Moving Beyond A Transactional U.S.-Pakistan Partnership

Our guest blogger is Peter Juul, Research Associate at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Congressional appropriators are putting the final touches on the new supplemental appropriations bill to fund military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Much-needed accountability measures have been inserted into the bill (pdf) by Representative David Obey (D-WI), requiring President Obama to submit a report in one year detailing the progress of his Pakistan and Afghanistan strategy on five key areas:

1. Level of political consensus and unity of purpose across ethnic, tribal, religious and party affiliations to confront the political and security challenges facing the region.

2. Level of government corruption and actions taken to eliminate it.

3. Performance of the respective security forces in developing a counterinsurgency capability, conducting counterinsurgency operations and establishing population security.

4. Performance of the respective intelligence agencies in cooperating with the United States on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations and in purging themselves of policies, programs and personnel that provide material support to extremist networks that target U.S. troops or undermine US objectives in the region.

5. Ability of the Afghan and Pakistani governments to effectively control the territory within their respective borders.

Most of these standards appear to be directed at the Pakistani government, and in particular the Pakistani security establishment. While they will likely displease the Pakistani government, these stipulations on the $2.3 billion marked for Pakistan in the supplemental fall well within the accountability recommendations Senior Fellow Brian Katulis made when he returned from Pakistan last week.


But Obey’s accountability measure covers both civilian and military assistance even though both the supplemental and President Obama’s proposed aid packages are largely civilian in nature. In the supplemental, only $400 million is dedicated to the Pakistani security establishment, compared with $997 million slated to support Pakistan’s economy and build its governance capacity. Further, the recently-introduced Kerry-Lugar aid legislation (pdf) provides $7.5 billion in largely civilian aid over five years, while the Pentagon has asked for $3 billion over a similar time frame for counterinsurgency aid.

While Kerry-Lugar requires the President to issue updates on his Pakistan strategy and requires him to certify that Pakistan is meeting certain security goals, it does not have the same bite Obey’s measure appears to have. But the differences in the Obey and Kerry-Lugar proposals raise a bigger question: What conditions should the United States place on its aid to Pakistan, if any?

There seems to be a consensus that whatever funding we provide to the Pakistani military, it should be limited to counterinsurgency equipment, training, and operations, and not include, say, F-16s. This goal can be accomplished by specifically marking U.S. funds for that purpose rather than simply reimbursing Pakistani claims. Implicit in this scheme is that if the Pakistanis don’t use their counterinsurgency aid to fight the insurgency they have –- i.e. the Taliban and other militant Islamic groups -– they won’t get much out of it. So in order to protect the U.S. taxpayer there’s also consensus on some sort of benchmark-type scale on which to evaluate counterinsurgency aid. Such provisions are included in both the Obey and Kerry-Lugar proposals.

Conditioning civilian aid, however, is another story. The purported goal of this aid is to build a long-term, all-weather relationship between the United States and the people of Pakistan. Achieving this goal, of course, is impossible if aid is terminated or curtailed because Pakistan doesn’t meet security goals or benchmarks, as appears to be the case in Obey’s accountability goals. It reinforces the transactional nature of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, rather than moving toward the long-term partnership envisioned by President Obama and Senators Kerry and Lugar.

Should there be accountability and benchmarks on U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan? Absolutely. But accounting for and determining the success of U.S. civilian aid should not be dependent on the performance of the Pakistani military. Making it so undermines the goal of a long-term U.S.-Pakistan partnership that civilian aid is supposed to work toward.