Commentary Magazine


Not the Right Moment to Talk About Aid to Pakistan

On the very day that American forces were invading a compound in Pakistan’s Abbottabad Valley to kill Osama Bin Laden, the New York Times was reporting about the widespread dissatisfaction in that country with the pace of the distribution of American aid there.

Given the fact that Bin Laden was found living in a populated area of Pakistan within sight of a government military installation, yesterday’s Times article on the subject was unintentionally ironic, but it also illustrated the difficulties that the United States faces in the region. Although America has promised to give Pakistan $7.5 billion in civilian aid over the next five years, the Pakistani government is so thoroughly corrupt that it has proven impossible to deliver the money to infrastructure, health, or education projects that are desperately needed. Apparently only $179.5 million of the first $1.5 billion of the five-year program had been disbursed by last December.

The result is that most Pakistanis distrust the United States and see Washington as trying to ineptly buy their love. They also seem to be more focused on their resentment against American drone attacks on terrorist targets inside the country, a sentiment that will only grow in the wake of the killing of bin Laden without any cooperation from Islamabad or the Pakistani military. But in the wake of the realization that Pakistani officials may have shielded Bin Laden, attempts to speed up or increase U.S. aid are liable to fall on deaf ears.

America desperately needs to keep Pakistan out of the hands of Islamists because of its strategic position as well as its nuclear capability. But the price America has paid for support for American efforts in Afghanistan has been our acquiescence toward the Pakistani government’s two-faced policy on terror. Punishing Pakistan might be self-defeating for the United States given the stakes there. But changing the situation via well-intentioned American aid seems to be as much of a failure as any other strategy we have employed in the region.