US Promised $956m to Pakistan
- $956 million US funds for infrastructure likely
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON: The United States intends to provide $956 million to
Pakistan between 2008 and 2011 as part of a comprehensive plan to
expand its engagement with the country from military to civilian sectors.
In its latest report, the US Government Accountability Office noted
that if approved, this fund will be used for development, security,
capacity building and infrastructure.
The need to enhance US engagement in Pakistan followed a realisation
in Washington that the military alone cannot rid the country of terrorism.
The GAO noted that terrorism had spread beyond the tribal areas and
was now threatening the entire country. âThe terrorist assassination
of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto could encourage terrorists to
strike the Pakistani establishment anywhere in the country â¦ radical
elements now have the potential to undermine Pakistan itself,â the
The GAO assessment of terrorism threats in Pakistan covers the period
from July 2007 through April 2008 and strongly backs the US Embassyâs
recommendation that Washington needs to develop a multifaceted
approach to deal with terrorism in Pakistan.
The new approach, if approved by the administration and key US
government agencies, would constitute the US governmentâs first
attempt to focus more attention on key elements other than military
ones to address US counterterrorism goals in Pakistan. These elements
include development assistance and public diplomacy, as well as
counterinsurgency training, which have not been part of the previous
The new strategy also calls for greater levels of direct US planning,
implementation, coordination and oversight.
But the report noted that âthis new approach does not yet constitute a
comprehensive plan, and all of the agenciesâ individual efforts have
not been fully approved in Washington.â
The report also pointed out that such efforts suffer from funding
shortfalls, and support by the recently elected government of Pakistan
is also uncertain.
The GAO reported that the United State is also supporting Pakistanâs
Sustainable Development Plan for the Fata. Pakistanâs plan is a
nine-year, $2 billion effort to provide economic development, extend
the influence of the Pakistani government and establish security in
To assist this effort, the Pentagon undertook a counterinsurgency
assessment in the Fata and began developing its Security Development
Plan. At the same time, USAID provided technical assistance to the
Pakistani government to help formalise its Sustainable Development
Plan, as well as to plan USAID-development activities in the Fata.
All development efforts in the Fata will be directly planned,
implemented, coordinated and monitored by the US Embassy in Pakistan.
As of September 2007, the embassy planned to spend $187.6 million on
this initial effort using fiscal year 2007 funds.
Since 2002, the United States relied principally on the military to
address US national security goals in Pakistan.
Of the over $10.5 billion that the United States has provided to
Pakistan from 2002 through 2007, the GAO identified about $5.8 billion
specifically for the Fata and border regions; about 96 per cent of
this funding reimbursed Pakistan for military operations in the Fata
and the border region.
âThere have been limited efforts, however, to address other underlying
causes of terrorism in the Fata by providing development assistance or
by addressing the Fataâs political needs,â the GAO noted.
Where does the aid money go?
San Francisco Chronicle
Much of the money is thrown away on "overpriced and ineffective
technical assistance," such as those hot-shot American experts, the
report said. And big chunks are tied to the donor, which means that
the recipient is obliged to use the money to buy products from the
donor country, even when -- especially when -- the same goods are
available cheaper at home.
To no one's surprise, the United States easily outstrips other nations
at most of these scams, making it second only to France as the world's
biggest purveyor of phantom aid. Fully 47 percent of U.S. development
aid is lavished on overpriced technical assistance. By comparison,
only 4 percent of Sweden's aid budget goes to technical assistance,
while Luxembourg and Ireland lay out only 2 percent.
As for tying aid to the purchase of donor-made products, Sweden and
Norway don't do it at all. Neither do Ireland and the United Kingdom.
But 70 percent of U.S. aid is contingent upon the recipient spending
it on American stuff, including especially American-made armaments.
The upshot is that 86 cents of every dollar of U.S. aid is phantom aid.
According to targets set years ago by the United Nations and agreed to
by almost every country in the world, rich countries should give 0.7
percent of their national income in annual aid to poor ones. So far,
only the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (with
real aid at 0.65 percent of its national income) even come close. Last
year, for example, when the president sent his wife to Kabul for a few
hours of photo ops, the New York Times reported that ... she pledged
that the US would give an additional $17.7 million to support
education in Afghanistan. But that grant had been announced before;
and it was ... for a new private, for-profit American University of
Afghanistan. (How a private university comes to be supported by public
tax dollars and the Army Corps of Engineers is another peculiarity of
At the other end of the scale, the United States spends a paltry 0.02
percent of national income on real aid, which works out to an annual
contribution of $8 from every citizen of the wealthiest nation in the
world. (By comparison, Swedes kick in $193 per person, Norwegians
$304, and the citizens of Luxembourg $357.) President Bush boasts of
sending billions in aid to Afghanistan, but in fact we could do better
by passing a hat.
