|Wednesday, September 30, 2009
$1.5 billion a year does not measure up well against the per capita assistance that Uncle Sam has provided for countries like Jordan, Georgia, Egypt and Israel. Nevertheless, America’s friendship with Pakistan is entering a new and exciting phase. The Kerry-Lugar Bill signals a dramatic shift in how American power seeks to engage with Pakistanis. While even moderate Democrats in Washington DC are alarmed by how many Cold War bunnies President Obama has in his diplomatic arsenal, it is also true that the Obama people have a fundamentally different worldview than the one that motivated the actions of the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal of the Christian Taliban. Rest assured, the era in which that gang of neocon torturers and war-profiteers was allowed to sleep serenely in beds that Gen Musharraf and his enablers made for them is over.
Reading the Kerry-Lugar Bill exposes several pleasant realities. Its analysis of Pakistan’s development challenges is succinct, to the point and reasonably comprehensive. The depth of analysis in the bill indicates genuine American interest in serious Pakistani issues. Moreover, given the lamentable efforts of Pakistani governments to document its own development priorities (who can forget the PRSP fiascos?), the bill represents a very good summary of the country’s development challenges. Finally, to the abiding credit of American democratic institutions, the Kerry-Lugar Bill is a well-crafted document that makes no secrets of its motivations.
Section 3 of the bill is titled Findings, and is a list of the issues that motivate the bill. There are a total of 12 findings. Findings 1 and 2 are platitudinous expressions of the US-Pakistan friendship, and the $15 billion that the US government invested in the Gen Musharraf regime. Finding 3 recognises the importance of the February 18, 2008, election. Findings 4 through 9 focus on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and FATA. Findings 10 and 11 contain statistics about poverty and the economy in Pakistan. Finally, Finding 12 recognises the IDPs crisis caused by the May 8 Swat offensive. Nine of the twelve findings specifically refer to the Taliban, Al Qaeda, security, terrorism and/or FATA. Only one finding mentions the word poverty. This is not an accident. The Kerry-Lugar Bill is an American legislative measure designed to pursue American interests.
The bill’s three main sections further clarify the purpose and method that will define the engagement of American power with Pakistan. The first is focused on Pakistan’s traditional development challenges, titled, “Democratic, Economic and Development Assistance for Pakistan” and has up to $1.5 billion associated with it. The second is titled “Security Assistance for Pakistan” and does not specify how much money is available, but does define a new era in US-Pakistan military relations. Most importantly this section delinks American support for Pakistani national security from the military, and places the control of any support provided with democratically elected civilian governments. This is a marked departure from the laissez faire rental agreements made by American governments and the Pakistani military under Musharraf with the Bushies, and under Zia, with the Bushies’ ancestors in the Reagan White House.
The final section, and the one of most interest from a purely development perspective, is titled “Strategy, Accountability, Monitoring and Other Provisions”. This section details a complex set of planning, reporting, auditing and accounting documents that are designed to ensure that Pakistan uses the money it is given in accordance with the wishes of the US Congress — a fine and noble cause given that it is their money. The Kerry-Lugar Bill’s rather detailed set of accountability instruments will, however, if American bureaucrats are not careful, paralyse the mobility of almost all of the $1.5 billion a year.
The Kerry-Lugar Bill calls for the production of at least three major, macro-level strategic documents that will double as budgeted work-plans, to be presented to relevant committees of the US parliament. The secretary of state must produce a Pakistan Assistance Strategy Report within 45 days of the bill’s passage, and a Security-Related Assistance Plan Report within 180 days of the bill’s passage. The US president must produce a Comprehensive Regional Strategy Report for submission to the relevant committees within 180 days of the passage of the bill. This last document, the regional strategy, seems to have been inspired by the president’s book titled “The Audacity of Hope”, seeking as it does, ways by which not only Pakistan, but Afghanistan and India too can be made more secure, through the Kerry-Lugar Bill assistance money.
Six months after the secretary of state’s Pakistan Assistance Strategy, Madam Secretary, or her predecessor, in concert with the secretary of defence, will be required to submit the first Semi-Annual Monitoring Report. Every six months thereafter, they will be required to produce one of these reports. If they ever make it to the public domain, these will be chart toppers at Amazon and on the New York Times’ best sellers’ lists.
The semi-annual reports will not only detail expenditure and achievements, but will also include an evaluation of efforts by the government of Pakistan to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda, the Taliban”, “eliminate safe havens”, close “Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist camps”, “cease all support for terrorist groups”, “prevent attacks into neighbouring countries”, and “close madressahs linked to the Taliban”.
It gets better. In addition to evaluating Pakistan’s performance along these lines, the report will also describe Pakistan’s anti-proliferation efforts, assess whether US assistance is enabling Pakistan to spend more on nukes, and finally, assess the extent of civilian government control over the military, including “oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders”.
It may be an understatement to suggest that these requisite documents will exact a heavy toll on an already-stretched US bureaucracy in Pakistan. What is more worrying is that each new diplomat will require several individuals to help protect his or her life. Those ‘protectors’ will not be from among the Islamabad Traffic Police. They will be drawn from a pool of private contractors, hired through the State Department’s Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) contracting vehicle.
The WPPS, as anyone who has read Jeremy Scahill’s exceptional book about Blackwater will know, is a bit of a problem. The hullabaloo over Blackwater’s presence in Pakistan is not a conspiracy theory. It is a very legitimate concern about the use of mercenaries that are immune from the law. Blackwater may or may not be present in Pakistan — but its ilk, most definitely are. Among these, DynCorp’s presence here has already been verified, thanks to the now infamous Pakistani sub-contractor named Inter-Risk.
Other mercenary companies, such as Triple Canopy, Xe, and Richard Armitage’s CACI will eventually be deployed in Pakistan because protecting an army of bureaucrats will require several armies of mercenaries.
