Following the Money in Pakistan

For anyone looking for a million here to pay off some mortgages or a billion or so there to build some schools … there’s the recent “news” that the U.S. cant account for or was swindled out of $2 billion of the $5 billion it has been giving to Pakistan to “help us in the war on terror.” That’s billions with a B.

As the LA Times reported on 6/25/08:

WASHINGTON — The United States has paid more than $5 billion to reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism expenses that have often been exaggerated, if not fabricated, according to a government audit released Tuesday that blasts the Pentagon for poor management of the program.

The report concluded that the Pentagon could not properly account for as much as $2 billion in payments to Pakistan over a three-year period from 2004 to 2007.

Auditors uncovered an array of questionable costs, including $45 million for roads and bunkers that may never have been built; $200 million for the operation of air defense systems even though Al Qaeda has no known aircraft; and overcharges for meals and vehicles used by Pakistani troops.

Overall, the report by the Government Accountability Office concluded that the Defense Department had routinely covered costs without verifying that they “were valid, actually incurred, or correctly calculated.”

The Pentagon has paid about $5.6 billion to Pakistan in counter-terrorism reimbursement funds in the nearly seven years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, by far the largest sum paid as part of the program to a counter-terrorism ally.

The document is the latest in a series of studies to criticize the Bush administration’s management of the Coalition Support Funds program, which was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and has doled out billions of dollars to 27 nations.

The GAO also documented apparent overcharges for meals and vehicle maintenance. During one period, the Defense Department was paying the Pakistani navy more than $3.7 million per year in repair and maintenance charges on “a fleet of fewer than 20 passenger vehicles” that was never used in combat. The charges amounted to more than $19,000 per month for each vehicle.

Pakistan sometimes seemed to be double-dipping, submitting separate charges for “vehicle damage” and “cost of vehicles repaired” without explaining the difference between the two categories.

Bobby Wilkes, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Central Asia, acknowledged breakdowns in oversight but defended the program, saying the support funds are “critical to our eventual success in Afghanistan and the war on terror.”

Wow. Really? Yup. There was also something about it the same day in the Washington Post:

The Bush administration has paid Pakistan more than $2 billion without adequate proof that the Pakistani government used the funds for their intended purpose of supporting U.S. counterterrorism efforts, congressional auditors reported yesterday. Their report concluded that more than a third of U.S. funds provided Pakistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were subject to accounting problems, including duplication and possible fraud.
“It seems as though the Pakistani military went on a spending spree with American taxpayers’ wallets and no one bothered to investigate the charges,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Washington should “stop pouring money into a black hole,” Harkin said.
Pakistan is the largest recipient of Coalition Support Funds as part of a counterterrorism effort the Bush administration launched in 2001 after the terrorist attacks against New York and Washington. Pakistan has received more than $5.5 billion of the nearly $7 billion distributed to 27 countries over the past six years.
“Apparently, the Bush administration cares so little about the hunt for Osama bin Laden that it is barely paying attention to how the Pakistani military is carrying out the fight,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. “It’s dangerous to treat the battle against al-Qaeda so casually, and it’s unfair to American taxpayers to be so careless with billions of their dollars.”

Surely there must be some kinda mistake, right? Pretty incredible that we could be so easily and blatantly ripped off of $2 billion dollars. (Or the whole $5, when you consider that we’re not getting much “help” at all from them…. More on that below.) I mean, if I don’t pay $1700 of my taxes I bet that I will have serious problems and the U.S. Government would demand and eventually get that money back.
Did we all know how much our government was giving to Pakistan? It sounded familiar. Turns out there was this little piece Mother Jones back in March of 2007:

Pakistan Gets Fat $4.2B Check, Now 3rd Largest Recipient of US Military Aid
03/28/07
The Center for Public Integrity informs us that thanks to a Defense Department program- Coalition Support Funds (CSF)- Pakistan is now the third largest recipient of all US military aid and assistance, following the heels of Israel and Egypt….

The three years prior to September 11, 2001, US military aid to Pakistan was $9.1 million. Three years after 9/11, it was more than $4.2 billion, a 45,000% increase. Since 9/11, Pakistan has been awarded a total of over $10 billion.….

