Archive for October 8th, 2009

KLB or Bust

AP: Stop calling it KLB! We have names, dammit!

AP: "Stop calling it KLB! We have names, dammit!"

Although the Kerry-Lugar Bill was in legislative purgatory for over a year and finally passed late last month, recent discussion over its conditions has inflamed the entire country. According to news agencies, the aptly dubbed “KLB,” which promises Pakistan $1.5 billion/year in non-military aid for five years, has garnered protest from a slew of camps – including figures from the opposition bench Chaudhry Shujaat [PML-Q] and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan [PML-N] – who insist the legislation amounts to a compromise on national sovereignty, [also see Saba’s post over at the Zeitgest Politics].

But perhaps the most significant protests can be heard from Rawalpindi, home of the Pakistan Army, an interesting development considering the KLB pertains to non-military funds and U.S. aid to the military has totaled more than $10 billion since 2001. According to the Guardian, “In an unusually strong statement today,” the military expressed “serious concern” over the bill. The statement, issued after a meeting of Pakistan’s military chiefs, noted their unease stemmed from “clauses impacting national security.” Dawn, in its coverage, noted:

Unlike a benign two-line statement that is usually issued after most of the corps commanders’ meetings, the one released to the media on Wednesday left absolutely no doubt that the top brass was not only gravely disturbed over the conditions linked to the American aid legislation, they wanted to make their views public instead of just communicating them to the government through a formal channel.

In fact, according to the NY Times, COAS Gen. Ashfaq Kayani was “so offended” by the conditions in the KLB that “he complained to the American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal” during a meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday. The military concerns reportedly center around three paragraphs in the legislation, including that Pakistan must cooperate in “dismantling supplier networks relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons-related materials,” that they have to provide information from or access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks, and that Pakistan “must prove its security establishment is not subverting the political or judicial processes.”

After listening to Pakistan Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani make an interesting statement during a lecture series Wednesday evening, [other panelists included Sen. John Kerry and Rory Stewart], I wanted to highlight perhaps the most potent military concern. During his remarks, Haqqani advised the United States to help Pakistan get civilian control over its military institutions. The statement echoes a clause in the KLB which calls for the Secretary of State to report to Congress every six months on whether the government is exercising “effective civilian control over the military.”  According to the legislation, the Secretary of State must also assess the extent to which “civilian executive leaders and parliament exercise oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration.”

Ultimately, the KLB would shift the power balance in Pakistan’s civilian-military structure, a move that is obviously unpopular among the Army, which has enjoyed its status as Pakistan’s most powerful institution. And, given that the military is on the verge of launching its offensive in Waziristan, a widening civilian-military rift as well as U.S.-Pakistan tensions are not in anyone’s interest.

It will be interesting to see how events unfold in the coming days in both Islamabad and Washington, particularly since President Obama has yet to sign the bill into law. Although the U.S. aid package has been heralded by the PPP-led government, the fact that it has garnered such a strong response from the military should give the White House pause for concern. Moreover, the military’s perspective will likely fuel public discontent over the legislation, as well as overarching anti-American sentiment. Despite the many positive attributes of the bill – the schools, clinics  and roads the money would ideally build – many Pakistanis are wary of KLB, some saying it will undermine Pakistan’s sovereignty, others lumping it in with the Blackwater-centered fears. It seems, then, that the Kerry-Lugar Bill has become yet another casualty of the burgeoning civilian-military rift, one that has been growing for some time now, and one that seems to take no prisoners.

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