Asia Scope

US Aid to Pakistan a Trojan Horse?

A string of deadly attacks by militants against Pakistani targets in the last few days, including an assault on the country’s army headquarters, has reignited concerns over the security of its nuclear weapons. AP has an interesting piece looking at the issue, including a useful reminder about the perils of overconfidence from Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists.

“‘If a relatively small group of people is able to penetrate into their “Pentagon,” then it might show something about the overconfidence of the Pakistanis, and that is worrisome–it’s surprising that they were able to go in there relatively simply,’ Kristensen said.”

The attacks have come as the Obama administration tries to find its feet at a time when a number of commentators are questioning some of the mixed signals the administration is putting out over its AfPak policy.

I asked our Pakistan correspondent for the view from Pakistan, and he’s also pretty damning about the oscillations on the US side.

“The recent shifts in US ‘AfPak’ policy have continued to provoke consternation here in Pakistan. The recently approved Kerry-Lugar Bill, which seeks to pump some $7.5 billion in non-military aid to Pakistan over the next 5 years, has been greeted with suspicion both among ordinary Pakistanis and the state. Although both the president and prime minister here lauded the bill, the army was much less sanguine, calling the conditionality attached to the funds a serious risk to national security. The aid is ostensibly aimed at ensuring that moneys given to Pakistan are used to develop the country and combat extremism.

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“The army–and many Pakistanis too–feel that this is a form of Trojan horse designed to increase American encroachment into the geopolitical life of Pakistan. The word sovereignty has been bandied about a lot too–along with the almost daily missile strikes in the frontier border with Afghanistan, the question is the extent to which new money from the US will be linked to Pakistan’s own strategic national interests?

“Conditions attached to the aid include ensuring that the Army is not subverting the judiciary or the political process, and, perhaps most controversially, access to A.Q. Khan and other Pakistanis associated with the country’s nuclear weapons programme. There’s an understandable sense of concern in Pakistan about all of this. Why doesn’t the US condition aid to other allies with nuclear weapons, like Israel and India, with access to nationals involved in their respective programmes? And how can Pakistan be assured that the conditions are not triggered by the US because it wishes Pakistan to take a different policy tack than it currently is? The concern in Pakistan is that criticisms could be manufactured to suit the conditions attached to the aid so that Pakistan plays by the American song sheet.”