Getting Our Priorities Straight: What the Recent Senate Foreign Ops Bill Means for U.S.-Pakistan Engagement

October 03, 2011

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY2012 Foreign Operations bill last week (September 21st). With the furor over Admiral Mullen’s recent allegations of Pakistan military support for terrorist groups at a fever pitch, will Congress agree to continue the large package of civilian aid promised to Pakistan in the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act (aka the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, or KLB)?Unfortunately, the bill does not say much about the level of U.S. commitment to Pakistan.  It offers specific direction on U.S. programs in many other countries (such as Egypt), but on Pakistan it’s largely silent and only directly addresses two relatively small funds– a contingency fund for the head of mission in Islamabad, and an enterprise fund designed to promote investment and private sector growth. This effectively places the decision regarding the level of economic assistance directed to Pakistan in the hands of the administration.  On one hand, this might give the administration greater flexibility.  On the other hand, it absolves Congress of any responsibility for how much money is spent in Pakistan.While silent on the amount and type of aid to Pakistan, the bill is very specific about the conditions under which aid can be given. It states that in order for aid to be disbursed, the secretary of state must certify to congress that the government of Pakistan is cooperating with the United States in efforts against terrorist groups, and not withholding visas from U.S. officials engaged in counterterrorism activities.  This is problematic, since it directly contradicts the overarching purpose of the KLB legislation, which was to decouple America’s assistance to the civilian government from our aid to Pakistan’s military. Conditioning  KLB disbursements on the actions of the Pakistani military contradicts the spirit of the legislation and confuses our military and civilian objectives.To make things even more difficult, since the bill was passed last week there has been a substantial backlash against Pakistan based on Admiral Mullen’s comments.For example, there is  HR 3013, or “the Pakistan Accountability Act,” which was introduced last Thursday by Congressman Ted Poe of Texas. It proposes that “assistance… not be provided to Pakistan under any provision of law.” This might have been dismissed as an extreme view, if it were not for the recent remarks of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who predicted that the House would cut all funding to Pakistan at some point in the near future.A more balanced view, which sounds like it could have been lifted from the executive summary of CGD’s recent report on fixing development to Pakistan, actually comes from Admiral Mullen himself. After claiming that “the Quetta Shura (Taliban) and Haqqani Network operate from Pakistan with impunity,” Mullen cautioned: “now is not the time to disengage from Pakistan.” Later in his testimony, he made clear exactly what he meant:

We must also move beyond counter-terrorism to address long-term foundations of Pakistan’s success – to help the Pakistanis find realistic and productive ways to achieve their aspirations of prosperity and security. Those foundations must include improved trade relations with the United States and an increasing role for democratic, civilian institutions and civil society in determining Pakistan’s fate. We should help the Pakistani people address internal security challenges as well as issues of economic development, electricity generation, and water security. We should promote Indo-Pak cooperation and strategic dialogue. We should also help create more stakeholders in Pakistan’s success by expanding the discussion and including the international community; isolating the people of Pakistan from the world right now would be counter-productive.
An economically vibrant, democratic, stable Pakistan is as important for U.S. interests in the long term as removing Al-Qaeda hideouts is in the short term. In his testimony, Admiral Mullen made it clear that our long term goals should not be sacrificed in order to meet our short term ones.  The conditions tying civilian aid to military objectives in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s recent Foreign Operations bill raises an important question. Can U.S. long- and short-term goals both be measured by the same yardstick of Pakistani military cooperation?


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.