November 07, 2007

Buckets of Cash

Both the Center for Public Integrity and Spencer Ackerman point out that Musharraf's government in Pakistan has received some $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2001, and no one really knows where it's going. Most of that money—around $6 billion to date—flows through a Defense Department program, the Coalition Support Funds (CSF), which was set up after September 11 to "reimburse" countries for various counterterrorism activities. Unlike most aid programs, this one gets little congressional oversight. According to CPI, Pakistan gets the vast, vast bulk of CSF funds. (Jordan gets a fair bit, too.)

"With the possible exception of Iraq reconstruction funds, I've never seen a larger blank check for any country than for the Pakistan CSF program," one veteran Senate staffer told CPI. All the Pakistani government has to do in exchange is tell the administration, behind closed doors, how it plans to spend the money. Wink, wink. At one point in 2003, the Pentagon forked over $195 million and simply told Congress, "This estimate is based on anticipated support that will be provided by Pakistan." That's all. Not much auditing. And the military, not "the people," seem to be getting most of the money. As Spencer notes, given that the Pakistani military is known for rampant corruption, that's a bit of a problem.

It's worth poking around CPI's broader investigation of post-9/11 U.S. military aid. Poor oversight seems to be fairly common, and not just with Pakistan. U.S. foreign-military training programs, for instance, are supposed to be monitored to make sure that we're not training and equipping folks who have committed "gross violations" of human rights. But a 2005 GAO report found that the vetting is often lax, discovering some 7,000 trainees who hadn't been vetted, including 32 from one notorious Indonesian special forces unit that had been specifically barred from receiving State Department funding because of it's human rights record. Pakistan, though, seems to be the biggest story here.

P.S. Can't say I know much about what's going on in Pakistan, but Stephen Cohen's short essay here was fairly informative, as was the polling data Hilzoy presented here, in addition to the stuff everyone else already linked to.
-- Brad Plumer 8:00 PM || ||