Kerry-Lugar Bill: The Fruition of 62 years
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
by Mosharraf Zaidi
$1.5 billion a year does not measure up well against the per capita assistance that Uncle Sam has provided for countries like Jordan, Georgia, Egypt and Israel. Nevertheless, America’s friendship with Pakistan is entering a new and exciting phase. The Kerry-Lugar Bill signals a dramatic shift in how American power seeks to engage with Pakistanis. While even moderate Democrats in Washington DC are alarmed by how many Cold War bunnies President Obama has in his diplomatic arsenal, it is also true that the Obama people have a fundamentally different worldview than the one that motivated the actions of the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal of the Christian Taliban. Rest assured, the era in which that gang of neocon torturers and war-profiteers was allowed to sleep serenely in beds that Gen Musharraf and his enablers made for them is over.
Reading the Kerry-Lugar Bill exposes several pleasant realities. Its analysis of Pakistan’s development challenges is succinct, to the point and reasonably comprehensive. The depth of analysis in the bill indicates genuine American interest in serious Pakistani issues. Moreover, given the lamentable efforts of Pakistani governments to document its own development priorities (who can forget the PRSP fiascos?), the bill represents a very good summary of the country’s development challenges. Finally, to the abiding credit of American democratic institutions, the Kerry-Lugar Bill is a well-crafted document that makes no secrets of its motivations.
Section 3 of the bill is titled Findings, and is a list of the issues that motivate the bill. There are a total of 12 findings. Findings 1 and 2 are platitudinous expressions of the US-Pakistan friendship, and the $15 billion that the US government invested in the Gen Musharraf regime. Finding 3 recognises the importance of the February 18, 2008, election. Findings 4 through 9 focus on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and FATA. Findings 10 and 11 contain statistics about poverty and the economy in Pakistan. Finally, Finding 12 recognises the IDPs crisis caused by the May 8 Swat offensive. Nine of the twelve findings specifically refer to the Taliban, Al Qaeda, security, terrorism and/or FATA. Only one finding mentions the word poverty. This is not an accident. The Kerry-Lugar Bill is an American legislative measure designed to pursue American interests.
The bill’s three main sections further clarify the purpose and method that will define the engagement of American power with Pakistan. The first is focused on Pakistan’s traditional development challenges, titled, “Democratic, Economic and Development Assistance for Pakistan” and has up to $1.5 billion associated with it. The second is titled “Security Assistance for Pakistan” and does not specify how much money is available, but does define a new era in US-Pakistan military relations. Most importantly this section delinks American support for Pakistani national security from the military, and places the control of any support provided with democratically elected civilian governments. This is a marked departure from the laissez faire rental agreements made by American governments and the Pakistani military under Musharraf with the Bushies, and under Zia, with the Bushies’ ancestors in the Reagan White House.
The final section, and the one of most interest from a purely development perspective, is titled “Strategy, Accountability, Monitoring and Other Provisions”. This section details a complex set of planning, reporting, auditing and accounting documents that are designed to ensure that Pakistan uses the money it is given in accordance with the wishes of the US Congress — a fine and noble cause given that it is their money. The Kerry-Lugar Bill’s rather detailed set of accountability instruments will, however, if American bureaucrats are not careful, paralyse the mobility of almost all of the $1.5 billion a year.
The Kerry-Lugar Bill calls for the production of at least three major, macro-level strategic documents that will double as budgeted work-plans, to be presented to relevant committees of the US parliament. The secretary of state must produce a Pakistan Assistance Strategy Report within 45 days of the bill’s passage, and a Security-Related Assistance Plan Report within 180 days of the bill’s passage. The US president must produce a Comprehensive Regional Strategy Report for submission to the relevant committees within 180 days of the passage of the bill. This last document, the regional strategy, seems to have been inspired by the president’s book titled “The Audacity of Hope”, seeking as it does, ways by which not only Pakistan, but Afghanistan and India too can be made more secure, through the Kerry-Lugar Bill assistance money.
Six months after the secretary of state’s Pakistan Assistance Strategy, Madam Secretary, or her predecessor, in concert with the secretary of defence, will be required to submit the first Semi-Annual Monitoring Report. Every six months thereafter, they will be required to produce one of these reports. If they ever make it to the public domain, these will be chart toppers at Amazon and on the New York Times’ best sellers’ lists.
The semi-annual reports will not only detail expenditure and achievements, but will also include an evaluation of efforts by the government of Pakistan to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda, the Taliban”, “eliminate safe havens”, close “Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist camps”, “cease all support for terrorist groups”, “prevent attacks into neighbouring countries”, and “close madressahs linked to the Taliban”.
It gets better. In addition to evaluating Pakistan’s performance along these lines, the report will also describe Pakistan’s anti-proliferation efforts, assess whether US assistance is enabling Pakistan to spend more on nukes, and finally, assess the extent of civilian government control over the military, including “oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders”.
It may be an understatement to suggest that these requisite documents will exact a heavy toll on an already-stretched US bureaucracy in Pakistan. What is more worrying is that each new diplomat will require several individuals to help protect his or her life. Those ‘protectors’ will not be from among the Islamabad Traffic Police. They will be drawn from a pool of private contractors, hired through the State Department’s Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) contracting vehicle.
The WPPS, as anyone who has read Jeremy Scahill‘s exceptional book about Blackwater will know, is a bit of a problem. The hullabaloo over Blackwater’s presence in Pakistan is not a conspiracy theory. It is a very legitimate concern about the use of mercenaries that are immune from the law. Blackwater may or may not be present in Pakistan — but its ilk, most definitely are. Among these, DynCorp’s presence here has already been verified, thanks to the now infamous Pakistani sub-contractor named Inter-Risk. Other mercenary companies, such as Triple Canopy, Xe, and Richard Armitage’s CACI will eventually be deployed in Pakistan because protecting an army of bureaucrats will require several armies of mercenaries.
Of course, a lot of this is a reflection of the Pakistani state’s failure to protect guests when they visit this country. Over the last eight years American diplomats have been bombed (Karachi and Islamabad), ambassadors have been killed (Czech Republic at the Marriott), and journalists and engineers beheaded on camera (Danny Pearl and Piotr Stanczak).
The Kerry-Lugar Bill is a bitter pill that Pakistan’s strong and resilient people must swallow because they have repeatedly been failed by both their military dictators and their civilian megalomaniacs. True proof of the very different planet that the Pakistani elite inhabit drips from Farahnaz Ispahani’s pen in a lionisation of her government published in the Huffington Post on Saturday, and this paper, just yesterday. Says Ms Ispahani, “Pakistan stands perhaps in the strongest diplomatic position in its sixty-two year history”. How’s that for a punch-line?