According to figures provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) between 1954 and 2002, the US provided a total of $12.6 billion in economic and military aid to Pakistan. Of this, the majority, $9.19 billion was given during 24 years of military rule, only $3.4 billion was given to civilian regimes which ruled for 19 years.

On average, US aid to Pakistan amounted to $382.9 million for each year of military rule compared with only $178.9 per annum under civilian leadership for the period until 2002.

So much for “spreading democracy.”

—Neha Inamdar, Mother Jones

I wanted to keep following the money. We sure did have an interesting relationship with Pakistan. Obviously they must be good friends and allies if we give them $5 billion dollars for their “help” and never ask for any receipts. Turns out that General Mahmoud Ahmad, who was the head of the ISI (Pakistan’s CIA) in 2001, was the person who gave orders to Saeed Sheikh, an ISI agent, to wire $100,000 to Mohammed Atta on September 10, 2001.

What? Well i’m sure we smoked that guy out of his hole and brought him to justice (after torturing him, of course)… right? Uh, not exactly….. Shortly after 9/11, he was forced to “retire” in some fashion. But it turns out that he had been meeting with the Director of the CIA George Tenet, along with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, as well as Porter Goss, Bob Graham, and other members of various congressional intelligence committees, in the days just before, during, and following 9/11.

That seems a bit odd. The guy who ordered $100,000 to be wired to Mohammed Atta was meeting with high-ranking U.S. officials while the planes were hitting the towers. And this was (quietly) reported by such mainstream outlets as the Wall Street Journal, Salon, United Press International, and the Washington Post.
But the 9-11 Commission Report didn’t mention any of this, and left the money question unresolved, saying: “The U.S. government has not been able to determine the origin of the money used for the 9/11 attacks. Ultimately the question is of little practical significance.”

Oh.

I thought we were supposed to wage war on all the evil doers and the countries that finance and harbor terrorists? Isn’t Bin-Laden still hiding out along Pakistan’s border? Didn’t they wire money to the hijackers? Instead, we not only gave them $5 billion to “help” us…. But they overcharged/misplaced/stole $2 billion of it.

On top of all that…. It was just back in April that the Associated Press reported:
“Terrorists are still operating freely in Pakistan along the country’s Afghanistan border, despite the U.S. giving Pakistan more than $10.5 billion in military and economic aid, according to a government watchdog agency. The Government Accountability Office says in a report released Thursday that the U.S. lacks a comprehensive plan to deal with the terrorist threat.”

Well, if they’re not doing anything but taking the money, we can be confident that the United States is certainly doing something about the terrorists there… right?

Nope. Just the other day the AP had this story:

Pakistan: U.S. not hunting bin Laden on its turf
July. 12, 2008
NEW YORK – Pakistan’s top diplomat said Saturday there are no U.S. or other foreign military personnel on the hunt for Osama bin Laden in his nation, and none will be allowed in to search for the al-Qaida leader.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said his nation’s new government has ruled out such military operations, covert or otherwise, to catch militants.

“Our government’s policy is that our troops, paramilitary forces and our regular forces are deployed in sufficient numbers. They are capable of taking action there. And any foreign intrusion would be counterproductive,” he said Saturday. “People will not accept it. Questions of sovereignty come in.”

But keep the money coming….

Who thought that following money trails could get so dizzying? In my travels, I finally came across this little gem: the folks over at Vetvoice.com happen to stumble upon this article from The Nation from the spring of 2001:

Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-US terrorists, destroy every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush Administration will embrace you. All that matters is that you line up as an ally in the drug war, the only international cause that this nation still takes seriously.
That’s the message sent with the recent gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other recent aid, makes the United States the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that “rogue regime” for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God. So, too, by the Taliban’s estimation, are most human activities, but it’s the ban on drugs that catches this administration’s attention.
Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan, from which, among other crimes, he launched two bloody attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998.
Sadly, the Bush Administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at a time when the United Nations, at US insistence, imposes sanctions on Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over Bin Laden.

Ah…. The good old days…..

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