Report finds ‘relatively little’ in aid to Pakistan is contingent on cooperation

As tensions between Pakistan and the U.S. have hit new highs in recent months, the billions of dollars that the U.S. gives to Pakistan in aid have come under heightened scrutiny. After the Obama administration announced earlier this month that it would withhold $800 million in military aid and reimbursements, a White House spokesman told reporters, “We’re not prepared to continue providing that at the pace we’re providing it unless and until we see certain steps taken.”

new report by the Government Accountability Office sheds a bit more light on why one existing check on military aid—meant to ensure that U.S. aid buys more cooperation—may not be working as planned. Under the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, also known as the Kerry-Lugar Act, the Secretary of State is required to certify that Pakistan is cooperating with the United States in order for it to receive certain military funding. 

But the report found that “relatively little” of the $3 billion in aid that the State Department has requested for Pakistan for 2012 is actually affected by that certification. Most of it—88 percent, to be exact—isn’t affected at all, the GAO found. That includes streams of funding that still can make it to Pakistan’s security forces regardless of whether Pakistan has been deemed to be cooperative.

What’s more, it’s unclear on what basis the State Department decides whether Pakistan has cooperated. Back in March, Hillary Clinton signed off on a certification of Pakistan’s cooperation, stating that the government of Pakistan has “demonstrated a sustained commitment to and is making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups.” As McClatchy Newspapers points out, the certification was signed even as U.S. officials planned a raid to kill Osama bin Laden within Pakistan’s borders and without its prior knowledge.

The GAO has said that it will examine the State Department’s basis for granting this certification, but its findings will remain classified.

Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is considering a bill this week to place more restrictions on U.S. aid to Pakistan and other Mideast countries. The proposal would tighten the certification requirements for military aid to Pakistan. It would also make civilian aid contingent on certification and require additional certification that civilian aid programs have been effective.

Projects to disperse civilian aid within Pakistan have been slow to receive funding and make progress due to concerns about corruption in the Pakistani government, news outlets have reported. But given how the current certification system works, it’s unclear whether requiring additional certifications would address these problems or change how much or how effectively U.S. aid is ultimately dispersed.

Lawmakers have debated for months whether to cut the money given to Pakistan or attach more conditions to it. The Obama administration has said that its recent move to suspend millions in military aid to Pakistan would not affect aid to civilians. 

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