Tag Archives: military aid

Pakistan’s Crisis Threatens Millions In Military Aid

Gen Raheel Sharif and PM Nawaz Sharif

Earlier this year, the US announced plans to provide $280 million in military aid to Pakistan, but that may be cut to zero based on the way the country’s political crisis is taking shape.

The Foreign Assistance Act “restricts assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.” Over the past week, a military coup has become a distinct possibility, if not a fait accompli.

The head of Pakistan’s Army, General Raheel Sharif (not relation to the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif), publicly intervened in Pakistan’s ongoing political crisis late Thursday night. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, “The move follows a backroom political deal that government officials privately said ceded important powers over defense and foreign policy from the government to the military.”

While this may be the first time the Army has entered the public light, reports as far back as ten days ago described the military using the protests as leverage to seize political power.

As tens of thousands of protesters advanced on the Pakistani capital last week to demand his resignation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dispatched two emissaries to consult with the army chief.

He wanted to know if the military was quietly engineering the twin protest movements by cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan and activist cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, or if, perhaps, it was preparing to stage a coup.

According to a government insider with a first-hand account of the meeting, Sharif’s envoys returned with good news and bad: there will be no coup, but if he wants his government to survive, from now on it will have to “share space with the army”.

If these reports are accurate, the Army would appear be attempting to carry out a “soft coup” – one that involves a transfer of power without the typical show of military force.

As Gen. Raheel stepped into the public spotlight as a mediator, Pakistan’s press reported that he was doing so at the request of the Prime Minister, a claim the Prime Minister has since publicly denied. Article 245 of Pakistan’s Constitution does permit the federal government to direct the Armed Forces to “act in aid of civil power,” but the real test will be the outcome. Whether or not the military can come to the aid of the federal government, Pakistan’s Constitution makes no provision for any transfer of power from democratically elected offices to the military, nor does it provide for “sharing space.”

Any military intervention in Pakistan’s government will have serious and debilitating consequences. A coup, not matter how “soft,” will set back democratic gains made over the last seven years by decades, severely jeopardizing the likelihood that Pakistan will be a modern, democratic country for the foreseeable future.

The military, too, stands to lose – both in resources and reputation. Gen. Raheel’s predecessor, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, skillfully began rehabilitating the military’s relationship with the United States and its reputation as a threat to democratic order. The new military leadership’s decisions in the next few days could undo all of that progress – as well as cost them $280 million.

News Reports on Aid to Pakistan Don’t Match Reality

Bill Daley on This Week

When I saw the headline hit Twitter on Saturday, U.S. Is Deferring Millions in Pakistani Military Aid, I immediately thought the worst. But after reading the Times report in full, my fears were allayed. Despite the calls from some to cut aid to Pakistan, this was not happening. The government was merely pausing the delivery of some aid because the trainings and other deliverables the aid was intended to pay for were also being put on hold. Over the next two days, however, the story seems to have taken on a life of its own, and much of the following reporting and commentary does not match reality.

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg describes the latest news as a policy of “humiliating Pakistan.” Goldberg appears to be basing his read on a single Politico article. What else could explain this paragraph:

What is important is that the Obama Administration believes that public embarrassment of an on-again, off-again ally in the fight against Islamist terrorism will bring that ally to heel. This does not seem like a path to success. The Pakistanis want the respect of the U.S., or at least some recognition that, despite the Bin Laden calamity, they have also suffered at the hand of extremists, and that thousands of Pakistanis have died fighting extremism.

Here’s what Bill Daley actually said:

“Obviously they have been an important ally in the fight on terrorism. They’ve been the victim of enormous amounts of terrorism,” Daley said. “But right now they have taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which we were giving to their military, and we’re trying to work through that.”

Unlike Jeffrey Goldberg’s assertion, the Obama administration has and continues to recognize Pakistan’s suffering at the hands of extremists and the great sacrifice their military has made in the fight against militant extremists, and continues to be an ally to Pakistan in our mutual struggle against terrorism.

Daniel Markey, Senior Fellow for Indian, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, at least realizes that cutting aid to Pakistan is not a viable means of changing Pakistan’s strategic calculus, but he too continues the narrative that deferring this military aid is in some way punitive.

The Obama administration is putting the screws to Pakistan, cutting roughly 40 percent of U.S. military assistance (NYT) and publicly challenging the activities of Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI). The question is: Will these coercive efforts pay dividends, or will they contribute to a downward spiral in U.S.-Pakistan relations?

But is this really “putting the screws to Pakistan?” Let’s take a moment to revisit the original New York Times report.

Altogether, about $800 million in military aid and equipment, or over one-third of the more than $2 billion in annual American security assistance to Pakistan, could be affected, three senior United States officials said.

