WASHINGTON, May 27: What Pakistan gets as reimbursement for its efforts to combat militants along the Afghan border is less than half of what it spends, diplomatic sources say.

Under a programme known as the Coalition Support Fund, the US military reimburses Pakistan for terrorism-related operations, particularly by the army and the air force.

A US Government Accountability Office report issued last week said that of $5.8 billion in US support for anti-terrorism efforts in the Fata between 2002 and 2007, about 96 per cent had gone towards reimbursing the Pakistani military, three per cent on border security and one per cent on development aid projects.

Talking to Dawn, sources said the $5.8 billion Pakistan received from the CSF was reimbursement of what the country had already spent.

“It is not easy to deploy 100,000 troops in a troubled area,” said one diplomatic source. “Look, how the Americans are spending billions of dollars on maintaining troops in Iraq. If the Americans feel that the Iraq war is draining their resources, imagine how it affects Pakistan.”

Noting that Pakistan has lost almost 1,000 soldiers in the fight, sources complained that the CSF does not compensate for the loss of life. There is no provision for supporting the families of the slain soldiers either.

“The life of every human being is precious,” said a diplomatic observer. “But the death of a Pakistani soldier gets no mention in the international media and that’s why people in the West feel that Pakistan is not doing enough.”

The CSF does not cover depreciation of equipment either, such as the Cobra helicopters used to monitor the Pak-Afghan border. The Pakistanis, however, are compensated for the money they spend on the soldiers, for fuel, ammunition and for flying sorties. Responding to the claim in the official US report that Pakistan was not spending the money it received from the CSF on development, a source said that this money was not meant for development.

“It is reimbursement and the Pakistanis are at liberty to use it for whatever they want to use it for,” the source said. “But the $750 million Pakistan is going to receive now is for the development of the Fata and the Americans will have every right to hold Pakistan accountable for that.”

Sources said that the continued criticism of the US reimbursement policy has forced the Bush administration to place new restriction on the disbursement of funds. “Payments have been delayed. Pakistan has not yet been reimbursed for some of the money it spent last year,” a source said.

Although put on the defensive by the US media and Congress, some Bush administration officials have recently pointed out that it was wrong to ask Pakistan to explain how they use the reimbursements.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told a recent congressional hearing that what Pakistanis receive from the CSF is their money and the US cannot tell them how to use it.

But the GAO notes that the Bush administration has stepped up its oversight of the direct security assistance in recent months.

From 2004 to early 2007, it deferred or rejected an average of just over 2 per cent of Pakistan’s reimbursement claims. But for the most recent set of claims, between March and June of 2007, that amount jumped to 20 per cent.



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