WASHINGTON: There has been a 73 per cent decline in US security assistance to Pakistan since 2011, reveal statistics released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The report, prepared for the US Congress, covers both military and economic assistance given between 2002 and 2015 as well as those earmarked for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

It also shows a 53pc decrease in economic assistance since 2011, when relations between the two countries began to deteriorate after the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and a US air strike on a Pakistani border post in Salala that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon decided not to pay $300 million in military reimbursements to Islamabad over its alleged reluctance to act against the Haqqani network, a charge Islamabad had immediately rejected.

Security aid fell 73pc from nearly $1.3 billion in 2011 to $343m in 2015. Economic aid had declined from nearly $1.2bn in 2011 to $561m in 2015.

Commenting on the CRS data, the prestigious US magazine The Atlantic’s news service, The Wire, commented on Saturday that the “apparent US-Pakistan estrangement could bring Islamabad closer to its all-weather friend China.”

The Wire noted that the suspension of $300m of military aid “was seen as the latest sign of strained relations between the once major allies, which is a matter of significance for India”.

The cancelled $300m payments were in the form of Coalition Support Fund (CSF) under which Pakistan has received over $14bn since 2002.

The CSF accounted for “as much as one-fifth of Pakistan’s total military expenditures” from 2002 to 2014, said the CRS, a US government news and analysis service for Congress.

The CSF is meant to reimburse US-allied nations “for their operational and logistical support of US-led counterterrorism operations”.

CSF compensation

Pakistan received compensation from the CSF for allowing the US-led coalition to use its seaports and airfields during its Afghan intervention and also for deploying more than 100,000 troops along the Afghan border.

The Pentagon has reported that nearly half the CSF assistance to Pakistan is used for food and ammunition.

The CRS data shows that CSF accounts for 43pc of $32.2bn worth of US government financial transfers to Pakistan from 2002 to 2015. Economic aid comprises 33pc of transfers at $10.6bn followed by 24pc in security aid at $7.6bn.

The US media, while reporting this decline in US assistance, notes that Pakistan itself is a victim of terrorism, which has killed 20,877 civilians and 6,370 security personnel during the period from 2003 to 2015. In addition, terrorism has cost Pakistan’s economy $115bn between 2004-05 and 2014-15.

According to the US media, another indication of tension between the US and Pakistan is the cancelation of an aircraft deal. Under its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme, the US planned to sell Pakistan eight F-16 fighter jets at a cost of $270m.

But the proposed sale faced a strong, bipartisan opposition in the US Congress and was cancelled in May.

Pakistan can still buy the aircraft if it agrees to pay the actual cost of $700m. Pakistan did not purchase the aircraft, as it could not afford them.

Diplomatic coup

“The move was seen by India as a diplomatic coup which came after widespread lobbying in the US Congress by the Indian government and Indian Americans,” The Wire notes.

“It demonstrates a shift in the US’s treatment of Pakistan, which for decades has been a beneficiary of US subsidies that have boosted its military capability and formed a large part of its arsenal,” it adds.

The CRS report, however, shows that Pakistan has or still is in the process of receiving nearly $1.2bn worth of weapon systems from the US since 2001. This includes, eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft worth $474m and 20 AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters at $48m.

In April last year, the US State Department approved a $952m foreign military sales deal to give Pakistan 15 AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters and 1,000 Hellfire II missiles. On April 5, 2016, the US agreed to pay $170m for nine of these helicopters and additional fuel kits for Pakistan.

Pakistan is also getting mid-life update kits for 60 F-16A/B fighter jets already in its inventory at a cost of $892m, of which the US paid $477m through FMF.

Since 2001, Pakistan has paid or is still paying $2.5bn for US arms. This includes big-ticket items such as $1.43bn for 18 new F-16C/D Block 52 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft and additional armaments for the aircraft at a cost of $629m.

Under the US’s Excess Defence Articles programme, Pakistan has received 14 F-16A/B Fighting Falcon combat aircraft and 374 M113 armoured personnel carriers at a reduced price. EDA weapons are used arms, which the US gave Pakistan during its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Under the CSF, the US has given Pakistan 26 Bell 412EP utility helicopters valued at $235m. From the Pakistan Coun­ter­insurgency Fund, the US gave 450 vehicles for the Frontier Corps, four Mi-17 multirole helicopters and more. The programme ended in 2013. The US has also funded the training of over 2,000 Pakistani military officers.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2016