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As drawdown progresses in Afghanistan, US draws its Pak purse strings

US military aid to Pakistan reached a high of $ 4,504 million in FY 2010.

Written by Sushant Singh | New Delhi |
October 1, 2015 1:02:28 am
Kerry Nawaz Sharif, US pak relations, john kerry, john Kerry Nawaz Sharif, international news, news Pak PM Nawaz Sharif with US Secretary of State John Kerry in New York on Sunday. (Source: AP)

American military aid to Pakistan in 2015 is likely to be the lowest in five years — about a quarter less than the $ 2,076 million that Islamabad got in FY 2014, according to the latest report prepared by the Congressional Research Service. US military aid to Pakistan reached a high of $ 4,504 million in FY 2010.

American transfers to Pakistan are under three broad categories: security-related aid, economic-related aid, and Coalition Support Fund (CSF) reimbursements. CSF was created after the 9/11 terror attacks, with the US reimbursing coalition partners for their logistic and combat support to American military operations as part of the global war on terror. Pakistan has received $ 13,323 million in CSF so far, which is 82 per cent of the total CSF funds given to 30 countries since 2001.

CSF, in theory, was meant to reimburse Pakistan for its military operations against militants in tribal areas on the Afghanistan border, which would help NATO forces in their operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In practice, CSF came to be seen as a payout to Pakistan for allowing US military supplies from Karachi to travel through its territory into Afghanistan. This was established after Pakistan closed the supply routes after a US airstrike on Salala border post in November 2011 — the Americans did not pay any CSF until July 2012, when the routes were reopened following an expression of regret by the US.

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Now that NATO military operations are drawing down in Afghanistan, the rationale of paying for supply routes no longer exists. The US Congress has nonetheless authorised $ 1 billion in CSF for Pakistan for the current fiscal year — a little less than the $ 1.2 billion authorised the previous year. But it has added a new condition that has made the release of $ 300 million of the $ 1 billion contingent upon certification by the Secretary of Defense that Islamabad has undertaken military operations targeting the Haqqani network in Pakistan.

Most importantly, Congress mandated that this certification could not be waived — unlike earlier certifications mandated in 2014, which could be waived in the interest of national security. In August, the Secretary of Defense refused to certify — which means that the maximum CSF that Pakistan can get this year is $ 700 million. Added to $ 320 million security aid and $ 468 million economic aid, total aid would be $ 1,488 million.

The refusal to certify indicates added US pressure on Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network, and the declining amount shows diminishing US interest in placating Pakistan. Scholars like Stephen Tankel argue that instead of stopping CSF abruptly, the US should consider “a glideslope that ends CSF reimbursements… over the next several years”, which would insulate the US from possible Pakistani accusations of abandonment.

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