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Most U.S. aid to Pakistan hasn’t gotten there yet

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By Josh Rogin

U.S. economic aid to Pakistan, which totals more than $1.5 billion a year, is a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy to strengthen the U.S.-Pakistan strategic partnership. But most of the aid that was allocated for last year is still in U.S. government coffers.

Only $179.5 million out of $1.51 billion in U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan was actually disbursed in fiscal 2010, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released last month. Almost all of that was distributed as part of the Kerry-Lugar aid package passed last year.

None of the funds were spent to create the kind of water, energy and food infrastructure that Richard Holbrooke advocated for diligently when he was the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, according to the report, the Obama administration hasn’t yet set up the mechanisms to make sure the money isn’t misspent.

“The full impact of the fiscal year 2010 civilian assistance could not be determined because most of the funding had not yet been disbursed,” the report states. The GAO tracked Kerry-Lugar money sent to Pakistan by Dec. 31. “It will take some time before significant outcomes of the civilian assistance can be measured.”

Holbrooke’s office, which is now run by Marc Grossman, told The Cable that the leftover funds were due to the fact that the money was appropriated belatedly and because the first year of the program carried with it unique challenges.

“While the facts of the GAO report are accurate, it doesn’t reflect the big picture nor adequately represent what we’ve achieved with civilian assistance over the last year,” said Jessica Simon, a spokeswoman for Grossman’s office.

Experts note that the disparity between U.S. promises to Pakistan and funds delivered is a constant irritant in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

“There are always complaints, and in terms of the delays, there are pretty valid reasons on both sides,” said Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. He said that Congress’s requirement that the money be tracked and accounted for is a source of contention.

“For a long time, the U.S. didn’t ask any questions about the money. And so it became a bit of a shock,” he said.

Peace Corps anniversary

The Empire State Building was lit up red, white and blue Tuesday night in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s creation of the Peace Corps.

“Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy,” Kennedy said on March 1, 1961. “But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps – who works in a foreign land – will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”

Kennedy set a goal of recruiting 500 volunteers that year. This year, the Peace Corps has 8,675 volunteers who serve in 77 countries. Its alumni include author Paul Theroux (Malawi, 1963-65); Chris Matthews (Swaziland, 1968-70); Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Dominican Republic, 1966-68); Donna Shalala, former secretary of Health and Human Services (Iran, 1962-64); Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson (Tanzania, 1965-68); Christopher R. Hill, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq (Cameroon, 1974-76); and four other members of Congress.

Tuesday’s commemoration in New York kicks off more than four months of Peace Corps events, culminating in a featured program at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, June 30 to July 11.

Congressional liaison resigns

The State Department’s top official for dealing with Congress, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Verma, will step down and return to the private sector, two State Department officials confirmed to The Cable.

The next nominee for the legislative affairs post will face a ton of scrutiny and probably at least one Senate hold.

GOP senators see the nomination as perfect bait for a hold because it is not a position that must be filled on national security grounds and because the legislative affairs office is often in control of which documents senators are given or denied.

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