This aid includes about $300 million to reimburse Pakistan for some of the costs of deploying more than 100,000 soldiers along the Afghan border to combat terrorism, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in training assistance and military hardware, according to half a dozen Congressional, Pentagon and other administration officials who were granted anonymity to discuss the politically delicate matter.

Some of the curtailed aid is equipment that the United States wants to send but Pakistan now refuses to accept, like rifles, ammunition, body armor and bomb-disposal gear that were withdrawn or held up after Pakistan ordered more than 100 Army Special Forces trainers to leave the country in recent weeks.

Some is equipment, such as radios, night-vision goggles and helicopter spare parts, which cannot be set up, certified or used for training because Pakistan has denied visas to the American personnel needed to operate the equipment, two senior Pentagon officials said.

And some is assistance like the reimbursements for troop costs, which is being reviewed in light of questions about Pakistan’s commitment to carry out counterterrorism operations. For example, the United States recently provided Pakistan with information about suspected bomb-making factories, only to have the insurgents vanish before Pakistani security forces arrived a few days later.

As is clear from the Times report, much of the aid is being held up because it’s earmarked for trainings and operations that aren’t happening, or it’s assistance that “Pakistan now refuses to accept.” This sounds more like basic accounting than “putting the screws to Pakistan.”

And that’s not all. The headline on the original Times report used the term “deferring”. The reporters spoke of the administration “suspending and, in some cases, canceling”. When speaking with ABC, White House Chief of Staff Daley said, “hold back.” The only people talking about “cutting aid” are journalists and analysts.

I mention Jeffrey Goldberg and Daniel Markey specifically because these two gentlemen both have a history of writing fair and accurate analyses of US-Pakistan relations. And, yet, they both fall for the chicken little narrative that sees every development as a sign of the end of US-Pakistan relations.

According to government officials, the US is holding back aid that is earmarked for specific deliverables that are also being put on hold. If Pakistan chooses to resume these trainings and other operations, the funds will be delivered. There has been no “cut” to the amount of aid approved for Pakistan.

[Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan] emphasized the delayed aid is a hold, not a halt, and the funds may be delivered if the two nations can resolve certain issues.

The US and Pakistan continue to cooperate in the fight against militant extremists, including Pakistani military offensives against Taliban fighters along the border with Afghanistan. Over a billion dollars in military aid for mutually agreed upon operations continues to flow to Pakistan, as does the billions of dollars in civilian aid set aside by the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill. Reality may be less exciting, but it is the way things are.

White House Boosts Support For Pakistan

President Obama and President ZardariIn the wake of the tragic assassination of Governor Salmaan Taseer this week, the White House has signaled that it will increase support for Pakistan’s civilian government including military aid to strengthen its national security.

According to a Washington Post report on Saturday, “The Obama administration has decided to offer Pakistan more military, intelligence and economic support, and to intensify U.S. efforts to forge a regional peace”.

Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Pakistan next week to meet with government and military officials to discuss Pakistan’s needs and how the US can help.

In addition to providing additional economic and military support to Pakistan, the White House emphasized again the respect US has for Pakistan as a sovereign nation and a close ally.

The review resolved to “look hard” at what more could be done to improve economic stability, particularly on tax policy and Pakistan’s relations with international financial institutions. It directed administration and Pentagon officials to “make sure that our sizeable military assistance programs are properly tailored to what the Pakistanis need, and are targeted on units that will generate the most benefit” for U.S. objectives, said one senior administration official who participated in the review and was authorized to discuss it on condition of anonymity.

Any American policy will be developed with the intention of furthering American objectives. The fact that support for Pakistan is being “properly tailored to what the Pakistanis need” emphasizes not only American respect for Pakistan, but that American and Pakistani objectives have a clear point of convergence.

As the democratic government continues to build consensus around and implement important reforms such as the 18th Amendment and the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill, the US must continue to provide the economic, military and diplomatic assistance to help Pakistan succeed.

Helicopters for Pakistan

Apache Helicopters

On Monday I wrote that the answer to whether or not the US can trust Pakistan can be found in the answer to a related question: Can Pakistan trust the US? Like an iterated prisoner’s dilemma, each side is searching for an equilibrium of cooperation despite a past of defections. The Tuesday New York Times article speculating that the US wants to expand raids over the Pakistani border didn’t help matters, instead seeming to confirm Pakistani fears of American duplicity. While the US immediately rejected the Times report, the US needs to give more than verbal assurances to our Pakistani allies. We need to give helicopters.

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Supporting Pakistan's Democracy Key To Regional Security

India and Pakistan flagsFollowing the bilateral Strategic Dialogues and President Obama’s trip to India, analysts are examining statements from all parties in hopes of identifying a way to ease tensions between Pakistan and India and eliminate the scourge of terrorism within Pakistan’s borders. If you want to know the least productive path to stability and democracy in Pakistan, Selig Harrison’s latest column for the LA Times provides an excellent blueprint.

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