NEW YORK, Nov 18: Frustrated by lack of accountability of massive US aid to Pakistan, Pentagon is moving to overhaul the system which will tie the payments to Islamabad’s success in combating Islamic militants, the Los Angeles Times said on Sunday.
Defence Department officials also want to require detailed accounting of how Pakistan spends about $1 billion in annual payments and greater control over spending by Washington, the newspaper said in an exclusive report.
Pentagon officials have been frustrated for months by their limited knowledge of how Pakistan was spending the US aid. And they’re being pushed by congressional criticism and revelations that Islamabad was not using the money as the administration intended, the report said.
US officials must know “exactly where it goes” and “have more say” in Pakistan’s use of aid, a senior military official directly involved in the programme, told the newspaper.
“If I could craft it to allocate those resources to do specific things, I’d have a priority list of where I’d like to see it applied to,” the official said.
The official and others described the Pentagon’s efforts on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the US-Pakistan relationship.
The steps would fundamentally change one of the Bush administration’s signature relationships of the post-Sept 11 era, when it forged an alliance with the military regime of President Gen Pervez Musharraf against Islamic extremists and began providing huge sums with little oversight.
The newspaper said that the Pentagon is focusing on the largest and most controversial aid programme, known as the Coalition Support Funds (CSF). The proposal to link payments to specific objectives would revamp the current practice of reimbursing Pakistan for money it says it spent.
“In more traditional military aid programmes, US aid is subject to a series of legislative controls that occasionally require presidential action for money to be released. By contrast, the post-Sept 11 CSF have few reporting requirements, beyond the claims submitted by the Pakistanis.
“Backdoor subsidies is what it can look like to some more sceptical observers, because there hasn’t been good oversight and the amounts involved have been so great,” said a government official who tracks military payments to Pakistan.
“There is suspicion that it’s a slush fund.”
The questions about accountability for the programme come amid concerns about US aid to Pakistan spent on weaponry and equipment that US military and intelligence officials have said seem ill-suited to fight the militants.
The Pentagon effort to change the Washington-Islamabad relationship comes at a particularly tricky juncture, when the US also is trying to force Gen Musharraf to make other changes, including ending the state of emergency he imposed two weeks ago, the newspaper reported.