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U.S. Moves to Add Conditions to Pakistan Aid, But Will It Follow Through?

As we’ve noted, relatively little of U.S. aid to Pakistan is contingent on the country’s cooperation with U.S. goals of counterterrorism and nonproliferation. A story today in the Wall Street Journal suggests that could be changing, though the details are still hazy. 

The Wall Street Journal, quoting anonymous U.S. officials, outlined a new White House approach to Pakistan that may make billions of dollars in security funding dependent on Pakistani progress in specific areas. Here’s the Journal:

Under the new approach, the office of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is compiling classified scorecards that track Pakistan’s cooperation in four areas, referred to in the White House as “baskets.”

… The four baskets are: Pakistani cooperation in exploiting the bin Laden compound; Pakistani cooperation with the war in Afghanistan; Pakistani cooperation with the U.S. in conducting joint counterterrorism operations; and cooperation in improving the overall tone in bilateral relations.

But how the new approach will work—and whether it will work—remains unclear, as most of the details are classified and the discussions with Pakistan are being conducted privately. So far as we can see, the administration hasn't publicly discussed any of it. (We've put in a call to the State Department and will let you know what we hear back.)

What we do know is that for years, the United States has wavered on the issue of conditionality—making efforts to ensure that the aid isn’t misspent and that it buys some cooperation, but also issuing reassurances to the Pakistani government, which is touchy about its public image and has balked at the prospect of aid with strings attached.

Since 2009, the law has required the U.S. Secretary of State to certify Pakistani cooperation each year in order to release certain security funding. But as we’ve noted, a recent report found that most of the aid requested for Pakistan in 2012, for instance, isn’t affected by that certification. Another report, issued in July 2011 by the Congressional Research Service, noted that “this kind of certification has been met with deep skepticism” [PDF] given the certification that was signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even as the United States planned a covert raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

The White House announced in July that it would was withholding $800 million, or about a third of U.S. security aid to Pakistan. Pakistani officials said at the time that the amount wouldn't have "any significant impact" on the country's military operations but would damage trust between the two countries. 

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