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  US 'pays-off' Pakistan to fight terrorism:
Congressmen skeptical
By Mahendra Ved Published : August 2007
New Delhi. Sceptical about the way Pakistan is using American money, US Congressmen have asked the Bush Administration to ensure that the money is used to fight terror and not to train guns at India.

American law-makers remain sceptical of the Bush administration's Pakistan policy. Congressman John Tierney urged the administration to ensure that the military support money went towards supplying equipment to fight terrorism, as opposed to bombers and submarines aimed at India.

But US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told a Congressional panel last month: "We do try to do Pakistan with legitimate defensive needs, with its ability to patrol in the Arabian Sea," and finance equipment and reimburse expenses for the war on terror.

Whatever be President Pervez Musharraf's commitment to combat terrorism, that shows results every time the United States threatens to launch operations from the Pakistani territory, the fact is that Pakistan gets paid more than $ 100 million a month by the US.

The payment is specifically for the deployment of 80,000 Pakistani troops on its border with Afghanistan, ostensibly for the war on terrorism. The situation is no different from what prevailed in the 1980s, when Pakistan was the "frontline" state in the West's anti-Soviet campaign in Afghanistan.

It is not a mere coincidence that within a week of the US saying that it planned to launch its anti-terror operations from Pakistani territory that Pakistani forces closed in on Abdullah Mahsud who had crossed over from Afghanistan's Helmand province, choosing the Balochistan route to sneak into his home base in the tribal non-man land of South Waziristan.

Mahsud blew himself to avoid being captured on July 24.

It is obvious that the US uses the carrot-and-stick policy with Pakistan: using threats and pressures to get it to act against the terrorists, and then paying off the Pakistani forces to guard their own border with Afghanistan.

However, the Bush Administration has to justify both its actions before its own lawmakers.

The American money is meant to be "reimbursements" to Pakistan "for stationing troops and moving them around, and for gasoline, and bullets, and training and other costs that they incur as part of the war on terror," Boucher told a Congressional panel last month.

"That's a lot of money," He admitted before the panel about what amounts to a $ 1.2 billion per year reimbursement. "I don't know if it comes to the whole amount of their expenses, but we support their expenses, yes."

In all, US aid to Pakistan is now close to $ 2 billion a year, according to figures provided by Boucher, the top U S diplomat for South Asia.

Besides, the $ 1.2 billion reimbursements, Washington also gave Pakistan an addition $ 738 million in 2006 in assistance programs me, including $ 300 million in separate military aid.

The overall figure would put Pakistan on par with Israel and Egypt - with a higher component ($ 1.5 billion) in overall military assistance - of the top three recipients of US aid.

The Pakistan allocations are being met with deep misgivings and scepticism in the US Congress and strategic circles where there are growing demands on the Bush administration to tie aid for Islamabad's military to its performance and delivery in the war on terror.

"There are far more jihadists, extremist madrassas, Al Qaida operatives, Taliban safe havens and international terrorist training camps than Pakistani government officials are willing to admit. Is our current aid package, one in which we are providing at least 10 times more for military aid than for basic education assistance, in the best long-term interest of United States national security?" asked Congressman John Tierney, who chaired a hearing focused exclusively on the Pakistan question.

"And how do we in Congress justify to the American people writing checks for billions of dollars to a regime that may not be the partner against terrorism the United States needs it to be, but may actually be hurting national security interests of the United States and our allies?" added Congressman Christopher Shays, after some of his colleagues pointed out that Pakistan was host to the world's most wanted men like Osama bin Laden, nuclear proliferators AQ Khan, and even gangsters and terrorists.

Boucher maintained that the money was well spent and there was some accountability involved.

"Some of our money that we give Pakistan is reimbursements and so there is, you know, conditions that we pay for things," he said, later elaborating that "Pentagon is in charge of getting receipts and making sure they know how that money is being spent in the right places."

"If they didn't have the 85,000 troops in the border area, God knows what would be going on out there - not anything we could deal with ourselves, I'm sure," Boucher added.

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