The NY Times reports that The United States is continuing to make large payments of roughly $1 billion a year to Pakistan for conducting counterterrorism efforts along the border with Afghanistan, even though Pakistan’s president decided eight months ago to slash patrols through the area where Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are most active:
The monthly payments, called coalition support funds, are not widely advertised. Buried in public budget numbers, the payments are intended to reimburse Pakistan’s military for the cost of the operations. So far, Pakistan has received more than $5.6 billion under the program over five years, more than half of the total aid the United States has sent to the country since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, not counting covert funds.
Some American military officials in the region have recommended that the money be tied to Pakistan’s performance in pursuing Al Qaeda and keeping the Taliban from gaining a haven from which to attack the government of Afghanistan. American officials have been surprised by the speed at which both organizations have gained strength in the past year.
Indeed, Sen. Jack Reed and senior military officials have recommended changing the aid program so that it was “paying for specific objectives that are planned and executed, rather than simply paying what the country bills.”
But Bush administration officials say no such plan is being considered, despite new evidence that the Pakistani military is often looking the other way when Taliban fighters retreat across the border into Pakistan, ignoring calls from American spotters to intercept them. There is also at least one American report that Pakistani security forces have fired in support of Taliban fighters attacking Afghan posts.All this as Al Qaeda's command base in Pakistan is growing; the withdrawal of tens of thousands of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghan border is a major factor in their resurgence and they are increasingly being funded by cash coming out of Iraq.
The administration, according to some current and former officials, is fearful of cutting off the cash or linking it to performance for fear of further destabilizing Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is facing the biggest challenges to his rule since he took power in 1999.
The White House would not directly answer the question of why Pakistan is being paid the same very large amount after publicly declaring that it is significantly cutting back on its patrols in the most important border area. But Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, emphasized Pakistan’s strategic importance in the region.
What good is it to keep Musharaff afloat when he's cutting back on the fight against Al Qaeda and a resurgant Taliban? With his recent antics (like removing their Supreme Court chief justice), our support of his is being an increasing liability in the region. This aid should be tied to performance or be designated for specific counterterrorism operations. Or, once the Bush administration is gone, perhaps we should threaten to cut off the additional $1.8 billion we give them to finance large weapons systems they use to counter India. That might get their attention.