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Follow the money: Should the US cut aid to Pakistan?

Secretary of State Clinton said today that the US wants 'long-term' security ties with Pakistan. But in the wake of the bin Laden raid, some Americans and Pakistanis alike want to downgrade ties – and aid.

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Former President Pervez Mushar­raf later confirmed suspicions that aid had been diverted to defend against India. "Whoever wishes to be angry, let them be angry," he said in 2009. "The Americans should know … that we won't compromise our security, and will use the equipment everywhere."

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The United States has gotten tougher on reimbursements, rejecting 44 percent in 2009, compared with 1.6 percent in 2005, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"Reimbursement claims are reviewed carefully and decisions are based on a combination of agreed formulas," says a US official in Islamabad, via e-mail. "However, we do not control what the government of Pakistan does with reimbursement funds that go into the state bank."

Hasn't the US boosted civilian aid?

In 2010, the US committed to providing $1.5 billion annually for five years in civilian aid. But only $285 million of this Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act money has been spent so far, according to the US embassy.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana, a cosponsor, chalked it up to difficulties determining which projects to fund and how to account for them.

The sluggishness is partly due to reforms at USAID, says Ms. Fair. After years of complaints that development dollars wound up enriching US companies, the agency moved to channel funds through the Pakistani government and small nongovernmental organizations. "When we moved away from institutional contractors to small NGOs, we are basically moving into an unknown," says Fair.

The US embassy provided a breakdown of how Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act money has been spent. It includes $32.16 million for two dam projects, $54.8 million on flood relief and recovery, $39 million for students to study in the US, $45 million for higher education, $75 million for income support to poor Pakistanis, and $10.34 million for small infrastructure projects.

Such figures are not readily available on the website and take some time for USAID to produce, frustrating those tracking the projects. The lack of transparency worries Pakistanis who often distrust NGOs, says Fair. Previous efforts by the Monitor to observe USAID projects in Pakistan have been met with ambivalence. The agency says it wants to show how the US is helping Pakistan, but it worries about drawing militant attention.

During hearings earlier this month, Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts said: "We have raised this issue forcefully ... there needs to be a much more effective communications strategy."

What US goals has the money accomplished?

Military aid to Pakistan is aimed at cooperation in the war on terror.

Since 2001, Pakistan has launched offensives against Islamic-militant havens. Pakistani intelligence has helped the US nab some top Al Qaeda leaders. Islamabad has also risked popular discontent by allowing the US to base drones and more CIA operatives on its soil.


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