(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama’s likely nominee for Secretary of State, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), has been an avid supporter of foreign aid to Pakistan throughout his years in the Senate.
Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, co-sponsored the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 along with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).
The law tripled non-military aid to $1.5 billion in U.S. tax dollars from 2010 through 2014 to Pakistan for economic development, and an unspecified amount of military aid for the country. The House version was sponsored by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), and the policy is generally referred to as Kerry-Lugar-Berman.
This week, The New York Times, Reuters and other news organizations reported that the Defense Department would be paying $688 million to the government of Pakistan for the cost of stationing 140,000 U.S. troops on the border with Afghanistan.
Relations with the United States and Pakistan have been rough in recent years. After U.S. Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in the country, the Pakistani government criticized the U.S. for entering the country without permission. Moreover, the Pakistani government has held captive Dr. Shakeel Afridi for helping lead the Central Intelligence Agency to the location of bin Laden.
The United States pledged more than $30 billion to Pakistan since 1948, and two-thirds of that has come after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, according to an Oct. 4 report by the Congressional Research Service. In fiscal year 2010 alone, the U.S. gave $4.3 billion to Pakistan, according to the CRS.
When introducing the Pakistan aid package on the Senate floor in 2009, Kerry acknowledged, “We all know that Pakistan is a nation where Osama bin Laden and the leadership of al Qaeda have found sanctuary.
“On the other hand, Pakistan is also a nation whose 170 million people are overwhelmingly moderate, overwhelmingly committed to democracy and the rule of law; a major non-NATO ally that has sacrificed the lives of 1,500 of its own soldiers and police in the fight against terrorism and insurgency; and a nation that has lost more of its citizens to the scourge of terrorism than all but a tiny handful of countries throughout the world,” Kerry said during his May 4, 2009 floor speech.
The legislation directed $100 million toward police reform, required benchmarks for meeting goals of the money, and gave the State Department flexibility in allocating funds.
Under the law that easily passed the House and Senate, military aid had to meet an annual certification by the State Department to show the money was used for fighting terrorist groups such as al Qaeda, fighting the Taliban and “solidify democratic governance and rule of law in Pakistan.”
“An alarming percentage of the Pakistani population sees America as a great threat than al Qaeda,” Kerry said during the May 2009 remarks. “Until this changes, there’s little chance of ending tolerance for terrorist groups – or persuading any Pakistan government to devote the political capital necessary to deny such groups sanctuary and convert material support.”
The Obama administration and members of Congress were surprised by the “visceral reaction” to the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid package, according to the Congressional Research Service. Critics in the country cited the “conditioning” of assistance, which was characterized as “interference.”
The Inter Service Intelligence even expressed concerns about the package in a press release.
Kerry’s office issued a press release on Oct. 8, 2009 to rebut some of the assertions in Pakistan about the law, asserting that nothing in the law threatened Pakistani sovereignty.
Kerry also traveled to Islamabad in what the CRS called “a largely successful effort to allay Pakistani concerns.”
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on May 21, 2009, Kerry said, “By tripling non-military aid, authorizing it for 5-10 years, and de-linking this aid from our security assistance, we can put our relationship with Pakistan on an entirely new foundation. We can ground our ties on the bedrock of the Pakistani people. That’s why President Obama explicitly called on Congress to pass the Kerry-Lugar bill as part of his overall strategy.”
Kerry again heralded the importance of U.S.-Pakistan relations when delivering remarks to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on March 16, 2011 in Washington.
“We must also emphasize programs that will strengthen our engagement with the people. That is part of the theory of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman money in Pakistan and it must be the way in which we approach the people of the Middle East. What that means in practice will vary from country to country.”
During that same speech, Kerry talked about increasing trade with Pakistan.
“One of the most important things we can do – and I think this is true with Pakistan too – I would desperately like to see us get the reconstruction opportunity zones or even a larger trade arrangement with Pakistan, because nothing would do more to help Pakistan’s struggling civilian democratic government to be able to strengthen itself than to be able to deliver to the people,” Kerry said.
“And if you can deliver jobs and begin to make a difference to the quality of life, you offer an alternative to the nihilism, extremist exploitation that takes place by certain groups over there,” he added.
After the bin Laden raid, Kerry traveled to Pakistan, where he met with leaders of the country, President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and General Kayani.
“I understand their feelings and the feelings of the people of Pakistan about the circumstances surrounding the operation against bin Laden,” Kerry told reporters on May 16, 2011 after the meeting. “We recognize that the Pakistani people and their leaders take their sovereignty seriously. Every nation does.
“That’s why it’s important to underscore the extraordinary circumstances behind the mission against bin Laden, the man who devised the plan to senselessly murder nearly 3,000 innocent Americans in a tragedy that changed our country and our lives in ways that are hard to describe,” Kerry said.
He later added, “My goal in coming here was not to apologize for what I consider to be a triumph against terrorism of an unprecedented consequence. My goal has been to talk with leaders here about how to manage this critical relationship more effectively, about how to open up the opportunities to put this relationship back on track where isolated episodes, no matter how profound, don’t jeopardize the larger relationship and the larger goal.”
Still, many critics have reservations about Pakistan’s government and particularly its intelligence service.
Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Haqqani network, a terror group, operated with impunity in Pakistan.
“We believe the Haqqani Network—which has long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government and is, in many ways, a strategic arm of Pakistan’s Inter-
Services Intelligence Agency—is responsible for the Sept. 13  attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Kabul,” Mullen said during his Sept. 22, 2011 testimony.
“There is ample evidence confirming that the Haqqanis were behind the June 28th attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and the September 10th truck bomb attack that killed five Afghans and injured another 96 individuals, 77 of whom were U.S. soldiers,” Mullen said.
In a policy brief that calls for limiting funding to Pakistan, the Republican Study Committee, the caucus of House conservatives, cites media reports on “new evidence that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) may have been involved in the Mumbai terror attack against India.”
Kerry again talked up the importance of Pakistan winning the war in Afghanistan in a speech on Sept. 4, 2012.
“Relations with Pakistan, which is tied directly to our involvement in Afghanistan, remain complicated. Nonetheless, despite our differences and occasional difficulties, we have managed to work together on things that matter, particularly our counterterrorism efforts,” Kerry said.
“The Pakistanis have worked with us in taking on al Qaeda in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and elsewhere. Our cooperative efforts have not always been smooth, but our successes have been considerable. These counterterrorism battles have made al Qaeda’s central leadership much less formidable than it was when Obama took office,” he said.