Foreign and Defense Policy

Defending Continued U.S. Aid to Pakistan

In my testimony today before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, I found myself in a somewhat unusual position: defending continued U.S. aid to Pakistan.
Led by Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), members of the committee were relentless in asking what the U.S. has to show for upward of $20 billion given to Pakistan over the past decade. My response: Not enough. But the alternative, walking away, is worse.
Instead of abandoning Pakistan in pique after Osama bin Laden was discovered in the garrison town of Abbottabad, the U.S. should focus its aid on altering the skewed balance of power between Pakistan’s generals and their ostensible civilian masters. About two-thirds of U.S. aid to Pakistan since 9/11 has gone to the military, and only one-third to civilian programs.
This flawed focus helps perpetuate the outsize role of the army and its spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in national life. Both institutions have long supported terrorism in Afghanistan, India, and beyond. In recent months, the ISI has also come under scrutiny for the killing of a prominent Pakistani journalist, for monitoring Pakistani-Americans, and for attempting to illegally influence congressional opinion on Kashmir.
At the same time, however, it would be unrealistic to expect the U.S. to achieve its long term goals in Pakistan—keeping its nuclear weapons safe, ending its sponsorship of radical Islamist terrorism, and stopping it from destabilizing Afghanistan and India—without a modicum of cooperation from the army. As in Indonesia and Bangladesh, the impetus for military reform must come both from without and within. This requires continued U.S. engagement with the army, but with an emphasis on training and fostering a culture of respect for democratic institutions.
You can read my prepared testimony here.

2 thoughts on “Defending Continued U.S. Aid to Pakistan

  1. I disagree. US should stop all aid to pakistan. The aid, no matter who gets it in pakistan, will always be used for anti-India purposes. Mainly because they are so obsessed with Kashmir.

  2. Continuing aid to Pakistan is critical for both Pakistan and America. I agree the focus should shift from military to civilian and promotion of democratic institutions. Both sides have grievances towards each other and cutting aid would not solve any of this. As far as above comment about India, in my opinion India and Indians should come out of Pakistan shell and accept it as a neighbor. Both India and Pakistan are better of working with each other rather than throwing stones at each other just to build outsized militarizes at the cost of their poor people.

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