Washington : The United States is paying Pakistan roughly $1 billion a year for what it calls reimbursements to the country's military for conducting counter-terrorism efforts along the border with Afghanistan, the New York Times reported.
The payments continue to be made even though Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf decided eight months ago to slash patrols through the area where Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are most active, the daily said in a special report published Sunday.
So far, Pakistan has received more than $5.6 billion under the programme over five years, more than half of the total aid the United States has sent to the country since the Sep 11, 2001, attacks, not counting covert funds, the Times said.
A study of the roughly $10 billion sent to Pakistan by the United States since 2002, conducted by Craig Cohen and Derek Chollet of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, found that $5.6 billion in reimbursements was in addition to $1.8 billion for security assistance, which mostly finances large weapons systems, the daily said.
But those weapons are more useful, the authors concluded, in countering India than in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The United States has also provided about $1.6 billion for "budget support", which Pakistan can use broadly, including for reducing debt.
Some American military officials in the region have recommended that the money be tied to Pakistan's performance in pursuing Al Qaeda and keeping the Taliban from gaining a haven from which to attack the government of Afghanistan.
American officials have been surprised by the speed at which both organisations have gained strength in the past year, the daily said.
But Bush administration officials say no such plan is being considered, despite new evidence that the Pakistani military is often looking the other way when Taliban fighters retreat across the border into Pakistan, ignoring calls from American spotters to intercept them, the Times said.
The administration, according to some current and former officials cited by the Times, is fearful of cutting off the cash or linking it to performance for fear of further destabilising Musharraf, who is facing the biggest challenges to his rule since he took power in 1999.
The White House would not directly answer the question of why Pakistan is being paid the same very large amount after publicly declaring that it is significantly cutting back on its patrols in the most important border area. But Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, emphasized Pakistan's strategic importance in the region.
"Pakistan's cooperation is very important in the global war on terror and for our operations in Afghanistan," Johndroe was quoted as saying. "Our investments in that partnership have paid off over time, from increased information sharing to kills and captures of key terrorist operatives. There is more work to be done, the Pakistanis know that, and we are engaged with the Musharraf government to ramp up the fight."
The New York Times cited Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, Mahmud Ali Durrani, as saying "There are multiple small and big operations going on, we have deployed troops along the border," he said. "There is a lot of coordination."
American officials tell a different story, saying that Pakistani cooperation was mixed at best in 2005 and 2006, though they acknowledge that the Pakistanis have been more responsive to NATO and American requests in recent months. Still, they complain that the Pakistanis are paid whether they go on operations or sit in their barracks.
"They send us a bill, and we just pay it," said a senior military official who has dealt extensively with General Musharraf. "Nobody can really explain what we are getting for this money or even where it's going."
"In funding the Pakistani military, we are making it easier for Musharraf to fulfill his objectives, and we are keeping the military off his back," the Times cited Xenia Dormandy, a former director for South Asia for the National Security Council who is now a scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, as saying.