Were billions spent on counter-terrorism worth it?

Published: September 5, 2012
Pakistan has received over $10b in security aid from the US since 2002 – for gadgets, training and capacity building. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

Pakistan has received over $10b in security aid from the US since 2002 – for gadgets, training and capacity building. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

KARACHI: Billions of dollars have been spent towards countering terrorism since 9/11 – gadgets, foreign trainers, capacity building et al. But has all that money served its purpose? Analysts say it hasn’t and, in fact, terrorism increased in proportion to the money spent fighting it over the years.

Counter-terrorism units              

Since 9/11, there has been an exponential growth in the number of counter-terrorism units operating at the federal and provincial level in the country.

The military has mainly four departments engaged in counter terrorism, including the Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG) commando units, the Inter Services Intelligence’s (ISI) counter terrorism wing; the Military Intelligence (MI) and the Directorate of Military Operations.

Paramilitary forces such as the Frontier Corps (FC) and Sindh Rangers Anti Terrorism wing, headed by senior Army officers, also conduct anti-insurgency and anti-terrorist operations.

Meanwhile, civilian efforts are led by local police units. Each province has a dedicated Crime Investigation Department (CID) that has a separate counter terrorism cell within it. The Special Branch also passes on any terror-related threat to the CID.

Then there are two-federal-level agencies – the Intelligence Bureau (IB), headed by senior police officials, and the civilian-led Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) – that have dedicated counter terrorism wings. FIA set up a Special Investigation Group with American assistance after 9/11 to help investigate terrorism-related cases.

Foreign assistance

According to an April 2012 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, the Obama Administration’s 2013 request for aid to Pakistan totals $2.2 billion, of which $800 was for Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capacity Fund.

Author of the report, K Alan Kronstadt, said in an email to The Express Tribune that his “personal view” was that “by most objective measures, US counterterrorism assistance to Pakistan since 2001 has not achieved its central goals.”

However, he added, the funds provided Pakistan’s military and law enforcement agencies with equipment and training that improved their capacity to combat the indigenous terrorism threat.

Civilian versus military aid

Kronstadt writes in the report that post-9/11, US aid to Pakistan rose dramatically and included a $600 million emergency cash transfer in September 2001.

In 2003, Congress designed a five-year, $3 billion aid package for Pakistan. Annual installments of $600 million each, split evenly between military and economic aid, began in 2005.

About two-thirds of US aid from 2002 to 2012 (some $15.8 billion) has supported security assistance in Pakistan.

When contacted, spokesperson for the military’s public relations wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), declined to comment on whether the US counterinsurgency funds or foreign trainers helped Pakistan’s armed forces in the fight against terror.

Major purchases

According to the CRS report, major US arms sales and grants to Pakistan since 2001 have included items useful for counterterrorism operations, but there are a number of ‘big ticket’ purchases more suited to conventional warfare.

Items considered useful include explosives detection and disposal vehicles, helicopters, sophisticated explosives detectors, night vision devices, radios, body armor, helmets, first aid kits, litters, and large amounts of other individual soldier equipment.

The ‘big ticket’ purchases include P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, TOW anti-armor missiles, a missile frigate, Mid-Life Update kits for F-16A/B combat aircraft and self-propelled howitzers. Kronstadt clarified that the “new [18 new F-16C/D Block 52] F-16s were paid for with Pakistan national funds.”


Since 2007, the Pentagon began using its funds to train and equip the Frontier Corps.

“Americans have also engaged in training Pakistan’s elite SSG commandos with a goal of doubling that force’s size to 5,000,” the report said. At least 2,000 Pakistani officers have also received US-funded training since 2001, the report added.

A spokesperson for the Pakistan Army said that “anti-terrorism training is part of the basic training of all segments of the Pakistan Army.” He emphasised that the Pakistan Army has imparted extensive training to local law enforcement authorities, especially the police, in enhancing their capacity to “fight the menace of terrorism and militancy on scientific lines.”

The army’s SSG instructors have trained 19,772 police personnel in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 8,244 in Punjab, 1,177 in Sindh, 373 in Balochistan, and 293 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

 Wrong emphasis

Leading analysts say that as aid for countering terrorism increased, incidents of terrorism also rose simultaneously.

While analysts admit that a large number of terrorists have been killed and a number of extremist cells dismantled over the years, they call for strengthening the police and local law enforcement agencies.

“Commandos are actually not responsible for counter terrorism efforts,” said Analyst Zahid Hussain.

Analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said that despite the aid and training, Pakistan continues to have a deplorable evidence collection and forensic methodology.

As long as the emphasis of the counter-terrorism aid lay with the military instead of the civilian-led agencies, an improvement cannot be expected, Siddiqa said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Basit
    Sep 5, 2012 - 11:06AM

    “As long as the emphasis of the counter-terrorism aid lay with the military instead of the civilian-led agencies, an improvement cannot be expected, “

    Only relevant part of the article. The government has failed in controlling terrorism/


  • What D Fiqh
    Sep 5, 2012 - 1:31PM

    I would start at the beginning and ask ” were the billions spent in fostering terrorism against India worth it ?”


  • Feroz
    Sep 5, 2012 - 2:30PM

    Capacity to counter the terrorism threat is very different from the will to counter it. The problem as seen by neutral observers has never been a lack of capacity, with or without US Aid. Once the mindset of the majority population is Talibanized support for terrorists and their objectives and goals can only increase. The reasons for Talibanization are known to all, some acknowledge it while most are in denial. The battle is ideological more than merely military and any solution must keep it in mind.


  • Zabandraz
    Sep 5, 2012 - 3:24PM

    Were the billions REALLY SPENT??? Or the billions just found a way to a few pockets of the powers that be???


  • antanu g
    Sep 5, 2012 - 5:38PM

    But what forced the “MAJORITY” to become talibanized…?


  • Adnan Siddiqi
    Sep 5, 2012 - 7:23PM

    At least in Karachi, every SHO got a brand new Toyota Corolla GLI besides the luxury vehicles given to other top police official and their security squads. Not to mention a fleet of mobiles given to every thana which tends to get used as personal transports for police officials and their families.

    This is how the money is being spent in Karachi on LEA and Police. I’m sure that the picture in rest of Pakistan cannot be any different.


  • ayesha azeem
    Sep 5, 2012 - 8:20PM

    Totally wasted,its high time US gets its troop out of Afghanistan and leave both Afghanistan and Pakistan alone & Yes We don’t need your aid US…Thank You..


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