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by Jim Lobe

Bush Seeks to Shift Aid Programs from State Dept. to Pentagon

(IPS) WASHINGTON -- Foreign countries regarded as strategic allies in the "war on terror" have received billions of dollars in new military and security assistance since 9/11, much of it with little oversight, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Neither Congress nor civilian groups have been allowed to keep tabs on much of the spending, which was often the subject of lobbying in Washington.

Total U.S. military aid increased some 50 percent in the three years that followed the 9/11 attacks, according to a report, "Collateral Damage," released recently by the Center for Public Integrity.

The report found that much of the additional aid has gone to governments with poor human-rights records that have resisted the kinds of political and economic reforms that Washington sought to encourage before 9/11.

While the aid may have enhanced those governments' cooperation in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in the short term, it may also have helped consolidate unpopular, corrupt or repressive regimes that could prove costly to Washington's global image and long-term interests, according to the project, which was based on data collected by the center's International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

"Billions in new military aid dollars have flowed to countries whose record of grim human-rights practices had led to pre-9/11 decisions by the U.S. to cut off or curtail aid," according to one of the group's reports.

The watchdog center is posting a series of reports on its Website this week and the next.

"Neither the Defense Department nor Congress has done as much as it could to make sure the money was spent as intended, providing what one seasoned congressional aide described as 'a blank check."'

The interactive site includes detailed information on military aid to a dozen country-recipients, their lobbying activities in Washington and original reporting by 10 members of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The release of the reports comes amid growing Congressional and public concern that the Bush administration has overemphasized military power in the pursuit of its "global war on terror," at the expense of diplomacy and other, less coercive means of conducting foreign policy.

With an annual budget that currently exceeds that of all of the world's other militaries combined, the Pentagon has in many key countries become a far more-influential actor than the State Department. Indeed, the Pentagon's budget is more than 20 times greater than the State Department's.

In some cases, the Pentagon is disbursing U.S. development assistance, more than 20 percent of which is now channeled through the military.

A recent Senate staff report, for example, cited a U.S. ambassador who "lamented that his effectiveness in representing the U.S. to foreign officials was beginning to wane, as more resources are directed to [military] special operations forces and intelligence. Foreign officials are 'following the money' in terms of determining which relationships to emphasize."'

Until 9/11, eligibility for receiving virtually all U.S. foreign, economic, development, and military assistance, including military training, was determined by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development under the terms of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, which has been amended over the years to include human rights and other conditions to prevent aid from going to particularly abusive or repressive governments.

In the aftermath of 9/11, however, the administration wanted to rally foreign governments -- including those that could not necessarily meet the Foreign Assistance Act's conditions for military aid -- behind its counter-terrorism campaign.

It thus authorized the Pentagon to create new aid programs for financing, training and equipping foreign military and security forces and intelligence services for countries that would otherwise be denied such assistance, according to "Collateral Damage," and another report released last month by the Washington Office on Latin America and two other Washington-based groups. The second report, "Below the Radar," discussed military aid to Latin America.

The result has been the outflow of billions of dollars in military and security assistance to repressive governments, such as Pakistan, Djibouti and Uzbekistan. Before 9/11, these countries received little or no assistance money at all.

"We've found massive transfers of funds from our country that have taken place with very little Congressional oversight or public discussion," said Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity.

Pakistan, which received a mere $9 million in military and security aid in the three years before 9/11, received $4.2 billion in military aid in the three years after 9/11, making it the world's third biggest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel and Egypt.

Military aid to tiny Djibouti, which turned over a former French military base to U.S. forces after 9/11, skyrocketed from less than $2 million to more than $53 million during the same two three-year periods, while aid to Bahrain and Oman jumped from $700,000 to $145 million and from $2.5 million to $138 million, respectively.

Jordan, Georgia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Azerbaijan, Yemen and other key countries in the war on terror stretching from Central Europe and East Africa to the Pacific gained tens of millions of dollars in military and security assistance from these new programs, often with the help of high-priced Washington lobbyists, including former lawmakers and senior administration officials, according to the center.

Collateral Damage includes detailed reports on aid to Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Romania, Poland, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Uzbekistan.

Much of the new funding, according to the project, has been channeled through a program called Coalition Support Funds, which was created after 9/11 to reimburse countries for providing assistance -- including access to bases or the costs governments allegedly incurred in counter-terrorist operations -- to U.S. forces. Some $3.5 billion was disbursed under the Coalition Support Funds as of the end of 2006, and the administration has requested another $1.7 billion for next year.

The New York Times reported just last week that the Pentagon has continued to pay Pakistan $80 million a month under the Coalition Support Funds for carrying out counterterrorist operations along its border with Afghanistan, despite the fact that Islamabad largely ceased such efforts eight months ago.

Under yet another new program, the Pentagon's "Section 1206" authority, several hundred million dollars have been appropriated since 2005 to help foreign military and security forces "combat terrorism and enhance stability" in more than a dozen Middle Eastern, African and Asian countries. Although Section 1206 disbursements require the "concurrence of the Secretary of State," they are not subject to Foreign Assistance Act conditions. The Pentagon has asked Congress to increase that fund to $750 million a year.

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Albion Monitor   May 25, 2007   (

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