US Tempts Pakistan with Aid, in return for Troops in Iraq
The US is putting pressure on Pakistan to send up to 10,000 troops to Iraq, using foreign aid and debt relief as a carrot, according to Reuters. Pakistan had owed the United States $3 billion by summer of 2001, but the article maintains that much of this debt has been written off and new aid given gratis, to the tune of $3 bn total.
The US needs to be able to rotate a division out of Iraq in Feb.-March, about 15,000 men, and therefore needs the equivalent of a division from international sources. So far India has refused, citing a need for military manpower to deal with the civil disturbances in Kashmir and insisting that the UN play a bigger role in rebuilding Iraq. Turkey probably would put 10,000 men in, but the new Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, has said Iraq doesn’t want troops from neighboring countries. Gen. Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that he thinks it would be good to have a Muslim contingent in Iraq, because of their cultural sensitivity. (Actually non-Arab Muslims wouldn’t be that much better at communicating or knowing local culture, and if they were Sunnis in a Shiite area that could cause trouble in itself).
The whole Arab world has said no to providing troops, including Egypt, though Jordan may in the end send some. Pakistan is therefore looking like the most plausible provider of a good part of the needed division, though this move would be problematic for domestic politics. I explain below.
The $87 bn. asked for recently by US President George W. Bush includes another $200 mn. for Pakistan debt relief. The article maintains that the president has promised Pakistan yet another $3 bn. in new aid and final retirement of old loans. In summer of 2001, Pakistan was about $37 bn. in debt. That debt has now declined to $34.5 bn. and falling. More important, average debt servicing has fallen from $6-7 bn. a year in the late 1990s to $2.5 bn. a year now. Pakistan is being given help by the Club of Paris to reduce its high-interest multilateral debt, of $12.5 bn. at 11% interest, in favor of concessional loans at very low interest. Its debt servicing may therefore fall soon to only a billion dollars a year. About $6 bn. was owed to Japan, which is also easing repayment terms, in cooperation with the US, to reward Pakistan for helping in the War on Terror. (Pakistan has caught about 500 of the 1000 al-Qaeda operatives that fled there from Afghanistan, and turned most of them over to the US, including some very big fish).
All these numbers mean that Pakistan’s sudden about-face in turning on the Taliban in September of 2001, and its close military and security alliance with the US since then, has been a huge economic windfall for the government. (Whether ordinary people have benefited is another question, though the Pakistani economy as a whole has seen an uptick in the past year, and is expected to grow 4.5% this year after several years of lassitude.)
Because the government is benefiting, and because the government is largely still in the hands of the military, despite the restoration of a weak, hung parliament in Oct. 2002, it is possible that these economic incentives will in fact lead Pakistan to send troops to Iraq. Such a move would be hugely unpopular among the Pakistani public, which sees the Iraq war as Western imperialism. It will give the religious parties yet another platform on which to campaign against the government, and contribute to a certain amount of instability. This dilemma is an example of the many and subtle ways in which the Iraqi campaign is actually interfering in the successful prosecution of the war on terror.
Note that if Bush and Rumsfeld had not arrogantly pursued a purely unilateral war, we would not be in this position. Note, too, that not only are troops not forthcoming, but the European Union is willing to donate only a risible sum to Iraqi reconstruction. This is one reason that each of us Americans is going to have to fork over $305 (actually much more since it will be borrowed) for the initial tranche of Bush’s Iraq economic program.