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CAP: The Limits of U.S. Assistance to Pakistan

Authors: Colin Cookman, Brian M. Katulis, Sarah Margon, and Caroline P. Wadhams
July 21, 2011


Colin Cookman, Brian Katulis, Sarah Margon, and Caroline Wadhams of the Center for American Progress look at ways to streamline aid to Pakistan while making it more effective.

The U.S. decision to defer nearly $800 million in counterterrorism funding to Pakistan is the latest turn in a downward spiral of U.S.-Pakistan relations. Given the ejection of U.S. military trainers from Pakistan, ongoing concerns over the misuse of U.S. aid dollars, and mounting evidence of Pakistani complicity with insurgent groups, this step was necessary. But a more comprehensive review of all aid to Pakistan is now essential to weigh the costs and benefits of our assistance and determine the best aid package for advancing U.S. security interests in both Pakistan and the broader region.

Ties between the two countries have suffered a series of blows over the past year as both sides trade mutual recriminations over a CIA contractor arrested after shooting and killing two men in Lahore, the ouster of U.S. intelligence officials, the unilateral U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, and the assassination of a Pakistani journalist allegedly involving Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

These incidents highlight a deeper tension. The United States perceives Pakistan as unable or unwilling to take decisive action against militant groups operating on its territory and attacking U.S. armed forces and our allies in Afghanistan. On the other hand, many Pakistani officials believe the United States is regularly bypassing and using Pakistan to further its own short-term security objectives and to establish a political system in Afghanistan that has the potential to directly threaten Pakistan's security.

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