The history of U.S. assistance to Pakistan follows a predictable script: aid is tied to security imperatives that come and go, while the country’s political and economic well-being is effectively ignored. As an early ally in the cold war, Pakistan received nearly $2 billion from 1953 to 1961, a quarter of which was military assistance. The United States then suspended assistance during the Indo-Pakistan wars and following Pakistan’s construction of a uranium enrichment facility in 1979. Pakistan remerged as an ally in the 1980s during the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan and was again the recipient of aid. But following the withdrawal of Soviet troops in the late 1980s, assistance to Pakistan took another nosedive.
Following 9/11, Pakistan became a U.S. ally once more, and unsurprisingly, almost all of the aid provided since has gone to military operations. By failing to commit to the long-term health of the Pakistani state, successive generations of U.S. policymakers have convinced many in Pakistan, both in and out of government, that we are a demanding power with little interest in their own security, rather than a genuine partner. Increasing political and economic instability and the failure of a military-centric approach to check growing violence demonstrate that the Pakistani people need more than military assistance to improve stability in their country.
Assistance is largely targeted at fighting terrorism
$7.89 billion: The amount of U.S. military assistance to Pakistan since 9/11, the majority of which has been from “coalition support funds” intended as reimbursement for Pakistani assistance in the war on terror.
$3.1 billion: The amount allocated to economic and development assistance, including food aid, during the same period.
Is this military aid helping make Pakistan safer?
189: The number of deaths from terrorist violence in Pakistan in 2003.
648: The number of deaths from terrorist violence in Pakistan in 2005.
3,599: The number of deaths from terrorist violence in Pakistan in 2007.
63 percent: The percentage of Pakistanis surveyed in June 2008 who felt less secure than they did just one year ago.
86 percent: The percentage of Pakistanis surveyed who believed their country was headed in the wrong direction.
72 percent: The percentage of Pakistanis surveyed who believed their personal economic situation had worsened in the past year.
Pakistanis need aid in other areas
77 million: The number of Pakistanis—half the country’s population—that are unable to secure an adequate nutritional intake.
50 percent: The percentage of the Pakistani population that is literate. Only one-third of Pakistani women can read and write.
2 percent: The percentage of total U.S. aid packages since 2001 directed toward education. This amounts to an average of less than $2 per Pakistani child per year.
A different approach is needed for FATA
$5.8 billion: Amount of U.S. aid to Pakistan spent in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas from 2002 through 2007.
96 percent: The percentage of those funds that were directed toward military operations.
1 percent: The percentage of those founds directed toward development.
Increased assistance is particularly needed in the ungoverned Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a region along the northwest border with Afghanistan that has been a key front in the war on terrorism. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, has noted that for nearly three decades now the only opportunities in this region have been “a service economy serving the industry of jihad”; low literacy rates (17 percent overall and 3 percent for women) and inadequate medical care (1 doctor for every 6,762 people) reflect the area’s long history of political marginalization. In this space, militant groups are able to organize and establish parallel state structures, endangering Pakistan and its neighbors.
Instead of focusing so heavily on military aid to Pakistan, the United States should dedicate more of its funding to enhancing security and earning the support of the Pakistani people through increased economic and development assistance. By working with a new civilian government to address Pakistan’s basic needs—improving literacy rates, boosting energy and agricultural production, providing more access to health care, and more—the United States can strengthen Pakistani society and institutions against militant subversion. In doing so we also clearly demonstrate a respect for Pakistan’s own needs, moving the partnership beyond short-term cyclical engagement that neglects the underlying causes of the country’s instability.
For more information on this topic, please see:
- The Cost of Reaction: The Long-Term Costs of Short-Term Cures by Andrew Sweet and Natalie Ondiak
- Musharraf’s Resignation Creates an Opening for U.S. Policy by Caroline Wadhams and Brian Katulis
- Where Did the Money Go? Oversight Lacking in Aid to Pakistan by Ben Dear
- We Need a Plan for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas by Caroline Wadhams and Colin Cookman