Defense Bill Puts New Conditions On How U.S. Delivers Aid To Pakistan

Our guest blogger is Colin Cookman, research associate for national security at the Center for American Progress.

Last night’s passage of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA) in the House will bring with it new conditions on how the U.S. provides assistance to Pakistan through the two primary Pakistan-specific military aid accounts. With U.S.-Pakistan relations still in crisis from a November 26 cross-border raid which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, these changes have drawn fresh critiques from the Pakistani foreign office. But while congressional patience with Pakistan is clearly wearing thin and mutual distrust between the two countries is rising, the conditions in the Defense Authorization bill are actually rather muted.

The authorization won’t actually release the money for the fiscal year, which technically started in October — that comes through appropriations, which have yet to pass as the House and Senate engage in a fight over an omnibus spending package. That bill is likely to introduce new certification requirements as well, but without the final conference text it is unclear at this point how Congress will come down in terms of exact restrictions. For now, the new Defense Authorization bill would make the following changes to the two main Pakistan-specific aid accounts controlled by the Department of Defense — the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund (PCF):

Coalition Support Funds — The bill renews the CSF program for another year and increases its annual budget slightly to $1.69 billion; the administration had requested $1.75 billion. As a reimbursement program, CSF depends on Pakistani claims to determine how much is actually paid out. In recent years the U.S. has been more stringent in how it scrutinizes those claims. There are no conditions on CSF spending, but the bill does require a report from the Pentagon to Congress on how CSF money is being used and an assessment of its effectiveness.

Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund — The bill renews the PCF but for the first time places limits on its disbursement. Sixty percent of the funds appropriated (which would be approximately $660 million if the administration’s $1.1 billion request for PCF is met by Congressional appropriators, not $700 million as some accounts have reported) are frozen until the Defense Department submits a report to Congress outlining what Pakistan’s counterinsurgency capability needs actually are and how the fund will be used, among other issues. The report must also include “a discussion” of Pakistani cooperation in counter-IED efforts; fertilizer from Pakistan is reportedly a component in many Afghan bombs. The remaining 40 percent of PCF money (approximately $400 million) is free to be spent in the meantime. Beyond the submission of the report there are no further restrictions on its use.

When this money is appropriated, it’s an open question how much the U.S. will actually be able to spend, even discounting these constraints. The freezing of $800 million in combined CSF and PCF funds earlier this summer was forced to a considerable degree by the Pakistani ejection of almost all U.S. trainers from the country in the wake of the Raymond Davis episode at the beginning of the year. It will be a challenge to actually spend even $400 million over the year without any actual trainers in Pakistan to spend it on, so the practical effect of the new Congressional restrictions (should the administration choose to trigger them by withholding reports or certification) may be limited.