Exclusive: New details on Obama’s $7.5 billion aid package to Pakistan

Exclusive: New details on Obama’s $7.5 billion aid package to Pakistan

The administration sent Congress its first mandated report on Pakistan strategy yesterday, part of the terms of the Kerry-Lugar Pakistan aid bill. The document isn’t public, but a copy was obtained by The Cable, and it shows in new detail how the Obama team is thinking about Pakistan and how it intends to distribute the $7.5 billion in the package.

The report is notable in that it doesn’t just focus on problem areas, as some observers had feared, and actually tackles nationwide and longer-term problems beyond the extremists now operating in Pakistan’s northwest region. The message of the report is clear: The administration intends to show demonstrable results soon to justify and vindicate the program, while sewing the seeds for longer-term progress all the while.

The biggest chunk of the funds, $3.5 billion spread over five years, will go to "high impact, high visibility infrastructure programs," according to the report, focusing on the energy and agricultural sectors — "programs that Pakistani citizens can see."

Another $2 billion will be directed to "focused humanitarian and social services," which includes extending the reach of the Pakistani government to areas where extremists now operate. Of that pot, $500 million will be earmarked for immediate post-crisis and humanitarian assistance, with the rest going to improving the quality and access to health and education.

The remaining $2 billion will go to building up the Pakistani government both at the national and local levels. The money will be split between funding actual government entities and improving the security and legal infrastructure overall.

Again, the focus here is on enabling the Pakistan government to control more areas within its borders. For example, the report states that "building Pakistani policing capacity is particularly important in order to sustain the recent security gains achieved by the Pakistani military in the NWFP and FATA."

The administration’s plan also talks about increased U.S. government staffing and auditing capacity to try to ensure there is accountability as to where the money actually goes. But it’s generally light on metrics for measuring success.

More details both on how the money will be spent and how we’ll know if it’s being spent wisely will come in subsequent reports, which are due every six months. One big question is whether USAID contractors or Pakistani contractors will get the nod for these projects.

Special representative Richard Holbrooke has been trying to shift the projects to Pakistani firms, but some argue that they might not have the capacity to handle them, as opposed to the Western firm who bring more experience and organization.

In announcing the delivery of the report, however, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that the idea is to build Pakistani development institutions by increasingly giving them stakes in these projects.

"Consistent with best practices over time, we will be looking to channel more of this assistance directly through a broad range of government of Pakistan institutions as well as local nongovernmental institutions," Crowley said.

Congress appropriated the first tranche of the money, about $1.5 billion, earlier this month.