By Steven Martin Kensington
As Trump begins his second year of the presidency, he has not gotten tired of dispersing the Obama legacy. What he has namely done is suggested cutting aid to Pakistan as the first matter he tweeted about this year. “The United States,” Trump proclaims, “has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
What basis this stance exactly comes from is unknown, but Reuters reported that it might be related to his critique of Islamabad’s inefficacy of dealing with Islamic terrorism. Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, echoed this critique a day later, accusing them to have played “a double game for years.” “That game is not acceptable to this administration.” This shows that there is agreement within the administration to get this thing through. Senator Rand Paul was interested in taking charge of ending the end to Pakistan, rejoicing “Let’s make this happen.”
Haley confirmed consequently that they would withhold $255 million in aid to the country. The Pakistan embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for a comment to Reuters about this, but Pakistan’s foreign minister, Khawaja M. Asif tweeted that they will respond to the tweet soon and that they “will let the world know the truth … between facts & fiction.” Responding to this criticism, the country claims to have launched military operations to get militants off their land and referring to the 17,000 Pakistanis who have died fighting militant attacks since 2001.
Azeem Ibrahim made a study in 2009 of the vast amounts of aid from the US to Pakistan for the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, called “U.S. Aid to Pakistan – U.S. Taxpayers Have Funded Pakistani Corruption.” This paper does not advocate for a definite reducing of aid, but proposes a solution to how it can be reformed to be more appropriately used for the intentional purposes. He, first of all, suggests that the United States should only put conditions on how the aid is to be spent and not to “micromanage specific positive outcomes by institutions beyond U.S. control.” He also states some failures on the American side regarding this for instance that (1) they have not been transparent about the funds, (2) they have misused them, (3) they lacked a strategy for the use of funds, (4) they had inadequate procedures for checking our Pakistan spent the funds, (5) the funds disincentivized democracy. In addition to this, he also accuses the Pakistani military of not using most of the funds for fighting terror, and there being corruption within the army. Ibrahim later writes, however, that the U.S. should reduce the aid to Pakistan if they don’t meet the right criteria: (1) providing a detailed oversight to Congress on how they spend the aid, (2) taking steps to improve its accounting procedures, (3) the army has stable accountability to the civilian leadership, (3) not purchasing material not relevant for counter-terrorism, (4) not increasing their nuclear capabilities, (5) not being evidence of them funding corruption. Ibrahim concludes with that the United States must only use sanctions to “disincentivize activities which are in direct conflict with U.S. foreign policy outcomes.”
This was written in 2009, so what are we to make of it now, nine years later? Its principles count as much now as they did then, with more and more money being spent. It seems to be a better idea to do as Ibrahim says here, and put conditions on them on how to use the money, and reduce aid if this is not followed appropriately, but as we saw with Trump’s decertification of the Iran Nuclear deal, he has a tendency to have expectations exceeding the demands provided. What Trump should go forward to improve his foreign policy is to make clear what demands and requirements he has for the countries in question, because, frankly, at the moment it seems to be easy for both Pakistan and Iran to place itself in a position where the world’s greatest superpower is pushing unreasonable demands on them, which is really negative for America’s position in the world. Trump’s foreign policy has merit in it being tough on global terrorism, but without more clarity in his demands, it could turn out a lot worse than the alternative proposes.