Impassioned debate about whether the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a true U.S. ally or is complicit in hiding the now-deceased terrorist Osama bin Laden continues on Capitol Hill—and, according to a review of contracting records, the delivery of military and other aid to that nation continues relatively unimpeded in the meantime.
The types of aid flowing to Pakistan range from airport equipment in support of U.S.-provided F-16 fighter bombers to the funding of research into the causes of stuttering among the Pakistani people.
The following contracting actions represent a sampling of recent activity; indeed, the endeavors listed here are relatively small in contrast to overall expenditures, past and anticipated, by the U.S. on behalf of Pakistan. As noted in a U.S. Agency for International Development report released earlier this year, “Quarterly Progress and Oversight Report on the Civilian Assistance Program in Pakistan As of December 31, 2010”:
For fiscal year (FY) 2010, Congress appropriated $1.514 billion authorized by the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, along with other assistance funds, to support the civilian assistance strategy in Pakistan. The U.S. Embassy reported that $3.931 billion in FY 2009, 2010, and 2011 civilian assistance funds had been obligated as of December 31, 2010.
Similarly noted in this week’s Congressional Research Service report “Osama bin Laden’s Death: Implications and Considerations” (made available through the Federation of American Scientists):
For FY2002-FY2010, Congress appropriated about $4.43 billion in security-related assistance and $6.22 billion in economic/development/humanitarian assistance for a total of about $10.65 billion. In addition, Pakistan has received $8.88 billion in Coalition Support Fund “reimbursements” for its operational and logistical support of US-led military operations during this period.
Some of the most recent requests come specifically from the U.S. Air Force for shipment to Shahbaz Air Force Base, where last year the U.S. delivered the first four of eighteen F-16s ordered by the Pakistani military. The newest equipment will come in the form of six “C-130 transportable” Panther fire trucks made by Rosenbauer America (Solicitation #FA8630-11-R-5025), six Allianz RT655 runway sweepers “to be used in support of the Pakistan Air Force F-16 program,”(Solicitation # FA8630-11-R-5024), plus two 60-ton and two 40-ton cranes. (Solicitation #FA8630-11-R-5027).
Shahbaz AFB is located near Jacobadab, about 300 miles north of Karachi and 300 miles southeast of Kandahar, Afghanistan..
Separately, the U.S. State Dept. is arranging for the delivery of VHF radio base stations, radio, and related equipment for the Balochistan Levies, a paramilitary force that patrols Pakistan’s violence-plagued Balochistan province. According to a Justification and Approval for Other Than Full and Open Competition document that U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor has obtained, State’s Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) at the American Embassy in Islamabad is ordering the communications gear. The urgent need for additional equipment, combined with the fact that NAS and the Bureau of International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs already invested million of dollars into Motorola equipment in that region, necessitates the noncompetitive acquisition.
The Balochistan Levies group “is tasked by the Government of Pakistan to cope up with terrorist insurgency in Balochistan along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border with the help of communication equipment. The agency carries out counternarcotics/counter-terrorism operations in the troubled areas,” according the document.
In a separate but related development, State on April 13 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police to provide more than “$17 million in vehicles, communications, and other equipment.” State pointed out in the announcement that in 2010 the U.S. “committed $102.6 million for civilian law enforcement assistance. This year, the United States will continue to supply the KP Police with approximately 440 additional vehicles, including trucks, armored vehicles and personnel carriers, ambulances, and motorcycles…”
This week INL also began recruiting potential candidates to fill the role of Senior Counter Narcotics (CN) and Civilian Military Advisor, a position created to “play a central role in guiding and strengthening INL Afghanistan and Pakistan office's (INL/AP) relationship with the Department of Defense (DOD) and agencies of the Intelligence Community.” The main objective of the advisor is to help “develop and manage a major INL program” in support of Afghanistan's Ministry of Counter Narcotics. (Solicitation # PSC-11-027-INL).
The advisor likewise will “coordinate procurement activities associated with the MCN capacity-building program, planned as a $25M-per-year program, and work with the contractor(s) to maintain appropriate oversight.”
The State Dept. on March 16 had issued a solicitation for 1,000 bullet-proof vests destined for Karachi, Pakistan, but on April 20 cancelled that procurement without explanation. It’s unclear whether the vests were slated for use by U.S. personnel or would have been for Pakistani forces. (Solicitation #0662-020001A).
The construction of a bombing-practice range in Pakistan also is on the radar screen of the U.S. government, a $10-$25 million project for which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers back in February began assessing potential contractors. Although the Army has not yet issues a Request for Proposals, it is weighing the interest of companies capable of designing and constructing “urban village mockups,” watch towers, fiber optic links to the Pakistani “defense grid,” and other “Close Air Support Range” infrastructure improvements. (Solicitation #W912ER-11-R-0061).
The National Institute of Health at the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services is negotiating a sole-source contract with the Allama Iqbal Medical College to continue researching the genetics of hearing and speech disorders such as stuttering. DNA samples from hundreds of Pakistani families already have been collected via collaborative research among Pakistani, U.S., and European medical experts. “This collaboration involves ascertaining families in Pakistan with hearing and speech disorders and mapping the underlying genes for theses disorders,” NIH says in Solicitation #LG-1547307. The estimated cost of this contract was not disclosed, not could any prior contract awards for this endeavor be located via the federal contracting database.
Despite the escalating rhetoric and congressional hearings on such matters, it does not appear that the U.S. will seriously curtail aid to Pakistan any time soon, as the following excerpts from the above-mentioned CRS report indicates:
Although there is considerable agreement in U.S. government circles that disengaging from Pakistan is an unwise course, intensive congressional scrutiny of U.S. assistance to Pakistan is already underway. In the post 9/11 era, Congress has appropriated more than $20 billion in foreign assistance and military “reimbursements” for Pakistan, placing that country among the top recipients of U.S. financial support over the past decade. The Obama Administration has requested nearly $3 billion in further security- and development-related assistance to Pakistan for FY2012, along with more than $1 billion for continued reimbursements to the Pakistani military…
In the wake of revelations that the world’s most-wanted terrorist had apparently been living for years in a comfortable home in a relatively affluent city and only one kilometer away from Pakistan’s premier military academy, congressional skepticism about the continuation of large aid disbursements to Pakistan has deepened even further. On May 3, 2011, H.R. 1699, the Pakistan Foreign Aid Accountability Act, was introduced in the House. The Act would prohibit future foreign assistance to Pakistan unless the Secretary of State certifies that the Pakistani government was not complicit in hiding OBL. Depending on the course of Pakistan’s future policy statements and levels of cooperation with the United States, Congress may choose to adjust current assistance funding levels. Such funding flows are already hindered by U.S. concerns about corruption and lack of transparency in Pakistan’s implementing partners.
The ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan and its connection to developments in Pakistan remain matters of serious concern to U.S. policy makers. NATO remains reliant upon logistical routes through Pakistan to supply its forces in Afghanistan, and these landlines of communication regularly come under attack by militants. It is widely held that success in Afghanistan cannot come without the close engagement and cooperation of Pakistan, and that the key to stabilizing Afghanistan is to improve the longstanding animosity between Islamabad and Kabul.