Pakistani journalists covering the arrival of U.S. President George W. Bush shortly after Bush's arrival at Chaklala Air Base in Islamabad, Mar. 3, 2006.
"How America Is Funding Corruption in Pakistan"
Op-Ed, Foreign Policy
August 11, 2009
Author: Azeem Ibrahim, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 2008–2010
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
Graft is on the rise in Islamabad, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer.
"When [Musharraf] looks me in the eye and says, ... 'there won't be a Taliban and won't be al Qaeda,' I believe him, you know?" So said George W. Bush of then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in September 2006. The U.S. president's trust had been forged in a deal made five years earlier: Pakistan would train, equip, and deploy its Army and intelligence service in counterterrorism operations, and Washington promised to reimburse its partner with billions of dollars in weapons, supplies, and cold hard cash. The plan was simple enough, and since 2001, the United States has lived up to its pledge, pouring as much as $12 billion in overt aid and another $10 billion in covert aid to Pakistan.
But today, as the Obama administration re-examines the deal, there is devastating evidence that the billions spent in Pakistan have yielded little in return. For the last eight years, U.S. taxpayers' money has funded hardly any bona fide counterterrorism successes, but quite a bit of corruption in the Pakistani Army and intelligence services. The money has enriched individuals at the expense of the proper functioning of the country's institutions. It has provided habitual kleptocrats with further incentives to skim off the top. Despite the U.S. goal of encouraging democratization, assistance to Pakistan has actually weakened the country's civilian government. And perhaps worst of all, it has hindered Pakistan's ability to fight terrorists.
Azeem Ibrahim is a research fellow at the International Security Program at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a world fellow at Yale University. He is author of the recent report, "U.S. Aid to Pakistan — U.S. Taxpayers Have Funded Pakistani Corruption."
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