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Obama is planning billions in new assistance to Pakistan.


Obama is planning billions in new assistance to Pakistan.


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is planning billions in new assistance to Pakistan, yet the record of previous U.S. military and development aid to the strife-torn Muslim country has been marred by a lack of accountability and transparency, according to government reports.
President Obama said Friday that he backs a plan to triple non-military aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year for five years and make military aid contingent on Pakistan’s efforts to cut government ties to insurgents.
The plan will follow the approach by John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Richard Lugar of Indiana, the committee’s top Republican.
The money will “build schools, roads and hospitals and strengthen Pakistan’s democracy,” Obama said.
Obama also called for the passage of another bipartisan bill that would create economic “opportunity zones” in the dangerous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. That bill is sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich.
“We will ask our friends and allies to do their part — including at the donors conference in Tokyo next month,” Obama said.
“You can’t succeed in Afghanistan if you don’t solve the problem of western Pakistan,” Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative to the region, said Sunday during a public forum in Brussels. He was referring to the impoverished, mountainous region on the Afghan border where Taliban militants operate with impunity.
Karin von Hippel, a Pakistan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the U.S. must ponder, “How do we make sure that that money gets spent properly and doesn’t get stolen?”
The only two audits of U.S. development aid to Pakistan in recent years, by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s inspector general, found significant problems. Record-keeping in an $83 million education reform program was so inadequate that auditors could not say whether any good was achieved. An effort to rebuild schools and health clinics in an area devastated by a 2005 earthquake was found to be years behind schedule.
A Congressional Research Service report published in November questioned whether the U.S. could effectively deliver aid in the border areas. “Corruption is endemic in the tribal region, and security circumstances are so poor that Western non-governmental contractors find it extremely difficult to operate there,” the report said.
On the military side, U.S. aid intended mainly for counterterrorism has been compromised by Pakistan’s desire for arms suited more toward confronting rival India than fighting tribal militants, von Hippel said. For example, Pakistan got U.S. approval last year to redirect $226 million of its assistance towards upgrading F-16 fighter jets, which are of limited use against terrorists.
Also, elements of the Pakistani government have sometimes aided Afghan Taliban insurgents, including tipping them off to NATO operations, according to a June study by the RAND Corp.’s National Defense Research Institute.
The U.S. suspended aid to Pakistan in 1993 over its nuclear weapons program, then resumed aid upon winning a pledge of cooperation after the 9/11 attacks. Since 2002, the United States has provided Pakistan with approximately $12.3 billion, $8.6 billion of it military, according to the Government Accountability Office.more
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