Monday, August 15, 2011
US Links Aid To Pakistan To Combat Al-Qaeda And Its Allies
The White House has started conditioning the award of billions of dollars in security assistance to Pakistan on whether Islamabad shows progress on a secret scorecard of US objectives to combat Al-Qaeda and its militant allies. The US also is asking Pakistan to take specific steps to ease bilateral tensions.
The classified system, put in place after the US raid that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his Pakistani hideout, signals a shift by the White House toward a pay-for-performance relationship with Pakistan, as doubts grow that the two countries can for now forge a broader alliance based on shared interests.
A senior military official called the unusual new approach "a hard-knuckled reflection of where we are right now" in relations. US officials cited the sharp breakdown in counter terrorism cooperation that followed the bin Laden raid in May and the arrest of a Central Intelligence Agency contractor in Pakistan this year.
The new approach represents an effort to salvage as much counter terrorism cooperation as the Obama administration can at a time when top US officials believe themselves in a race against time to deal a deathblow to Al-Qaeda's remaining leadership in Pakistan.
US aid to Pakistan, including economic and security-related assistance, totaled nearly $4.5 billion in fiscal 2010. Security aid accounted for more than $2.7 billion of that, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Officials say the White House has already frozen some $800 million in security assistance to Pakistan in recent months because of factors that include Islamabad's refusal to readmit American trainers and military personnel who process Pakistani reimbursement claims—items that fall into categories on the US performance checklist. "The message is: You make progress in these areas, and we can release some of this assistance," a senior US official said of the review process. "Give us something that we can show [Congress] that we're working together."
Under the new approach, the office of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is compiling classified scorecards that track Pakistan's cooperation in four areas, referred to in the White House as "baskets."
Each basket contains a to-do list that the administration wants from Pakistan.
Washington has told Islamabad that future payouts of security assistance would hinge on Pakistan showing it is making progress in these four areas, US officials said. The White House hasn't assigned specific dollar values to each item.
US officials say the Obama administration presented the request list to Pakistani officials in May, shortly after the bin Laden raid. The raid, carried out without Pakistani knowledge, had already fueled Pakistani concerns that the US doesn't consider Islamabad an equal partner.
A spokesman for Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency denied the US had formally presented Pakistan with such a list and said it was Pakistan's prerogative to decide how to combat terrorism and conduct relations with Afghanistan.