 80 percent of fuel and dry goods shipped through Pakistan"
    We need to get out of Afghanistan now.

    "– Pakistan's stability affects India, Afghanistan, China, and Iran. U.S. sanctions would precipitate an economic crisis that likely would bring down the current government."
    Pakistan is rapidly descending into hell in spite of US presence and aid. Maybe to save Pakistan the best thing to do is let it die. In spite of all its problems, Pakistan has a solid elite (unlike say Somalia)who may choose to do what is necessary to keep Pakistan limping along. Besides, this is the responsibility of Pakistan, India and China. Not the US.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Reply
    • leeintulsa

      BRA vo

      May 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Reply
      • inam

        It is really amazing to hear that they called the unpaid amount payable by American as

        Aid. If we analyze the figures that thing will become crystal clear that Pakistani’s are not
        getting any aid rather than paying America charity a poor man charity.

        American pays at most 2 billion US dollar to Pakistan Army as so called aid and
        Pakistan army stationed approximately 150000 Pakistani troops at Afghan border of
        approximately 750 Kilometer to minimize terrorist movement.

        The amount is approximately 36 US dollar per day for the services of one army person
        and all the machine cost on the army person

        2 billion /150000/365= 36.53 USD

        If we compare those figures with the American army expenditure inside Afghanistan
        things will become quite clear.

        American army expenditures approved by the congress for Afghan operations were 140
        Billion Dollar and further they get trench of 20 billion dollar. Approximately 120000
        American army personnel’s are stationed in Afghanistan.
        Average cost per soldier per day is 3,196 US Dollar per day. Important thing is that above
        mentioned cost is excluding salary paid to the soldiers.

        (140+20) billion /120000/365= 3,196 US $

        We are providing same services at 90 times cheaper rate to American and still they called
        it Aid. I like to call it Joke of the century. You cannot understand the qualitative impact
        of this donation which we are facing.

        It is better that you should not pay that amount but make sure that you have alternative
        arrangement to cope up with the situation. You have 120000 army soldiers at stake in
        Afghanistan but for us that cooperation will end up in our whole nation at stake.

        July 18, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  2. Tom

    The biggest problem as I see it is that we have set up a system of perverse incentives. The more they harm us, the more money we send to Pakistan and the more important they become.
    The root cause of the problem is that the Pakistani army has more power than the civilian government.
    Here is an example of a solution to the problem:
    Create an international coalition against terror. Any terror attack from Pakistan against any country in the coalition will result in an attack on the Pakistani military. For example, we destroy 25% of their airforce. This has the effect of the military losing their toys they love dearly and will also weaken them allowing the civilians a chance to take over. We have also set up a proper set of incentives in such a way as there is alignment in the goals of all parties.
    This is just an example but there may be other non violent ways to set up a good incentive system.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Reply
    • ram

      Tom.

      wat an idea!!!...wonder if someone powerful in the military circles of US/India/UK take notice of this idea.
      Kudos

      May 22, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    For the time being Pakistan suffers from bad press internationally. No doubt the raid and the fact that Bin Laden had found refuge in Abbottabad was a huge embarassment for the country. Right now, many are engaged in soul-searching and committees are formed to investigate this political scandal. As usual these people would never get to the bottom of the case and employ piecemeal tactics in order to protract the process. As time goes by, the whole story would fall into oblivion and the case would just be dropped.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  4. neel123

    @ TOM,
    You seem to have forgotten that Pakistan is a non-NATO ally of the US, when you mention that Pakistan is a problem of India and China to handle. The US, after having decades old long and deep relationship with Pakistan, can not give it up now because of two reasons :

    1. Pakistan is the only nation on earth that has and will always oblige the Anglo-American powers to carry out any dirty work in the region in exchange of the dollars and diplomatic support to fight India. In order to have a foothold in an important region, the Americans still need Pakistan, so does the British.

