Strings attached: Talk of US aid scorecard rubbished

US official contradicts WSJ story claiming new ‘pay-for-performance’ mechanism.

Huma Imtiaz August 15, 2011


Hours after The Wall Street Journal reported about a new ‘pay-for-performance’ mechanism put in place by the US government to gauge how best to measure Pakistani co-operation and make decisions on aid, a US defence official told The Express Tribune, “The decisions regarding our relationship with Pakistan are not made by looking at colours on a chart.”

Responding to the WSJ story, the defence official said: “A series of events in recent months have affected our bilateral relations with Pakistan and, as a result, the Pakistan Army has requested a ‘significant cutback’ of US military trainers and has limited our ability to obtain visas.”

The official indicated that any cuts in aid were directly connected to the reduction in trainers requested by Pakistan in the aftermath of the US raid on Abbottabad on May 2, and not a new US policy.

“While the Pakistani military leadership tells us this is a temporary step, the reduction in trainers is having the immediate consequence of preventing us from delivering a significant amount of military assistance. This was not a decision made by the United States and does not signify a shift in US policy,” said the US official.

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal had reported in its American edition that the US  government had created a ‘scorecard’ to gauge the level of Pakistani cooperation in the war against terrorism, and make aid decisions based upon a new ‘pay-for-performance’ mechanism.

The report stated that the mechanism involved creating four ‘buckets’ representing different areas of cooperation, with each bucket containing a ‘to-do’ list for Pakistan. It also emphasised, however, that there was no hard and fast rule connecting Pakistan’s performance on the scorecard and the aid Washington gives Islamabad.

The report seemed to contradict the vigorous campaign led by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials in President Barack Obama’s administration to prevent the United States Congress from imposing any sort of restrictions on US aid to Islamabad.

(Read: Clinton wants Obama to veto conditional aid bill)

Relations between both Pakistan and the United States have soured in the days since the Bin Laden raid, with many in Washington referring to this as the worst time in relations between both countries. In the months after the Abbottabad raid, the US placed a hold on $800 million of security assistance, of which $500 million had been earmarked for security equipment and military trainers.

(Read: Pakistan defiant as US halts $800 million military aid)

The US official said that Washington had communicated a number of times to Pakistani officials that the US requires their support to provide certain assistance. Additionally, said the official, the US is not prepared to provide military assistance at the previous pace, unless there were certain steps taken.

“Allowing an appropriate presence of US military personnel, providing necessary visas, and affording appropriate access are among the things that would allow us to effectively provide assistance,” he said.

Echoing some of what was said in the WSJ story, the defence official said that a number of areas had been identified in which both countries needed to take measures to take the relationship forward, which were being discussed privately at the highest levels.

The defence official said that the US was committed to providing US civilian assistance to Pakistan.

“We take a very clear-eyed approach to our relationship with Pakistan - recognising both the importance of our long-term relationship and the need for near-term action on key issues. The decisions regarding our important relationship with Pakistan are not made by looking at colours on a chart.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2011.

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