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Pakistan's the leading recipient of U.S. economic aid, of course, receiving billions of dollars every year in both civilian and military support. But the recent rocky patch between the two countries is pushing many members of Congress to reevaluate that assistance. NPR's Jackie Northam reports on how much the U.S. is giving Pakistan and where that money goes.
JACKIE NORTHAM: The U.S. has been providing foreign assistance to Pakistan to varying degrees since the country was born in 1947. But aid started to climb dramatically after the September 11th attacks, when Pakistan was deemed an ally in the battle against terrorism. According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the U.S. has pumped roughly $20 billion into Pakistan since 2001. Danny Cutherell, a policy analyst at the Center for Global Development, says recent incidents, like the finding of Osama bin Laden near a key military base in Pakistan, are causing many members of Congress to question whether the U.S. is being taken for a ride.
DANNY CUTHERELL: When they found bin Laden hiding there, I think a lot of people were asking is it really possible that the military could not have known that he was there? And also with these new allegations of the Pakistani military supporting the Haqqani network, I think the natural impulse there is to say, you know, don't give them any money if they're not working with us.
NORTHAM: The magnitude of congressional displeasure with Pakistan is seen in next year's proposed appropriations bills, both in the Republican-led House and the Democratic-run Senate. Cutherell says both proposals make economic and military assistance conditional.
CUTHERELL: It says unless you can prove that the Pakistani government is essentially hunting down the Haqqani network, the Taliban, al-Qaida, unless you can certify that every year, you can't disperse any aid to Pakistan. And so that includes both civilian aid and military aid.
NORTHAM: One of Congress's targets is the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, better known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill. The bill promises $7.5 billion over the course of five years to help strengthen the fledgling civilian government and the people of Pakistan. But members of Congress on both sides of the aisle complain that bill and that money have done little to build trust between the two countries. Military assistance is also in Congress's crosshairs. Tom Donnelly is a defense expert with the American Enterprise Institute.
TOM DONNELLY: It is the biggest lever that we have. There's no question about it. It's a thing that they value the most because Pakistan is an army in charge of a state rather than a state in charge of an army. I mean, the military is, by far, the most dominant organization in Pakistan.
NORTHAM: The Obama administration is requesting more than two billion dollars for Pakistan's counterterrorism efforts. The U.S. has also provided at least two billion more every year in grants since 9/11 to modernize Pakistan's military. Donnelly says hundreds of millions of dollars more are tucked in different budgets for reimbursements and the like.
DONNELLY: Things like buying uniforms for, and giving low-level equipment to the Pakistani army and its frontier corps. But the Pakistanis charge a big premium just to allow us to do that.
NORTHAM: The U.S. already suspended $800 million because the Pakistanis expelled American military trainers following the bin Laden killing. Moeed Yusuf, a South Asia advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace, says Pakistan may not like cuts in foreign assistance, but those cuts are unlikely to force a change of behavior.
MOEED YUSUF: Pakistan will probably dig its heels. Pakistan has this narrative of having gone through 10 years of sanctions in the '90s and still survived. Pakistan has the narrative of having a great friend in China. So, my view is that they will go and fetch and find whatever they can. But the last thing they would do is to change their calculus just because the aid has disappeared.
NORTHAM: Yusuf says, if anything, cutting off aid to Pakistan will be counterproductive. He says ultimately the U.S. and the world have an interest in a stable Pakistan, even if it takes a lot of patience. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.
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