    2. Pakistan has already shared its nuke tech. with N Korea, Iran and Libya, and this is not going to be the last time they did so. A failing Pakistan will not go down without sharing some of its nukes with the terrorist groups under its control, like the Al Qaeda, the Haqqanis, Mullah Omars, Hekmatyars, Hafiz Gil Bahadurs, Mullah Nazirs, the LETs the JEMs, the list is long .... ! The Americans have no clue about how to deal with this non-NATO ally, because by pumping in tens of billions dollars, or by cutting the aid they are in trouble either way ...... !

    May 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Reply
    • leeintulsa

      Except one doesn't cost us billions up front..

      May 17, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Reply
  5. Rick S.

    Here's my take on this. The CIA has been in the middle east playing shadow games propping up so-called taliban terrorist cells in order to create further hysteria in the region,but more importantly its fueling the fire for Americans who can't think for themselves. These are the same ignorant Americans who are saying "nuke em", as if it was that easy. The fact is that no one realises how many nuclear facilities that Pakistan has. If we start a war with them it could be WWIII. So, I think we should pull all CIA operatives out of the region along with all of our military and try to handle this diplomatically. Unless Americans feel as though CIA ops setting up false taliban fronts is a good enough reason to point the finger. Oh, I forgot about Bin Laden being in Pakistan...I thought he died in a Pakistani hospital back 2002! This whole war was set up from the beginning by the pentagon-CIA and if you think 9/11 wasn't set up by our own government I suggest you do some research and follow the paper trail. Beats listening to some spun piece of journalistic vomit from CNN. OOhhhh SNAP!

    May 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Reply
    • leeintulsa

      You'd make more sense if you left out the conspiracy crap. Like you have access to a paper trail.. Go back to your manifesto – or did your single light bulb burn out?

      May 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Reply
      • Amber

        No its not conspiracy crap. It is the truth which does not appear in the mainstream media. Thank you Rick S. for your honest analysis. Pakistan needs to get out of this war to get back on the road of growth it was on before cold war started.

        May 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  6. Onesmallvoice

    Maybe cutting off U.S. foreign aid is absolutely the best thing that could happen to that country. If they could procure foreign aid from China or Russia,make peace with the Taliban and take steps to stimulate their economy,they may become a successful country. Currently,the U.S. and it's allies have that country over a barril it that's not good for anybody!

    May 17, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Reply
  7. Evil Doer

    We beg you to cut this aid. Aid is a curse to Pakistan. Though Pakistan has lost over $120 Billion since this stupid war on terror has started.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Reply
  8. neel123

    @ Pakistani ( Evil Doer),

    Pakistani figures of losses are dynamic, changing from day to day, person to person ....... ! Sometimes the figures seem to remain fixed, like the number of soldiers killed are fluctuating between 2500 to 3000 for last couple of years, so is the civilian casualty figure of 30,000. However the figure for the economic losses is escalating by leaps and bounds, from $20 billions to $30 billions, stayed there for a few months, then jumped again to $60 Billions in a few months, and now $120 Billions, making it look like a free for all.

    The Pakistanis are not only in denial, they seem to be on opium too ........... !

    May 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Reply
    • Amber

      All your objections are addressed in the video clip I shared just now.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  9. Chauhan

    “Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme is expanding at a rapid pace and its arsenal could overtake that of France, which ranks fourth in the world in possession of nuclear weapons.
    The US, Russia and China have bigger stockpiles than France.”
    Compliments of American Tax payers!

    May 18, 2011 at 5:33 am | Reply
    • Amber

      Chauhan,
      India is the biggest buyer of arms in this region. It is the biggest Nuclear Power (After China) in this region. There have been wars between India and pakistan in the past. Pakistan wanted its Nuclear program to deter India. It also needs Nuclear power plants. But after what happened in Japan, Nuclear power plants do not look good. Probably this region should use Solar energy. China and Pakistan and probably India can work together in that direction.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Reply
      • Chauhan

        India is the biggest buyer of Arm? It has the biggest border than Pakistan. China is the biggest arm buyer, developer and proliferators of nuclear technologies. Pakistan is used like North Korea.
        You claim nuclear weapons deterred India. It seems to have failed during Kargil!
        You seem to be mixing nuclear energy with nuclear weapons.

