Pakistan loses $400m to 'enhanced oversight' -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Pakistan loses $400m to ‘enhanced oversight’

By Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: Over $400 million in reimbursement claims by Pakistan under Coalition Support Fund (CSF) for 2008 have been rejected by the United States because of new guidelines requiring ‘enhanced oversight and accountability’.

Total claims for 2008 were $1.4 billion, but Pakistan got $997 million in reimbursement, whereas the remaining claims were disallowed on grounds of “inadequate substantiation, over-billing” and other objections, sources told Dawn.

About $548 million were initially paid and the rest was deferred. It took the Pentagon another 18 months to settle the deferred claims. While paying $349 million last week in settlement of all claims from 2008, US officials reportedly tendered a callous excuse for the long delay: accounting problems.

Claims worth over $2 billion under CSF for 2009 are still pending because of intense scrutiny of Pakistan’s claims. After the cuts in payments for 2008, there are renewed fears in Islamabad that demands for last year would meet a similar fate.

The claims pertained to expenditures incurred by Pakistan on food and clothing of troops; fuel; transportation; communication; medical charges; helicopter operations; destroyed paraphernalia; and repair and maintenance of equipment. Under a bilateral agreement between ministries of defence, US repays ‘legitimate expenditures’ incurred in support of its military operations.

Pakistan’s senior military commanders, peeved at the ‘penny-pinching’ CSF reimbursement procedures, say these were distressingly impertinent to Pakistan’s over 30,000 casualties in the war on terror.

The problems in repayment have compelled Islamabad to consume its trivial reserves for continuing its logistic and operational support for American counter-terrorism operations while cutting on its own development needs and compromising its war preparedness, senior government officials and military officers suggested during background interviews.

BITTERNESS IN ISLAMABAD: The inordinate delays in clearing deferred amounts and linking of the issue by the US to issuance of visas to its diplomats and embassy staff have intensified frustration in Pakistan. The release of latest tranche was made possible only after Islamabad issued most of the requested visas.

“It is too cold-hearted of the US to stress on the money it gives to Pakistan, but disregard its sacrifices,” a military commander said. The Americans in every interaction try to make their Pakistani interlocutors realise that ‘they were doing great favour to Pakistan’, he added.

About 2,500 Pakistani soldiers lost their lives in the war on terror while another 8,000 were injured, many of them crippled and maimed for life. Additionally, some 22,000 civilians were killed or injured by militants.

“Pakistan has suffered more casualties than the combined tally for troops from 43 countries fighting in Afghanistan,” another general noted, adding the government had to compensate the families of those killed or injured and look after their welfare.

“In those terms, this huge casualty figure for civilians and military men translates into massive economic burden on government’s treasury.”

Another senior official said Washington was indifferent to these realities and saw CSF only as a generous military support programme and an incentive for keeping Pakistan armed forces out on American counter-terrorism mission.

Additionally, Pakistan’s road infrastructure has begun crumbling because of heavy equipment and supplies for US operations in Afghanistan shipped from Karachi to Chaman and Torkham border. About 58,000 heavy US containers, government figures show, were ferried through Pakistan without any charge.

There had been little acknowledgement of Pakistan’s support for logistics, a senior officer looking after the security of shipments regretted, adding that the focus had been on terrorist attacks on US consignments passing through Pakistani territory.

Sharing statistics on US losses because of those attacks, he said they were as low as 0.1 per cent of the total volume of goods carried through Pakistan.

Feelings of resentment in the army, analysts believe, are serious for US strategists because their success in Afghanistan critically depends on wholehearted support of Pakistan military.

US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, in a statement, looked forward to working closely with Islamabad for reconciling outstanding CSF claims for 2009. She attributed the delays to inability of the embassy personnel, engaged in processing the payments, to obtain Pakistani visas or get them extended.

US repays ‘legitimate expenditures’ incurred in support of its military operations. Pakistan’s senior military commanders, peeved at the ‘penny-pinching’ CSF reimbursement procedures, say these were distressingly impertinent to Pakistan’s over 30,000 casualties in the war on terror.

The problems in repayment have compelled Islamabad to consume its trivial reserves for continuing its logistic and operational support for American counter-terrorism operations while cutting on its own development needs and compromising its war preparedness, senior government officials and military officers suggested during background interviews.
Source: Dawn
Date:3/3/2010