Billions of dollars in American aid given to the Pervez Musharraf regime for anti-terrorism efforts have been wasted and much of it was diverted to help finance weapons systems designed to counter India rather than fight al-Qaeda and Taliban, US officials have said.
After the US has spent more than USD 5 billion to bolster the Pakistani military campaign against al-Qaeda and Taliban, some Bush administration officials now acknowledge that there were too few controls over the money and the strategy to improve the Pakistani military needs to be completely revamped, the New York Times reported on Monday.
In interviews in Islamabad and Washington with the paper, Bush administration and military officials said they believed that much of the American money was not making its way to frontline Pakistani units.
Money has been diverted to help finance weapons systems designed to counter India, not al-Qaeda or the Taliban, the officials said adding, the US has paid tens of millions of dollars in inflated Pakistani reimbursement claims for fuel, ammunition and other costs.
"I personally believe there is exaggeration and inflation," a senior American military official who has reviewed the programme, told the paper referring to Pakistani requests for reimbursement.
"Then, I point back to the United States and say we didn't have to give them money this way," he added.
Pakistani officials were quoted as saying that they are incensed at what they see as American "ingratitude" for Pakistani counterterrorism efforts that have left about 1,000 of its soldiers and police officers dead.
The Pakistan officials deny that any overcharging has occurred. The USD 5 billion was provided through a programme known as Coalition Support Funds, which reimburses Pakistan for conducting military operations to fight terrorism.
Civilian opponents of President Musharraf said he used the reimbursements to prop up his government.
One European diplomat in Islamabad told the paper that the United States should have been more cautious with its aid. "I wonder if the Americans have not been taken for a ride."
Pakistani military relies on Washington for roughly a quarter of its entire USD 4 billion budget, the Times said. American and Pakistani officials, it said, acknowledged that they had never agreed on the strategic goals that should drive how the money was spent, or how the Pakistanis would prove that they were performing up to American expectations.
Early last week, six years after President George W Bush began pouring billions of dollars into Pakistan's military after 9/11, the Pentagon completed a review that produced a classified plan to help the Pakistani military build an effective counterinsurgency force, the paper added.
The plan, which now goes to the US Embassy in Islamabad to carry out, seeks to focus American military aid toward specific equipment and training for Pakistani forces operating in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where Qaeda leaders and local militants hold sway, the Times said.
For their part, Pakistani officials, the paper said, angrily accused the United States of refusing to sell Pakistan the advanced helicopters, reconnaissance aircraft, radios and night-vision equipment it needs.
"There have been many aspects of equipment that we've been keen on getting," said Maj Gen Waheed Arshad, the Pakistani military's chief spokesman. "There have been many delays which have hampered this war against extremists."
But US military officials told the paper that the American military was so overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan that it had no advanced helicopters to give to Pakistan.
But the paper noted that there is at least one area of agreement -- both sides say the reimbursements have failed substantially to increase the ability of Pakistani forces to mount comprehensive counterinsurgency operations.
Today, with several billion more in aid scheduled for the coming years, American officials estimate it will take at least three to five years to train and equip large numbers of army and Frontier Corps units, a paramilitary force now battling militants, the paper said.
"I don't forecast any noticeable impact," a Defence Department official said. "It's pretty bleak."
The programme's failures appear to be a sweeping setback for the administration as it approaches its final year in office, the paper said and quoted US intelligence officials as saying they believe that Bush is likely to leave office in January 2009 with Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden still at large.
"We haven't had a good lead on his exact whereabouts in two years," another senior American military official told the paper.