US dilemma in Pakistan


Richard Moore

         The United States is continuing to make large payments of
         roughly $1 billion a year to Pakistan for what it calls
         reimbursements to the country's military 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 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

See also:
   21 May 2007   Afghanistan begins to unite against US

It seems the US adventure in this region is falling apart.


Original source URL:

May 20, 2007

U.S. Pays Pakistan to Fight Terror, but Patrols Ebb

WASHINGTON, May 19 - The United States is continuing to make large 
payments of roughly $1 billion a year to Pakistan for what it calls 
reimbursements to the country's military 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.

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.

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.

"Pakistan's cooperation is very important in the global war on terror 
and for our operations in Afghanistan," Mr. Johndroe said. "Our 
investments in that partnership have paid off over time, from 
increased information sharing to kills and captures of key terrorist 
operatives. There is more work to be done, the Pakistanis know that, 
and we are engaged with the Musharraf government to ramp up the 

The Pentagon, in response to inquiries, said Friday that the payments 
to Pakistan since October 2001, when the war in Afghanistan began, 
had averaged $80 million a month. The Congressional Research Service 
estimated last year that they accounted for about a fifth of 
Pakistan's total military expenditures.

The administration told Congress in January that the Pakistanis 
performed operations that "would be difficult for U.S. Armed Forces 
to attain," and the Pentagon said those included carrying out joint 
operations, commanding observation posts and conducting land and 
maritime interdictions.

But General Musharraf announced in September that under a peace 
agreement with local militants his regular army troops in North 
Waziristan, the center of Al Qaeda's operations, would no longer 
operate checkpoints and that they would stay in garrisons, a decision 
that came after Pakistani forces suffered heavy casualties in the 
lawless tribal areas.

Soon after, appearing with President Bush, General Musharraf promised 
that tribal leaders and local militia would handle Al Qaeda and the 
Taliban in the tribal areas. Outside powers have long struggled to 
gain firm control of the remote and impoverished region, where 
fiercely independent tribes have largely ruled themselves for 
centuries. American officials say they think Osama bin Laden and 
other senior Al Qaeda members fled there in 2001.

Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, Mahmud Ali Durrani, said in an 
interview that the agreements were working and that his country's 
military activities on the border itself were increasing. He said 
that Pakistan was being properly reimbursed for fuel, munitions and 
wear and tear on military equipment. "There are multiple small and 
big operations going on, we have deployed troops along the border," 
he said. "There is a lot of coordination."

American officials tell a different story, saying that Pakistani 
cooperation was mixed at best in 2005 and 2006, though they 
acknowledge that the Pakistanis have been more responsive to NATO and 
American requests in recent months. Still, they complain that the 
Pakistanis are paid whether they go on operations or sit in their 

"They send us a bill, and we just pay it," said a senior military 
official who has dealt extensively with General Musharraf. "Nobody 
can really explain what we are getting for this money or even where 
it's going."

After visiting Pakistan last year, Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of 
Rhode Island, wrote in a report that the Defense Department's 
military office in Islamabad, the capital, 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." A senior military official engaged in battling the Taliban 
said many commanders and diplomats in the region agreed with that 

Mr. Johndroe, the national security spokesman, said the White House 
was unaware of any such debate and was not currently considering 
changing the program.

"I'm not aware of any serious discussion to cut off the funding," Mr. 
Johndroe said. The payments are critical to bolstering the military, 
General Musharraf's greatest source of support, particularly as he 
faces growing street protests over his removal of an 
independent-minded Supreme Court chief justice as the court was about 
to consider the legality of the president's decision to hold the 
nation's top military and political posts at the same time.

"In funding the Pakistani military, we are making it easier for 
Musharraf to fulfill his objectives, and we are keeping the military 
off his back," said Xenia Dormandy, a former director for South Asia 
for the National Security Council who is now a scholar at the Kennedy 
School of Government at Harvard.

