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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

American Foreign Policy on Pakistan: Balancing Foreign Aid and Duplicity

Osama bin Laden “lived and died in a massive, fortified compound built in 2005 and located on the outskirts of Abbottabad, some 60 miles from the capital of Islamabad. It stood just a half-mile from the Kakul Military Academy . . . and close to various army regiments. . . . (C)ongressional Republicans and Democrats questioned whether bin Laden was hiding in plain sight, with Pakistani military and intelligence operatives either totally unaware of his location or willfully ignoring his presence to protect him.

‘I think this tells us once again that, unfortunately, Pakistan at times is playing a double game,’ said [U.S.] Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a Senate Armed Services Committee member who indicated that Congress could put limits on funds for Pakistan. ‘It is very difficult for me to understand how this huge compound could be built in a city just an hour north of the capital of Pakistan, in a city that contained military installations, including the Pakistani military academy, and that it did not arouse tremendous suspicions.’ Based on the location of the compound and its proximity to army regiments, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Pakistan's intelligence service and army has ‘got a lot of explaining to do.’

What [Pakistani] state officials and those in the military may have known about bin Laden could be quite different from what tribes and even families in the region knew or, more to the point, were willing to say about the Abbottabad compound and its occupants. Prior to the raid on the compound, U.S. officials say, they didn't inform Pakistan of its plans. Unaware and unnerved Pakistanis scrambled their aircraft in the wake of the U.S. military intervention. Pakistani authorities expressed ‘deep concerns’ that the operation was carried out without informing it in advance.” In fact, former Pakistani prime minister (and general) Musharraf claimed that the raid violated Pakistan’s sovereignty.


Both Collins and Levin are highly credible U.S. Senators. Carl Levin chaired the Senate hearings on Goldman Sachs in 2010. He charged the bankers with knowingly selling their own clients on housing-backed securities (CDOs) that the bankers knew were “crap.” The other indicator I would point to is the fact that the Pakistanis were not told in advance of the successful mission. At the very least, this indicates a lack of trust, which presumably does not come out of thin air. I would not be surprised if there had been leads subsequently leaked. Most probably, certain elements in the Pakistani government allied with particular tribes had provided intel on a case by case basis to the terrorist network. Even so, that bin Laden was in such close proximity to the Pakistani military since 2005 is indeed suspicious; that the U.S. Government had given Pakistan $18 billion since 9/11 turns out in hindsight to be problematic and perhaps even embarrassing.

Given her reasonable suspicion of betrayal, Sen. Collins’ suggestion that the foreign aid be “limited” does not go far enough. In fact, it sounds like a lawyerly “solution.” Even though just a week before the death of bin Laden, Pakistan’s ruler tried to get Karzai in Afghanistan to drop the U.S. in favor of Pakistan and China, it is not in the interest of the American government to continue to give billions to a government that could not be trusted even for the top U.S. priority. In other words, if Pakistan could not be trusted on something so important even with the foreign aid, why continue to give more?

Moreover, giving foreign aid to dictatorships or fraudulent “democracies” undercuts the American goal of a world consisting of republics. Ironically, trying to extend one’s influence beyond the extant republics in the world can actually fortify resistance that which the influence is geared to achieve. It is naïve to think that simply giving dollars to a dictator or corrupt ruler will somehow edge him or her closer to democracy. In actuality, the dollars make the shift less likely because the dictator or corrupt “elected” ruler is strengthened by the aid.

So if Karzai in Afghanistan wants to continue to use elections as window-dressing and Pakistan wants to continue to allow elements to play one side against the other involving the U.S., I contend that it is in the American interest (beyond immediate influence) to cut off the American funds. Given the value on wealth in the U.S., the American government may tend to overstate the ability of dollars to manipulate foreign governments beyond mere lip-service as a front to duplicity. At the Center for Global Development, according to Marketplace, Nancy Birdsall pointed out that aid "does not buy love; it does not even provide leverage, frankly." Getting only what we want to hear is perhaps fitting if we are so oriented to manipulating others for immediate effect rather than to rewarding only true friends. Would this alternative really be such a dramatic or radical shift in policy, or do we give the status quo too much weight?

Regarding Musharrif’s claim that Pakistan’s sovereignty was violated by the U.S. mission, the former prime minister was conveniently overlooking the trust issue, and thus the real probability that secrecy was necessary for the success of the mission due to Pakistan’s track record. He was also ignoring the argument that given Osama bin Laden’s extent of harm in the U.S. and the fact that the terrorist had indeed been living in Pakistan (i.e., that government had at the very least failed to apprehend him), the American government—having essentially declared war on bin Laden’s organization—had the military right to go in and take out the man. In short, it is very convenient for Pakistani officials to ignore their own state’s faults (or failure to contain leaks and, moreover, to have caught bin Laden) and blame the American government for obviating those faults. At the very least, it is bad form. Whether the American government is willing to act on this intel beyond extending a mere slap on the wrist remains to be seen.

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Pakistan Accused of Playing bin Laden ‘double game’” MSNBC.com.

John Dimsdale, "Sights Set on U.S. Aid to Pakistan," Marketplace, May 2, 2011.