Monday, 15 January 2018 00:26

Rep. Robert Pittenger's Weekly Column: Time to Rethink Foreign Diplomacy with Pakistan

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In his weekly column, Pittenger expresses his opinion that it's time to rethink foreign policy with Pakistan. In his weekly column, Pittenger expresses his opinion that it's time to rethink foreign policy with Pakistan. Photo courtesy of Robert Pittenger.

Actions speak much louder than words. This is common sense. Yet it seems to have been lost on some of the Americans responsible for foreign diplomacy over the past few decades.

At the onset of the War on Terror, Pakistan stood poised to become a crucial U.S. ally. Pakistan shares a border with Afghanistan, has a relatively stable government, and a well-funded military. They feared the instability that could have been caused by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Initially, Pakistan signaled its intent to fully support our efforts. Given its crucial strategic importance in the War on Terror, the United States declared Pakistan as a non-NATO ally, a decision which opened the floodgates of U.S. military and economic aid to the country.

Since 2002, the United States has sent over $33 billion with the expectation that our assistance would enable Pakistan to serve as a faithful and decisive ally in the war on terror.

Unfortunately, we now know this to be nothing more than a pipe dream. Pakistan has not lived up to its side of the bargain. Its government publicly espouses anti–American rhetoric, and its intelligence community has repeatedly provided aid to terrorists and their citizens burn American flags in the streets.

Pakistan knows its geographical location is of the utmost strategic importance to the United States. Armed with this knowledge, Pakistan has taken American assistance for granted and has engaged in a dishonest, two-faced diplomatic dance with us.

Perhaps nothing is more telling than the Bin Laden situation. The United States spent over a decade hunting for Bin Laden. Billions of dollars were spent and too many lives lost in the pursuit.

Ten years after the Twin Towers fell, we found Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda and the most wanted man in the world, living comfortably in a mansion right in the middle of an upscale suburban neighborhood. To make matters worse, Bin Laden’s estate was a mere stone’s throw away from Pakistan’s main Military Academy, their equivalent to our West Point.

Of course, Pakistani leaders swear they were unaware of Bin Laden’s location. Even if that is true, which I highly doubt, it is revealing that despite the billions of dollars we have given them, Pentagon officials didn’t alert Pakistan of the Special Forces raid for fear they would warn Bin Laden.

That hardly sounds like a U.S. ally, let alone a country that deserves our financial assistance.

The United States should ensure our aid is going to our steadfast allies and friends, which Pakistan continues to show they are not.

However, the reality is that this problem goes far beyond Pakistan. A thorough re-examination of U.S. foreign aid, as a whole, is long overdue.

Our current system is inefficient, ineffective, lacks accountability and is often taken for granted. More importantly, it is completely unfair and disrespectful to hardworking American taxpayers.

Every year, tens of billions of their hard-earned dollars are sent overseas in the form of military and economic aid. Nearly every nation in the world gets a portion of the pork.

The problem is the investment grossly outweighs the returns. Many of the countries don’t share our values and repeatedly snub us on the world stage.

The government has a responsibility to spend taxpayer dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible. Especially given that the United States is over $21 trillion in debt, I think it is unwise for us to continue to essentially subsidize the majority of nations on earth.

Why should we be sending taxpayer dollars to countries that support our enemies or repeatedly snub us on the world stage?

To be sure, not all foreign aid is bad. For example, I am fully supportive of our assistance to loyal and trustworthy allies like Israel. Furthermore, appropriate humanitarian aid aimed at helping mothers and children is both just and the right thing to do.

However, I have a serious problem with our dollars going to nations that take us for granted, don’t share our values and feel entitled to disrespect us on the world stage.

The time has come for the United States to rethink its foreign aid program.

The American taxpayers deserve better.

Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, and serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks, and credit unions.