"It is a very good question to raise," he added. "If we are giving a 
billion dollars to the military each year, would that money not be 
better spent building schools, roads and health services in that 

A study of the roughly $10 billion sent to Pakistan by the United 
States since 2002, conducted by Craig Cohen and Derek Chollet of the 
Center for Strategic and International Studies, found that $5.6 
billion in reimbursements was in addition to $1.8 billion for 
security assistance, which mostly finances large weapons systems.

But those weapons are more useful, the authors concluded, in 
countering India than in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The 
United States has also provided about $1.6 billion for "budget 
support," which Pakistan can use broadly, including for reducing debt.

In contrast, only about $900 million has been dedicated to health, 
food aid, democracy promotion and education, in a country where 
illiteracy rates are about 50 percent, and American policy makers say 
the education gap has opened the way for religious schools that can 
become hotbeds of extremism.

The Pentagon says the Pakistani expenses are reviewed by the Central 
Command and the American Embassy in Islamabad, and reported to 
Congress. But current and former commanders and diplomats say that 
the review is cursory and that there is no real way to audit the 
Pakistani operations.

Meanwhile, American and NATO military frustration with Pakistan's 
performance in the border area is growing, say current and former 
senior American military officials. They said that Taliban fighters 
had been seen regularly crossing the border within sight of Pakistani 
observation posts, but that the Pakistanis often made little effort 
to stop them.

Pakistani and American military commanders established direct radio 
communications between Pakistani and American border posts about two 
years ago, after a series of meetings on border issues. Since then, 
the system has worked well on some parts of the border and poorly in 
others, they said.

Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO supreme commander, said that 
when American or NATO forces saw Taliban fighters crossing the border 
and radioed nearby Pakistani posts, there sometimes was no answer. 
"Calls to apprehend or detain or restrict these ongoing movements, as 
agreed, were sometimes not answered," General Jones said. "Sometimes 
radios were turned off."

General Jones said he raised the problem with Gen. Ehsan ul Haq, the 
chairman of Pakistan's Joint Chiefs of Staff, during General Haq's 
visit to NATO headquarters last fall.

Mr. Durrani, the ambassador, denied that Pakistani troops were 
failing to stop Taliban fighters at the border. He said the troops 
were carrying out joint operations with American forces based inside 

Two American analysts and one American soldier said Pakistani 
security forces had fired mortars shells and rocket-propelled 
grenades in direct support of Taliban ground attacks on Afghan Army 
posts. A copy of an American military report obtained by The New York 
Times described one of the attacks.

"Enemy supporting fires consisting of heavy machine guns and R.P.G.'s 
were provided by two Pakistani observation posts," said the report, 
referring to rocket-propelled grenades. The grenades killed one 
Afghan soldier and ignited an ammunition fire that destroyed the 
observation post, according to the report. It concluded that "the 
Pakistani military actively supported the enemy assault" on the 
Afghan post.

James Dobbins, an analyst at the RAND Corporation and a former senior 
American envoy to Afghanistan, said soldiers had relayed similar 
complaints to him. "I've heard reports of Pakistani units providing 
fire support from positions inside Pakistan for Taliban units 
operating against Afghan Army units inside Afghanistan," he said.

A second American analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 
American soldiers had told him that Pakistani forces supported 
Taliban ground attacks with mortar fire and rocket-propelled grenades 
at least two dozen times in 2005 and 2006. Senior American military 
officials said that they had not heard of the incidents, but added 
that Pakistani tribal militia, not Pakistani soldiers, could be 
supporting the Taliban attacks.

Mr. Durrani, the Pakistani ambassador, called the reports of direct 
Pakistani military support for the Taliban "preposterous." He said 
the Pakistani military, which has lost 700 soldiers fighting 
militants in the tribal areas, would never tolerate such activity 
from its soldiers. "If even once this happens," he said, "the whole 
system will come down like a ton of bricks on this person."

David E. Sanger reported from Washington and Brussels, and David 
Rohde from Washington and New York. Carlotta Gall contributed from 
Islamabad, Pakistan.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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