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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pakistan: U.S. Foreign Assistance

Susan B. Epstein
Specialist in Foreign Policy

K. Alan Kronstadt
Specialist in South Asian Affairs

The 112th Congress has been focused on measures to reduce the federal budget deficit. This backdrop may influence congressional debate over the third-ranking U.S. aid recipient, Pakistan—a country vital to U.S. national security interests but that some say lacks accountability and even credibility.

Pakistan has been among the leading recipients of U.S. foreign assistance both historically and in recent years. The country arguably is as important to forwarding U.S. security interests as any in the world. Developments in 2011 put immense strains on bilateral relations, making uncertain the future direction of U.S. aid to Pakistan. Disruptions included the May killing of Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani city and a November NATO military raid into Pakistani territory near Afghanistan that inadvertently left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead. For many lawmakers, the core issue remains balancing Pakistan’s strategic importance to the United States with the pervasive and mounting distrust in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, as well as with budget deficit-reduction pressures.

U.S. assistance to Pakistan has fluctuated considerably over the past 60 years. In the wake of 9/11, however, aid to Pakistan has increased steadily as the Bush and Obama Administrations both characterized Pakistan as a crucial U.S. partner in efforts to combat terrorism and to promote stability in both Afghanistan and South Asia. Since 1948, the United States has pledged more than $30 billion in direct aid, about half for military assistance. Two-thirds of this total was appropriated in the post-9/11 era from FY2002 to FY2011. Many observers question the gains accrued to date, viewing a lack of accountability and reform by the Pakistani government as major obstacles. Moreover, any goodwill generated by U.S. aid is offset by widespread anti- American sentiment among the Pakistani people.

In September 2009, Congress passed the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, which became P.L. 111-73. The law authorizes the President to provide $1.5 billion in annual nonmilitary aid to Pakistan from FY2010 through FY2014. It requires annual certification for release of security-related aid; such conditionality is a contentious issue. Congress also established two new funds in 2009—the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund (PCF) within the Defense Department appropriations and the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund within the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations—to build Pakistan’s counterinsurgency capabilities.

When $1.5 billion in “coalition support fund” military reimbursements are added to economic and military aid totals, the United States provided a total of $4.3 billion for Pakistan for FY2010 alone, making it the second-highest recipient after Afghanistan. In addition to these ongoing programs, in mid-2010 the United States pledged about $700 million in a humanitarian response to extensive flooding in Pakistan.

In an indicator of increased attention to aid oversight, Congress in December 2011 enacted a National Defense Authorization Act for FY2012 (P.L. 112-81) that would withhold 60% of any FY2012 appropriations for PCF unless the Secretary of Defense reports to Congress a strategy for the use of such funds and the metrics for determining their effectiveness, and a strategy to enhance Pakistani efforts to counter improvised explosive devices, among other provisions.

This report will be updated as congressional actions on aid to Pakistan unfold in the 112th Congress. For broader discussion of U.S.-Pakistan relations, see CRS Report R41307, Pakistan:

Date of Report: April 10, 2012
Number of Pages: 47
Order Number: R41856
Price: $29.95

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