Billion Dollar U.S. Military Aid to Pakistan Revealed:Congress Faults State Department failing to consult it
Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune
Washington, D.C. 30 March (Asiantribune.com): In a key finding of an investigative study by the Washington-based organization that does investigative reporting and research on significant public issues Center for Public Integrity, the U.S. military aid to Pakistan soared to $4.2 billion after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack compared to $9.1 million in the three years before the attack boosting Pakistan to the top tier of countries receiving military funding.
The Center for Public Integrity revealed the U.S. military support to Pakistan using data assembled through Freedom of Information Act requests.
Pakistan received $2.3 billion of post-9/11 military aid from the U.S. Defense Department program – Coalition Support Funds (CSF) – not closely tracked by the Congress, says the Center says.
The Center says that adequate congressional oversight has not been given to Bush administration’s military assistance to Pakistan.
‘Asian Tribune’ US Bureau research found that both the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House International Relations Committee on July 20, 2006 were highly critical of the Bush administration and the State Department for “failing to consult the Congress adequately on arms sales to Pakistan.”
In a joint press statement by Representatives Henry Hyde (Republican) and Tom Lantos (Democratic), the chairman and Ranking Member of the House International Relations Committee, on July 20, 2006, blasted the State Department for ignoring congressional oversight on arms sales and their risk to national security.
“What we can say for the public record is that a sequence of actions and inactions by the State Department recently resulted in a host of serious national security and compliance issues,” Congressman Hyde said in a hearing on the proposed sale of F-16 aircraft and weapons systems to Pakistan.
“The Department of State chose to exploit the proposed sale of sophisticated F-16 aircraft and weaponry to Pakistan as the unfortunate vehicle to overturn what had been a constructive process to ensure that arms sales do dot compromise U.S. national security,” Democratic Congressman and the Committee’s Ranking Member Tom Lantos said.
Tom Lantos is now the chairman of the House International Relations Committee since the Democratic Party gained control of the House in last November general elections.
"With the possible exception of Iraq reconstruction funds, I've never seen a larger blank check for any country than for the Pakistan CSF program," Tim Rieser, the majority clerk on the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, told the Center.
The Center for Public Integrity further states: “CSF money has continued to flow despite growing U.S. concerns over Pakistan's assistance in the global war on terror, and the Congressional Research Service estimates Pakistan's total take of CSF through August 2006 at $4.75 billion.
“The administration has requested an additional $1 billion in CSF funding for coalition partners as part of the Defense Department's 2007 emergency budget supplemental request. Congress is currently debating the proposal.
“CSF's official purpose is to reimburse allied countries for costs incurred in supporting the U.S. global war on terror. The Center's analysis of CSF and other military aid programs since 9/11 will be detailed in an upcoming investigative series, "Collateral Damage."
“Pakistan's flood of CSF money made it the third largest recipient of all U.S. military aid and assistance in the three years after 9/11; it trailed only Israel and Egypt. Before 9/11, the South Asian nation received less military aid and assistance from the U.S. than Estonia or Panama, largely because of U.S. sanctions imposed as punishment for Pakistan's covert pursuit of a nuclear weapons program revealed in 1998.
“A recent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates the total value of all American aid, including military, economic, and development assistance, to Pakistan since 9/11 at more than $10 billion.”
In return for American largesse, Pakistan has become a key U.S. ally in its global war on terror. Since 2001, the country has allowed the U.S. to use air bases in anti-terrorism operations, provided access to logistics facilities in Pakistan, shared intelligence, helped identify and detain citizens who may have been involved in terrorism, and tightened the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan by deploying up to 80,000 Pakistani troops.
But the border remains porous, and Vice President Dick Cheney recently met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to complain that Pakistan was not doing enough to halt the flow of insurgents. In January this year, the House of Representatives set out to place conditions on continued U.S. support to Pakistan, calling for greater oversight on Pakistan's actions against insurgents based in Pakistan and progress on holding free elections. The White House opposes the House restrictions.
CSF was created in the series of emergency supplemental appropriations bills passed by Congress after the 2001 attacks. Beginning in early 2002, Congress began giving the Defense Department hundreds of millions of dollars a year to reimburse coalition governments for their support in the war on terror and, later, Iraq.
When Center for Public Integrity reporters called the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee in 2006 seeking copies of the Pentagon CSF reports, they were told that the reports were not public information. Committee staff told the reporters they would need to ask the Pentagon for the information; the reporters did, through a Freedom of Information Act request, and getting the information took several months.
"Coalition Support Funds" is not an official term but a colloquialism used within the Defense Department. The language used in legislation has been "payments to reimburse Pakistan, Jordan, and other key cooperating nations, for logistical, military, and other support provided, or to be provided, to United States military operations, notwithstanding any other provision of law." The legislation appropriating the billions of CSF dollars to Pakistan and other key allies requires reports from the Department of Defense to both the appropriations and armed services committees of the House and Senate describing how the money was spent.
In a written response to the Center's questions about how the U.S. government vets Pakistan's CSF bills, the Department of Defense public affairs office responded: "Each claim for reimbursement from Coalition Support Funds is evaluated to ensure the country expended its resources, the support was essential to U.S. military operations, and that the claim is reasonable and credible with documentation that adequately accounts for the support provided."
But most of the Pentagon's reports to Congress lack detailed descriptions of costs incurred. For example, for the three-month period from April to June 2003, U.S. taxpayers reimbursed Pakistan 192.7 million. The Pentagon's report said nothing more than, "This payment is based on the bills submitted from the Government of Pakistan (GOP) for the support it provided to U.S. military operations during April through June related to the global war on terrorism (GWOT)."
Later that same year, the Defense Department approved another $195 million payment to Pakistan and its report suggested that little or no actual costs were known: "This estimate is based on anticipated support that will be provided by Pakistan, and reflects the historical average monthly rate of $65 million."
There is no formal auditing mechanism to verify costs apart from local U.S. embassies and military officials vouching for the accuracy of the submitted bills, and Rieser, the Senate Appropriations Committee aide, told the Center that the former Republican congress "did next to nothing to track what was done with the money."
"CSF," said Rieser, a key advisor to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., "is a backwater of lax oversight and poor accountability." Republican Senate Appropriations Committee staff did not return repeated calls requesting comment, says the Center for Public Integrity.
The United States and Pakistan have been quietly rebuilding their military-to-military relationship disrupted in 1990 when Washington slapped restrictions on Islamabad for its efforts to develop nuclear weapons, says a U.S. Congressional report released in November last year.
The report said the close US-Pakistan security ties of the cold war era – disrupted in 1990 – have been in the process of restoration as a result of Pakistan’s role in US-led anti-terrorism campaign.
Congressional concerns about the sale of 36 F-16 combat aircraft, along with related refurbishments, munitions, and equipment, and displeasure at the Bush administration’s apparently improper notification procedures resulted in a hearing of the U.S. House International Relations Committee on July 20, 2006. During the hearing, Members of both political parties, Republican and democratic, worried that F-16s were better suited to fighting India than to combating terrorists.
- Asian Tribune -