The Bush administration often deliberately misrepresents its aid
program for domestic consumption
Last year, for example, when the president sent his wife to Kabul for
a few hours of photo ops, the New York Times reported that her mission
was "to promise long-term commitment from the United States to
education for women and children." Speaking in Kabul, she pledged that
the United States would give an additional $17.7 million to support
education in Afghanistan. But that grant had been announced before;
and it was not for Afghan education (or women and children) at all but
for a new private, for-profit American University of Afghanistan. (How
a private university comes to be supported by public tax dollars and
the Army Corps of Engineers is another peculiarity of Bush aid.)
Ashraf Ghani, former finance minister of Afghanistan and president of
Kabul University, complained, "You cannot support private education
and ignore public education." But that's typical of American aid.
Having set up a government in Afghanistan, the United States stiffs
it, preferring to channel aid money to private American contractors.
Increasingly privatized, U.S. aid becomes just one more mechanism for
transferring tax dollars to the pockets of rich Americans.
In 2001, Andrew Natsios, then head of USAID, cited foreign aid as "a
key foreign policy instrument" designed to help other countries
"become better markets for U.S. exports."
To guarantee that mission, the State Department recently took over the
formerly semi-autonomous aid agency. And because the aim of U.S. aid
is to make the world safe for U.S. business, USAID now cuts in
business from the start. It sends out requests for proposals to the
short list of usual suspects and awards contracts to those bidders
currently in favor. (Election time kickbacks influence the list of
favorites.) Sometimes it invites only one contractor to apply, the
same efficient procedure that made Halliburton so notorious and so
profitable in Iraq.
The criteria for selection of contractors have little or nothing to do
with conditions in the recipient country, and they are not exactly
what you would call transparent.
Take, for example, the case of the Kabul-Kandahar Highway, featured on
the USAID Web site as a proud accomplishment. (In five years, it's the
only accomplishment in highway building in Afghanistan -- which is one
better than the U.S. record building power stations, water systems,
sewer systems or dams.) The highway was also featured in the Kabul
Weekly newspaper in March 2005 under the headline, "Millions Wasted on
Afghan journalist Mirwais Harooni reported that even though other
international companies had been ready to rebuild the highway for
$250,000 per kilometer, the Louis Berger Group got the job at $700,000
per kilometer -- of which there are 389. Why? The standard American
answer is that Americans do better work. (Though not Berger, which at
the time was already years behind on another $665 million contract to
Berger subcontracted Turkish and Indian companies to build the narrow
two-lane, shoulderless highway at a final cost of about $1 million per
mile; and anyone who travels it can see that it is already falling
apart. (Former Minister of Planning Ramazan Bashardost complained that
when it came to building roads, the Taliban did a better job.)
Now, in a move certain to tank President Hamid Karzai's approval
ratings and further endanger U.S. and NATO troops in the area, the
United States has pressured his government to turn this "gift of the
people of the United States" into a toll road and collect $20 a month
from Afghan drivers. In this way, according to U.S. experts providing
highly paid technical assistance, Afghanistan can collect $30 million
annually from its impoverished citizens and thereby decrease the
foreign aid "burden" on the United States.
Is it any wonder that foreign aid seems to ordinary Afghans to be
something only foreigners enjoy?
At one end of the infamous highway, in Kabul, Afghans disapprove of
the fancy restaurants where foreigners gather -- men and women
together -- to drink alcohol and carry on, and plunge half-naked into
swimming pools. They object to the brothels -- 80 of them by 2005 --
that house women brought in to serve foreign men.
They complain that half the capital city lies in ruins, that many
people still live in tents, that thousands can't find jobs, that
children go hungry, that schools are overcrowded and hospitals dirty,
that women in tattered burqas still beg in the streets and turn to
prostitution, that children are kidnapped and sold into slavery or
murdered for their kidneys or their eyes.
They wonder where the promised aid money went and what the puppet
government can do.
Ann Jones is the author of "Kabul in Winter," a memoir of Afghanistan,
where she lived for several years.
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
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