Thursday, January 17, 2008

America helps fund jihad

How US helps fund jihad
American Government and military officials have told The New York Times that much of the aid provided by the Bush Administration to Pakistan to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban has been diverted for Islamabad's jihad against New Delhi. According to The New York Times report, funds have been "diverted to help finance weapons systems designed to counter India" and pay "tens of millions of dollars in inflated Pakistani reimbursement claims for fuel, ammunition and other costs". An European diplomat, aware of this diversion, has told the newspaper, "I wonder if the Americans have been taken for a ride."
The revelation has been greeted with sullen silence by the Bush Administration, which continues to invest faith in Gen Pervez Musharraf and still treats him as a "staunch ally" in the war on terror even as Pakistan falls, bit by bit, to the advancing hordes of barbarians who think nothing of slaughtering both believers and non-believers to further the cause of fanatical Islam. Pakistani officials, however, are "incensed at what they see as American ingratitude for Pakistani counter-terrorism" efforts.
In India, there is a sense of outrage and those who are not particularly fond of America (all of them aren't card-carrying Communists) have bitterly pointed out how the US will never learn from its past mistakes. They have a point. Gen Zia-ul Haq, and later 'elected' Governments and the ISI, used military hardware and funds supplied by the US during the Washington-sanctioned Afghan jihad against Soviet troops to wage a covert war against the Indian state and extract a terrible toll of innocent lives.
Just as that diversion was no secret for American officials, this diversion, too, is known to them. If despite such knowledge they have chosen to keep quiet and ply Gen Musharraf with more funds -- the Bush Administration has sought a billion dollars in non-food aid to Pakistan during fiscal 2008 -- the Americans have only themselves to blame for floundering so miserably in the war on terror. Worse, thanks to America's stupendous folly, the lives of millions of people in the region have been imperilled as never before. The fidayeen attack on Kabul's Serena Hotel is the harbinger of further dreadful news, as is the suicide bombing in Lahore.
This is not to suggest that all Americans are equally blind to the Bush Administration's shocking inability to see through Pakistan's charade. Voices are being increasingly heard on Capitol Hill, demanding that the Pakistani establishment be held accountable for its failure to deliver on promises. There are also demands that further American aid to Pakistan should be linked to actual performance on the ground in the war on terror. But every time this is mentioned, officials in Islamabad slyly let it be known that "any attempt to link American aid to certain conditions could impede Pakistan's role in the war on terror and hurt bilateral ties". And a hush descends on Washington, DC.
The stakes for Pakistan are obviously very high, given the quantum of American non-humanitarian aid it has been receiving since 9/11. A recent report on 'Direct Overt US Assistance and Military Reimbursements to Pakistan, FY 2001-FY 2008', prepared by the Congressional Research Service, provides interesting details of American funds that have reached Islamabad and a clue to how much has been diverted to acquire weapons targeted at India and to pay inflated, bogus bills. For instance, between fiscal 2002 and 2007, the US has given Pakistan $1.3 billion towards foreign military financing and an additional $418 million towards 'other security related aid'. The US has provided a whopping $5.7 billion to Pakistan during this period as 'Coalition Support Funds', which is "Pentagon funding to reimburse Pakistan for its support of US military operations". The total 'Non-food Aid Plus Coalition Support Funds' that were transferred from American to Pakistani accounts added up to $9.8 billion.
In sharp contrast, American food aid was a piffling $177 million. It would appear that the Bush Administration believes all Pakistanis shop at Harrod's. Ironically, a poll conducted by International Republican Institute, founded by the Congress and run by prominent Republicans, to gauge the issues that are likely to dominate the general election scheduled for February 18, shows 53 per cent Pakistanis view inflation as the biggest issue, followed by unemployment (15 per cent), poverty (nine per cent) and terrorism (six per cent). Acquisition of military hardware targeted at India and accumulation of riches in numbered Swiss bank accounts, facilitated by unrestricted flow of dollars from the US, may thrill Pakistanis in khaki, but the people of that benighted country are not impressed, least of all by the war on terror which has resulted in greater collateral damage than tangible, verifiable results simply because the Americans are happy to trust -- some would say stupidly so -- a wily General.
Astonishingly, in spite of the huge body of evidence that amply demonstrates America's post-9/11 policy on Pakistan has been an unmitigated disaster, opinion-makers who influence those who write out cheques in Washington, DC -- their influence would considerably increase if the Democrats were to capture the White House later this year -- continue to peddle the old line, counselling engagement with those very elements who are singularly to blame for the mess that prevails in Pakistan today.
In a policy brief, 'Pakistan -- Conflicted Ally in the War on Terror', Ashley J Tellis, senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, argues, "Although Pakistani counter-terrorism effectiveness has fallen short of what Americans expect, Islamabad's failures in this regard are not simply due to a lack of motivation. Instead, the convulsive political deterioration in the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, Islamabad's military ineptitude in counter-terrorism operations, and the political failures of the Karzai Government in Afghanistan have exacerbated the problem."
If being accorded the status of 'staunch ally' in the war on terror (notwithstanding the fact that Gen Musharraf has done nothing to put down even those whom he could, for example, Jaish-e-Mohammed's chief Maulana Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba's leading jihadi Hafeez Saeed) and being provided with billions of dollars are not motivation enough, then we need to redefine this word. Mr Tellis also conveniently ignores the fact that the situation in the North-West Frontier Province and in Afghanistan is entirely the creation of Pakistan -- no doubt helped in great measure by American aid. But who is to tell the Americans that they are utterly, horribly wrong? Most of us would rather tell the naked king that he's wearing a splendid robe in the hope he will be pleased and throw some crumbs our way, too.

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