The decision was made consistent with U.S. national security interests, says State Department

The U.S. State Department has waived legal requirements that made the multi-billion dollar aid to Pakistan contingent on its cooperation in counter-terrorism, ending nuclear proliferation and building democratic institutions, a newly released report from the Congressional Research Service has revealed.

“In mid-August 2012,” its authors Susan Epstein and Alan Kronstadt said, “the State Department quietly notified Congress of its intention to cite U.S. national security provisions in waiving two certification requirements that placed conditions on U.S. assistance to Pakistan.”

The highly regarded Congressional Research Service is charged with providing members of the Senate and Congress with authoritative information to guide their decision-making process.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the report says, formally notified Congress of her decision to continue with aid to Pakistan in mid-September. The State Department said the decision was being made “consistent with U.S. national security interests.” However, the rationale for the decision has been classified.

Two laws — the 2009 Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 — require the U.S. government to certify that Pakistan is cooperating with the U.S. in return for aid.

C. Christine Fair, a Georgetown University scholar, said the decision appeared to be intended to signal “that while everything is not good in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, this is something we have to do to secure one principal interest: the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan.” “If I was in the Pakistani government,” she said, “I would conclude that we have a limited window to set things right, because after that withdrawal, circumstances will obviously change.”

However, Dr. Fair added, “there is a danger that some people in Islamabad will conclude, ‘wait, the United States just declared the Haqqani Network, which we support, to be terrorists, but here they are giving us money. This means their threats mean nothing’.”

Last year, Ms. Clinton was criticised after she issued certification that Pakistan was cooperating with the U.S. counter-terrorism objectives. Her decision was attacked after the subsequent revelation that Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan, with the possible support of elements in its intelligence services, and complaints from senior military officers about Islamabad’s continued backing for jihadists operating against the international forces in Afghanistan.

‘Legal threshold met’

In an October, 2011 hearing, Ms. Clinton argued that she had “closely considered the requirements set forth in the statute” and “determined that, on balance, Pakistan had met the legal threshold.”

Following the deterioration in Pakistan-U.S. relations in the mid-2012, the report states, a similar waiver “appeared extremely difficult to justify.” Though the supply lines for NATO troops were reopened by Pakistan in July 2012, the report says, “relations remained uneasy and, with the fiscal year in its final quarter, the Administration faced having to make a decision on if and how to free planned aid to Pakistan, given congressional conditions.”

In essence, the decision to waive conditions appears to be guided by need for the U.S. to continue influencing Islamabad’s decision-making process, without giving it a clean chit for its counter-terrorism record.

Large parts of the U.S. aid (see chart) have been made up of military assistance — assistance many analysts have argued is used mainly to develop its capacities to fight a war with India. “For example,” the report states, “of the some $2.1 billion in Foreign Military Financing provided to Pakistan from FY2002-FY2010, more than half has been used by Islamabad to purchase weapons of limited use in the context of counter-terrorism.”

Pakistan has used the aid to purchase equipment that could be used in a war against India — among them, eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft valued at $747 million; six AN/TPS-77 surveillance radar used to locate artillery positions, worth $100 million; 6,312 anti-armour missiles worth another $100 million; and the USS McInerney, a missile frigate, which has received an $65 million refurbishment.

In addition, the aid has part-funded 60 midlife kits for Pakistan’s F-16A/B combat jets, accounting for $477 million of the $891-million cost.