        May 19, 2011 at 4:08 am |
      • inam

        1. It is really amazing to hear that they called the unpaid amount payable by American as Aid. If we analyze the figures that thing will become crystal clear that Pakistani’s are not getting any aid rather than paying America charity a poor man charity.
        American pays at most 2 billion US dollar to Pakistan Army as so called aid and Pakistan army stationed approximately 150000 Pakistani troops at Afghan border of approximately 750 Kilometer to minimize terrorist movement.
        The amount is approximately 36 US dollar per day for the services of one army person and all the machine cost on the army person

        2 billion /150000/365= 36.53 USD

        If we compare those figures with the American army expenditure inside Afghanistan things will become quite clear.
        American army expenditures approved by the congress for Afghan operations were 140 Billion Dollar and further they get trench of 20 billion dollar. Approximately 120000 American army personnel’s are stationed in Afghanistan.
        Average cost per soldier per day is 3,196 US Dollar per day. Important thing is that above mentioned cost is excluding salary paid to the soldiers.

        (140+20) billion /120000/365= 3,196 US $

        We are providing same services at 90 times cheaper rate to American and still they called it Aid. I like to call it Joke of the century. You cannot understand the qualitative impact of this donation which we are facing.
        It is better that you should not pay that amount but make sure that you have alternative arrangement to cope up with the situation. You have 120000 army soldiers at stake in Afghanistan but for us that cooperation will end up in our whole nation at stake.

        July 12, 2011 at 7:20 am |
  10. Amber

    If USA wants to help Pakistani people and restore good relation with it, it must stop supporting and funding its corrupt and unpopular government. This Aid is not helping pakistan's economy. It is only going in the Swiss bank accounts of zardary and his administration.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  11. Amber

    Please cut the Aid to Pakistan, and stop the arm twisting too. They will do better without it. USA can also use this tax payers' money where they need it most.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  12. Amber

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfkQdrJqRwo&w=640&h=390]

    May 18, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Reply
    • neel123

      @ Amber,
      Imran Khan, just like any other Pakistani politicians, is mixing lies with emotion to hide the facts and still sound credible. It is absolute bullshit to say that extremism and radicalization is happening now due to drone attacks etc. Pakistanis are being taught hatred and intolerance towards other faiths systematically through the text books in schools, and then indoctrinated to extremism in the thousands of madrasas since the days of Zia Ul Haq.

      May 19, 2011 at 12:52 am | Reply
  13. UA

    I earnestly request and hope that Congress does stop its aid to Pakistan. Only then they will look to find solutions for their fiscal indiscipline. Most folks tend to believe that Pakistan is solely running on US Aid which is far from truth. Just to quote a few verified stats:

    61% of parliamentarians do not pay any taxes which are one of the wealthiest of people
    Total tax revenue as percentage of GDP is merely 9% which is one of the lowest in the world
    Every year, Rs. 1 trillion ($12 billion) are lost in Revenue Dept alone (equivalent of IRS) in corruption
    Same amount of money is lost in tax evasions
    Total annual losses of state enterprises is Rs. 600 Billion ($7.5 Billion- the total money that KLB will provide over a span of 5 years)
    An estimated $45-50 billion are already lost in the war on terror

    The corrupt rulers have invariably sought foreign aid instead of introducing fiscal reforms and that is why, this country is in an absolute mess. If US wants to help Pakistan, it must stop supporting corrupt dictators and politicians- an emerging honest leadership can easily overcome such problems. Only an economically stable Pakistan can overcome militancy and extremism, otherwise with unemployment and poverty skyrocketing, any degree of law enforcement efforts are bound to fail.

    May 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Reply

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