Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Richard Holbrooke Shakes Up U.S. Aid to Pakistan

Posted by K.E. White on March 18, 2010

Bordering Afghanistan, possessing nuclear weapons, and boasting its own pernicious extremist population, Pakistan personifies the ideal candidate for U.S. military and development aid.

Indeed, it’s estimates place America’s 2010 aid expenditure at $2.6 billion.  And it’s for the long-haul: 2009 legislation expends this aid over 5 years.  (The Islamabad Policy institute offers an in-depth report on the legislative history and Pakistani reaction to the 2009 bill)

But does the aid 1) achieve its tailored purposes and 2) serve U.S. interests in the country more broadly?

Well, Pakistan isn’t ecstatic.  And, it seems, neither is Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke.

Foreign Policy reviews ideas to better implement U.S. aid to Pakistan.  The article’s final two paragraphs reveal the key conflict:  ensuring U.S. aid both 1) improves the American image to ordinary Pakistanis and 2) actually shores up Pakistan’s precarious regime.  From the article:

Whatever the United States was doing before didn’t work for Pakistan, and didn’t work for America. Clearly, it’s time to try something else. The danger, though, is that Holbrooke will find a way of helping the U.S. image in Pakistan, and thus advance key national security goals, without really producing change inside the country. Perhaps, therefore, Pakistan should force the United States to re-evaluate aid policy even further. Wendy Chamberlin, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, argued in a recent op-ed that aid will continue to fortify Pakistan’s deeply entrenched elites unless the United States finds an entirely new way of delivering it; she proposed inviting a wide array of groups and individuals to bid for aid projects, much as the Obama administration is now doing in the education world with its $4.3 billion grant program known as Race to the Top.

A more far-reaching proposal comes from the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank that has proposed (pdf) that funders sign contracts with recipient states in which both sides agree on a specific desired outcome — say, increasing the reach of basic health services by a fixed percentage — and then the donor leaves the government wholly free to reach the outcome in any way it sees fit. The donor begins to pay only when the government begins to show results. (A mutually-agreed-upon third party audits the recipient’s progress.) “Cash on delivery aid,” as authors Nancy Birdsall and William D. Savedoff have dubbed the idea, offers accountability for donors, autonomy for recipients, and transparency for citizens of both countries. A corrupt or incompetent government — Pakistan’s, for example — could fail to hold up its end of the bargain. But are Americans really prepared to hand over scarce resources to such a state — even if doing so helps their image?

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