United States cuts aid to Pakistan, again.

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With today’s news that the Trump administration will withhold almost all military aid to Pakistan, I wanted to share the table and working timeline I’ve been using to help ground my argument for why the United States policy is neither new nor is it a game changer.

The disbursement amounts can be found on the USAID Foreign Aid Explorer. It is a remarkable source of information and I am glad that something like this is finally available. For years, figuring out how much money the United States gives to countries has been like trying to figure out a level 6 Hanayama puzzle.

A few observations:

Since 2001, U.S. patience with Pakistan’s actions on terrorism seems to run out after every 2-3 years, which is when a cut in aid has typically occurred.

Changes in aid seem to follow a major incident or conflict, such as the Osama bin Laden raid, but they also occur in parallel to major political transitions, such as the election of a new government (both in the United States and Pakistan).

It appears that a change of leadership allows states to rethink strategies that perhaps were connected to specific leaders but were no longer productive. Here, the case of Pervez Musharraf is strongest. The United States probably gave him the most blank checks of any Pakistani leader since 2001, but when his government began to topple, U.S. policymakers spoke up about putting conditions on military aid to Pakistan.

Aid is a partisan tool. The Obama administration listened to experts who said that civilian aid in Pakistan was massively underfunded for decades, and especially under the Bush administration, which sent military aid to Pakistan skyrocketing. To balance that out, President Obama approved a bunch of cash for Pakistani civilians. The move, ironically, had the opposite effect. It angered the military leadership, who viewed U.S. support to civilians as a threat to its own existence.

What’s missing? All of the covert aid that the United States funneled into Pakistan through its *other* programs. We don’t know how much of that continues today – but I can guarantee that most of it, if not all, is military focused.

Which leads me to my final point: the Trump administration said it would suspend most security aid to Pakistan, but not all. Let’s wait and see what they’re really talking about.

Here are the numbers:

U.S. Aid Disbursements to Pakistan, 2001 – 2017
Year Disbursements DOD Portion Overall Direction of Aid Timeline Notes
2017 $473,261,610 n/a decrease Donald J. Trump inaugurated President of the United States
2016 $987,729,783 $272 million decrease United States refused to authorize a $300M military reimbursement to Pakistan for limited gains against Haqqani Network.
2015 $1,118,583,521 $294 million increase Afghanistan announces it has credible information that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, died in Pakistan in 2013.

Pakistan establishes National Action Plan to fight terrorism.

2014 $973,727,201 $264 million increase Peshawar school massacre
2013 $755,710,193 $6.4 million decrease Nawaz Sharif elected Prime Minister in Pakistan

President Obama begins second term

2012 $767,980,078 $101 million decrease NATO cross-border airstrike kills several Pakistani soldiers
2011 $2,117,192,543 $807 million increase Osama Bin Laden Raid

Raymond Davis incident

Obama delivers speech on Afghanistan troop withdrawal

2010 $1,946,533,777 $788 million increase Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act passed by United States
2009 $960,124,898 $452 million increase Barack Obama inaugurated President of the United States

Asif Ali Zardari becomes President of Pakistan

2008 $714,897,607 $372 million decrease Failed US ground attack in Pakistan
2007 $752,341,127 $337 million decrease Pervez Musharraf steps down as army chief of Pakistan

Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto assassinated by Pakistani Taliban

2006 $817,756,735 $404 million increase U.S. President George W. Bush arrived for his first visit to Pakistan
2005 $629,691,550 $309 million increase  U.S. responds to massive earthquake in Pakistan
2004 $346,375,655 $77 million decrease  U.S. designates Pakistan a “major non-NATO ally”
2003 $536,894,538 $226 million decrease War in Iraq drains U.S. military resources in Afghanistan
2002 $798,067,788 $76 million increase Beginning of US engagement in Afghanistan
2001 $91,901,516 143,000 September 11th attacks in the United States



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