Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pakistan Measures in U.S. Defense Bill 'Counterproductive'

ISLAMABAD - Measures to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in funds for Pakistan in the recently passed U.S. defense authorization bill for 2012 have been labeled counterproductive by regional experts.
The measures seek to withhold $700 million for Pakistan until Congress is convinced by the defense secretary that Islamabad is moving to combat the IEDs used to attack NATO/ISAF troops in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government and military have not released a response to the measures.
However, former Australian defense attaché to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley, said the measures were "petty and spiteful" and "put in place by politicians who are anxious to play the patriotism card to win votes."
He said the measures were also unworkable as one of the main concerns of U.S authorities was to restrict the flow of fertilizer from Pakistan to Afghanistan. Fertilizer from Pakistan is a main ingredient in the production of homemade explosives.
Cloughley said that fertilizer was desperately needed in Afghanistan because of the generally poor soil quality and, therefore, he believes the fertilizer would be imported regardless of what the U.S. Congress wants.
"There is no possible means of detecting it other than individual search of every truck moving through official border check posts, including, of course, via northern routes," Cloughley said.
Cloughley added: "Fertilizer doesn't come only from Pakistan. It, along with much other contraband, enters through Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; probably Iran, too."
He said Congress had also ignored the fact that "over 150,000 Pakistani troops have been committed to the western border, more than the U.S. and ISAF have in the whole of Afghanistan", and that "of the claimed 170,000 Afghan army troops supposed to be serving … only 3,000 to 4,000 [troops] are in the east of the country."
Even if Pakistan was able to stop the flow of fertilizer through the border crossings, Cloughley said smugglers would resort to more simple measures by loading it onto donkeys trained to make their own way across the border.
The withholding of finances is a keenly felt issue in Pakistan.
Analyst Haris Khan, of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank, said "Under the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF) aid, no money or funds have been released since June 2011."
The Pakistani government and military have been somewhat silent on the non-payment of funds, Khan said.
Kahn described the silence in terms of the continued non-reimbursement of payments Pakistan made for 28 embargoed F-16C/Ds under the Pressler Amendment in the 1990s. Pakistan initially continued to make payments for the embargoed aircraft despite it being unlikely they would be released.
He said Pakistan should take a more forceful and "businesslike" approach to the non-payment of funds for services rendered, and be more active in demanding payments.
Just what Pakistan can do in this regard is uncertain, as all movement of NATO supplies through Pakistan has already stopped due to the NATO/ISAF attacks on two border posts on the night of Nov. 25/ 26.
Pakistan may not have much leverage, but Cloughley said he believes the U.S. is also in a similar position.
While the measures sound very severe, Cloughley said, "the freeze will not affect Pakistan gravely."
Ultimately, Cloughley said the measures are counterproductive as the "only definite outcome" will be "increased distrust and hatred of the U.S. throughout Pakistan."

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