By Joel Brinkley

What does Pakistan do for the United States?

Since 2001, the U.S. has given Pakistan at least $22 billion in aid, so Americans certainly should expect something in return. That's nearly enough money to erase California's longstanding budget deficit or fund the State of Missouri for one year.

In California and Missouri, the money would pay for roads, schools, health care, law enforcement and much more. In Pakistan, what did Washington accomplish? Well, among other things, the U.S. lined the pockets of senior political and military leaders with millions, if not billions, of dollars. And when Western auditors ask to see the books, Pakistanis throw up their hands and angrily object to this "humiliation," saying, as one did this year, "you treat us like lackeys!"

Despairing over the rampant theft of U.S. aid, a few months ago the United States Agency for International Development hired Transparency International, a German anti-corruption organization, to set up an "anti-fraud hotline." It began operations in December. By last month, callers had provided real evidence of crimes, and suddenly Pakistani militants began threatening to kill the office head, Syed Adil Gilani. He had to flee the country.

Face it: Pakistanis hate Americans. Look at that poor CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, who languished in a miserable Pakistani prison for more than a month after shooting two men who were trying to rob him. Neither Pakistani judicial nor government officials were willing to let him go, afraid that whoever authorized his release would be targeted for assassination -- like the two government officials killed so far this year because they betrayed liberal, "Western" sentiments.

A recent public-opinion survey found that barely 21 percent of the nation had any respect whatsoever for the United States.

What does Pakistan do for the United States?

Almost all of that $22 billion gift was intended to train and equip Pakistanis to go after Al Qaeda in North Waziristan. Well, almost 10 years later Al Qaeda is still there, largely unperturbed. Pakistani officials used the money they didn't steal to upgrade the nation's military so it will be better prepared to fight an unlikely war with India -- all the while pretending that battle tanks and F-16 fighters were to be used against Al Qaeda.

Incredibly, the Pentagon went along with this -- afraid to offend their "allies." A Congressional Research Report notes that "the Defense Department has characterized F-16 fighters, P-3C patrol aircraft and anti-armor missiles as having significant anti-terrorism applications." Come on. Anti-armor missiles? How many tanks does Al Qaeda have?

Not long ago, when new U.S. intelligence suddenly showed an unusually opportune moment to hit senior Al Qaeda leaders, Pakistanis said they couldn't take on the mission "due to a shortage of counterinsurgency equipment," the congressional report said. Could there be better evidence of billions wasted?

The U.S. has managed to kill some Al Qaeda militants using missiles fired from drones. Pakistan often supplied the intelligence for those attacks. But last month, Pakistan's intelligence agency, angry about the Raymond Davis affair, suspended all cooperation with the Americans. For almost a month, the U.S. fired not a single drone.

What does Pakistan do for the United States?

The Obama administration is trying a new approach -- spend another $7.5 billion on humanitarian aid and economic development, to win hearts and minds. From the beginning it was a hard sell. Pakistani militants already call the American embassy in Islamabad the "crusader castle." It turned out that Pakistan suffered devastating floods last year. The U.S. poured most of its new resources into aid for flood victims. But once again, much of it was stolen.

That information came in over the new fraud hotline. The Pakistani media picked it up, and one province's director general for disaster management was fired.

Given the rampant theft, the USAID and State Department debated how best to disperse the new development aid. State wanted to use the new, vogue approach of giving the money directly to the government, "to empower the nation's leaders," as aid jargon puts it.

How ludicrous is this? Instead, the aid money will "enrich the nation's leaders." The two agencies compromised; half the money will be spent through non-government groups, but the other half will be placed directly into the outstretched hands of grinning government officials.

What does Pakistan do for the United States?

Steal our money, threaten and imprison our people, loath and abuse us. Why can't anyone in Washington ever seem to figure this out?


Joel Brinkley, a professor of journalism at Stanford University, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times


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