US President Donald Trump has threatened to suspend aid to Pakistan. But Pakistani experts argue that most of that money was part of CSF, a reimbursement for using Pakistan's military bases.

US aid for Pakistan doesn't have a direct effect on Pakistanis' daily lives, but instead goes mostly to the Pakistani army.
US aid for Pakistan doesn't have a direct effect on Pakistanis' daily lives, but instead goes mostly to the Pakistani army. (Reuters)

President Donald Trump said in his tweet on Monday that the United States had "foolishly" handed Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the past 15 years and had been rewarded with "nothing but lies and deceit."

Why does the US give aid to Pakistan? 

Since Pakistan's independence in 1947, the relationship between Washington and Islamabad has rested heavily on military and economic aid. Pakistan was a strategic ally for the US until the fall of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. 

This alliance benefitted Pakistan in terms of economic and military aid, and helped the US in maintaining its international power, with Pakistan allowing the US to access its air bases.

Despite the economic and military embargoes the US put on Pakistan, over the India-Pakistan War in 1965, the US still had not cut its support for Pakistan.

In the 1990s the US-Pakistan alliance waned due to the disappearance of the Soviet threat and the nuclear tests that Pakistan conducted in response to those of India's. 

After Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington in 2001, Pakistan emerged as a key US ally again. Pakistan was an important ally for the US in its "War on Terror" in neighbouring Afghanistan.

In addition to seeing it as a national security issue, former president Pervez Musharraf announced that the Bush administration had threatened to bomb Pakistan into the "Stone Age" unless it agreed to support the US. 

In George Bush's words: ''[Pakistan has apprehended] more than 500 Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists, thanks to the effective border security measures and law enforcement co-operation throughout the country, and thanks to the leadership of President Musharraf.''

In return, Pakistan received military, as well as, economic aid that amounted to $33 billion over the past 15 years, according to Trump’s tweet. 

But in late 2017, the Trump administration raised its opposition to Pakistan, accusing the country of being a safe haven for the Taliban.

On December 21, US Vice President Mike Pence paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan and said that, “The days to shelter terrorists have gone. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour terrorists.”

He also said that Trump had put Pakistan on notice for providing a safe haven to terrorists on its soil, sending a hint before Trump’s tweet.

A week after the visit, on December 28, Pakistan’s Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a news conference that “no organised infrastructure of terrorist organisations exists in Pakistan.”

“We have done enough and we cannot do any more for anyone. Whatever we are doing and shall, will only be done for Pakistan,” he added.

However, it didn’t stop Trump from blaming and threatening Pakistan in his first tweet of 2018.

How will Pakistan be affected?

US economic and military assistance to Pakistan has already declined over the past five years. Economic aid decreased by 53 percent, down to $561 million in 2015, whereas security aid fell from $1.3 billion in 2011 to $343 million in 2015. 

There are three types of payments Pakistan receives from the US: economic aid, security aid and Coalition Support Fund (CSF) reimbursements. CSF reimbursements are compensations that Pakistan receives in return for having allowed the US to use its airfields and seaports while fighting against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

In 2006, the US didn’t pay $300 million in CSF reimbursements to Pakistan, claiming that Pakistan had not done enough to stop the Taliban in Afghanistan or the Haqqani network. 

US authorities maintain the idea that Pakistan has been playing a double game by fighting against Taliban factions in Pakistan, but not those in Afghanistan, because they serve their interests in Afghanistan—blocking Indian influence in the country.

Experts suggest that American aid to Pakistan has not improved the lives of Pakistanis, but has instead weakened civil society by bolstering the army through military aid.

Pakistan is a $280 billion economy. Research reveals that Pakistan's economy is more dependent on the money that comes from Pakistanis abroad who send their earnings home—which amounted to $1 billion each month in 2011—than it is on US aid. According to experts, US aid has never amounted to even one percent of Pakistan's GDP.

Pakistan claims that the US war in Afghanistan has incurred heavy economic, social and infrastructural costs on Pakistan, which is around $68 billion. 

Some policymakers also argued that with the military aid it receives from the US, Pakistan buys weapons from the US, so that the US gets its money back. 

Ammar Rashid, a member of Awami Workers Party, a left-wing political party in Pakistan, spoke to TRT World on how such a decision would affect Pakistan. He said that the strings attached to military and economic aid the US has been giving to Pakistan, has strengthened the army and weakened the civilian government. He also added that most of the $33 billion that Trump mentioned in his tweet is CSF reimbursements that the US has not paid as promised.

According to Ali Dayan, the former head of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, who spoke to TRT World, most of the payment the US calls “aid” is actually CSF funds that the US owes to Pakistan for its use of Pakistan's military infrastructure. 

Security experts say that the cuts will hurt only Pakistan’s army. "If the US pipeline dries up, the military's immediate plans for upgrading of material and manpower resources will be stalled," says Professor Hasan Askari Rizvi, a defence analyst.

What is Pakistan’s reaction?

Pakistan summoned the US ambassador to the foreign ministry over Trump's angry tweet about Pakistan's "lies and deceit", while Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif dismissed the outburst as a political stunt.

First the foreign minister said on Twitter that they would respond toTrump:

Then he gave an interview to Pakistan’s Geo News, saying that Pakistan had already refused to do more for the US. “Trump’s ‘no more’ doesn’t hold any importance,” he added. He also said that the aid Trump is talking about “includes reimbursements for the services rendered by Pakistan.”

After saying that most of the US aid goes to the war in Afghanistan, he criticised the US’ military presence in the country and said, “Peaceful negotiations are the only possible solution.”