Of course, a lot of this is a reflection of the Pakistani state’s failure to protect guests when they visit this country. Over the last eight years American diplomats have been bombed (Karachi and Islamabad), ambassadors have been killed (Czech Republic at the Marriott), and journalists and engineers beheaded on camera (Danny Pearl and Piotr Stanczak).
The Kerry-Lugar Bill is a bitter pill that Pakistan’s strong and resilient people must swallow because they have repeatedly been failed by both their military dictators and their civilian megalomaniacs. True proof of the very different planet that the Pakistani elite inhabit drips from Farahnaz Ispahani’s pen in a lionisation of her government published in the Huffington Post on Saturday, and this paper, just yesterday. Says Ms Ispahani, “Pakistan stands perhaps in the strongest diplomatic position in its sixty-two year history”. How’s that for a punch-line?
The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy. He can be reached through his website www.mosharrafzaidi.com (The News)
Deciphering the US aid bill
Never let the facts get in the way of a good debate. That pretty much sums up the approach to the Kerry-Lugar/Berman bill, officially, the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, now approved by Congress.
How angry are some of the critics? Very angry; frothing-at-the-mouth angry. A PPP government has once again sold the country, its sovereignty, its very soul to the Yanks. And going by some of the wildest claims, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of patriots lining up to water the tree of liberty here with their blood. Pakistan will be saved. The conspiracy to destroy us will be defeated.
Right. About the facts. What appears to have sent the bill’s Pakistani opponents into convulsions is this: Sec 203: limitations on certain assistance. Specifically, paragraph (c) of sec 203, entitled ‘certification,’ which lists three subjects the secretary of state has to certify to Congress that Pakistan is cooperating on, committed to and eschewing from.
I’ll get to those conditions in a bit, but first the pesky fact that the ‘nattering nabobs of negativism’ here have missed. (Tip of the hat to William Safire, The New York Times man who passed away this week and who probably had little clue that his brilliance was being lapped up in faraway Pakistan.)
The certification limitation applies to two things: security-related assistance and major defence transfers, both defined in sec 2, ‘definitions,’ if anyone is interested. The certification does not apply to the democratic, economic and development assistance.
So Pakistanis are supposed to be angry that the Americans have put conditions on selling guns to Pakistan, but not on democratic, economic and development assistance? Of course not. Which is why the chest-thumping uber-nationalists here have ignored the point and pretended that the conditions are applicable to the full amount of the aid. Remember, never let the facts get in the way of a good debate.
Now, to the other side, Pakistani and American officials, also prone to exaggerating the effect of the bill. We may be entering a ‘new phase’ in relations between the US and Pakistan with the passage of the bill, but the paeans to ‘fundamental change’ sung particularly by Pakistani officials don’t jibe with reality.
Pakistan is a tactical ally of the US, not a strategic partner; that has been the reality since 9/11 and that continues to be the reality even after the passage of the Enhanced Partnership Act.
The language of the bill tells its own story. From sec 3: findings: ‘(1) The people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the United States share a long history of friendship and comity, and the interests of both nations are well-served by strengthening and deepening this friendship’ (emphasis added). And from the same section: ‘(4) Pakistan is a major non-Nato ally of the United States and has been a valuable partner in the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban, but much more remains to be accomplished by both nations’ (emphasis added). Hardly stirring stuff.
Next, the limitations on security-related assistance and arms transfers. First, the secretary of state must certify that ‘the Government of Pakistan 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.’
Yes, the earlier direct reference to A.Q. Khan has been deleted and semantically it could be argued that he is any case no longer ‘associated’ with nuclear proliferation networks. But that isn’t the point. The point is that the language reveals once again the true nature of Pak-US relations: we are a tactical ally, not a strategic partner.
To get an idea of the language Congress uses for strategic partners, consider the certification requirement in the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act passed by the previous Congress: ‘the President shall certify to Congress that entry into force and implementation of the Agreement … (does not in any way) assist, encourage, or induce India to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.’
Yes, the bill stipulates that legal requirements of the Henry J. Hyde Act of 2006 and Atomic Energy Act of 1954 are not overridden and the Hyde Act places additional requirements on India that the US president must certify, but those do not imply that India is involved in nuclear weapons proliferation, which the Kerry-Lugar/Berman bill does. The difference isn’t something to be sneezed at. We are and are set to remain a tactical ally, not a strategic partner, of the US.
The second condition applies to Pakistan’s ‘sustained commitment to … and significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups.’ Again, in broad strokes the condition is not very controversial because it is in line with Pakistan’s publicly declared policy against militancy.
But here’s the rub: the details contain implicit references to India. After specifically requiring that Pakistan move towards ceasing support for any groups that launch attacks against US or coalition forces inside Afghanistan, the condition also mentions ‘the territory or people of neighbouring countries.’ Then it goes on to refer to the Lashkar-i-Taiba, its headquarters in Muridke and the Jaish-i-Mohammad. Connecting the dots isn’t very difficult.
Frankly, the conditions themselves are arguably what the state should be doing in any case; we need to be rid of the curse of militancy and we need to do it for our own good. But in the present context, it matters who is asking us to do it and why.
From a hard-nosed, realpolitik perspective — and you cannot ignore that in statecraft — the references amount to Indian security concerns inserting themselves into an American bill meant to provide democratic, economic and development assistance to Pakistan.
So even if you ignore, and you should, the most outrageous bile of the bill’s critics, the more subtle point is reinforced: we remain a tactical ally of the US, not a strategic partner.
Going forward, what that really calls for is a serious, measured, thoughtful debate about our approach to the US specifically and our grand, national security and national military strategies generally. But don’t bet on that happening. Remember, we don’t let the facts get in the way of a good debate.