By Rajeev Sharma
In a major policy reversal, surprisingly not highlighted by the Indian media, the poll-bound administration of President Barack Obama has waived legal requirements that imposed stiff conditions on the multi-billion dollar military and civil aid to Pakistan.
The United States State Department has formally but quietly notified the US Congress recently of its decision to continue with aid to Pakistan, citing “US national security interests”. The disclosure has come in a recently released report of the Congressional Research Service, a government body responsible for providing authoritative information to the members of the Congress to help them in their decision-making process.
The CRS report, authored by foreign policy experts Susan Epstein and Alan Kronstadt, has not released the reason behind such a move and the reasoning has been kept classified. “In mid-August 2012 the State Department quietly notified Congress of its intention to cite U.S. national security provisions in waiving two certification requirements that placed conditions on U.S. assistance to Pakistan,” the report said.
The two certification requirements that have now been waived are the 2009 Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012. Both of these American legislations require the US government to certify that Pakistan is cooperating with the US in return for aid.
The Obama administration’s move would inevitably trigger a ripple effect on the overall Indian national security scenario. It is surprising indeed that the American waiver on the US military and civil aid worth billions of dollars has gone virtually unnoticed. It is equally baffling to understand how it is in the US national security interest to release billions of dollars without the necessary checks and balances mechanism to a country like Pakistan that is either unwilling or incapable, or both, to effectively address the American and international security concerns.
Pakistan’s Track Record
Pakistan has long been a leading recipient of US foreign aid despite contentious issues in the bilateral relationship. Following the May 2011 US commando raid in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, which troubled US-Pakistani relations further and prompted the 112th Congress to consider new restrictions on, or even elimination of, the billions of annual assistance dollars currently being provided.
Since the raid, U.S.-Pakistani military cooperation has been disrupted and clouded by increased mutual distrust; Islamabad has significantly reduced the number of US military trainers allowed in the country, and the Obama Administration indicated that deliveries of certain security-related financial transfers and other aid are under suspension. A November 2011 incident near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border left two dozen Pakistani soldiers dead after their posts came under fire from NATO forces; the event further disrupted relations. Meanwhile, many observers believe Pakistan’s civilian government is increasingly weak and ineffectual.
The American Laws
In 2011, the US has provided about $600 million in disaster and refugee assistance for the widespread summer 2010 Pakistan floods. Flooding in 2011 was confined to the southern Sindh province, for which the US has pledged more than $110.0 million in FY 2011 and FY 2012.
Section 102(b)(1)(B)(i) of Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 (EPPA) limits economic assistance to $750 million per year unless the President’s Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan certifies that assistance to Pakistan is making reasonable progress in achieving the principal U.S. aid objectives. The Secretary of State may waive the limitations if it is in the national security interest of the United States to do so – a clause that Hillary Clinton evoked.
Section 203 (U.S.C. 8423) limits all security-related assistance and arms transfers to Pakistan during FY2011-FY 2014 unless the Secretary of State annually certifies and reports to the Committees on Foreign Affairs, Foreign Relations, Armed Services, Oversight and Government Reform, and Select Committees on Intelligence that
- the Pakistani government is continuing to cooperate with the United States in efforts to dismantle supplier networks relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons-related materials, such as providing relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks;
- the Pakistani government has during the preceding fiscal year demonstrated a sustained commitment to and is making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups including taking into account the extent to which the government of Pakistan has made progress on matters such as (1) ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against U.S. or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighbouring countries;
- preventing al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups, such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, from operating in the territory of Pakistan, including carrying out cross-border attacks into neighboring countries, closing terrorist camps in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, dismantling terrorist bases of operations in other parts of the country, including Quetta and Muridke, and taking action when provided with intelligence about high-level terrorist targets;
- strengthening counterterrorism and anti-money laundering laws;
- the security forces of Pakistan are not materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.
The American legislations also make it clear and binding that none of the security-related aid for FY 2010 through FY 2014 or any funds given to Pakistan may be used towards the purchase of F-16 combat aircraft and related munitions and logistics, with the exception of basing construction at Pakistan’s Shabaz air base. The Secretary may waive this certification requirement if s/he determines that “it is important to the national security interests of the United States to do so.”
Moreover, the American laws stipulate that to release any economic or security assistance funds for Pakistan the Secretary of State must certify to Congress that the U.S. and Pakistani governments “have agreed, in writing, to achievable and sustainable goals, benchmarks for measuring progress, and expected results for the use of such funds, and have established mechanisms within each implementing agency to ensure that such funds are used for the purposes for which they were intended.”
Also, to meet these requirements, the Secretary of State must certify that the Pakistani government is “cooperating with the United States in efforts against the Haqqani Network, the Quetta Shura Taliban, Lashkar-e-Toiba, al Qaeda and other domestic and foreign terrorist organizations, including taking steps to end support for such groups and prevent them from operating in Pakistan and carrying out cross border attacks into neighboring countries.
The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist-author and strategic analyst who can be reached at [email protected]