Fighting (or pretending to fight) al-Qaeda on behalf of the U.S.? Congress is your private Santa.
Defying Beltway expectations, both chambers of Congress approved a $724.6 billion defense bill for the current fiscal year. Congress was feeling generous, and the money lavished on the United States’ proxies shows it.
The big winner is Pakistan. The $400 million Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund, which provides helicopters, night-vision equipment and training to the Pakistan’s Army and Frontier Corps, gets another re-up. There’s also $1.6 billion to reimburse Pakistan (and some other nations, but really Pakistan) for “cooperating in contingency operations in Afghanistan,” which must come as a surprise to U.S., Afghan and Pakistani troops.
This cash appears to be yet another U.S. down payment for the Pakistanis to invade North Waziristan, something they’re currently pledging to do the week after never.
Don’t forget Yemen, the New Pakistan. Yemen’s counterterrorism force in the Ministry of Interior alone will get $75 million “in equipment, supplies and training.” Last year, the entire U.S. aid package to Yemen’s military was $155 million; it goes to show what an offer to look the other way while U.S. cruise missiles fly can buy a regime.
U.S. Special Operations Command, the principle on-the-ground liaison to these nations’ counterterrorism forces, wins out as well. Not only does the command get the full $9.8 billion it asked for, but Congress raised the special forces’ line item from $40 million to $45 million “to provide support to foreign forces, groups, and individuals assisting in ongoing operations.” That’s going to come into play in Yemen, where new teams of CIA operatives and elite troops from the Joint Special Operations Command are expanding the U.S.’ reach against al-Qaeda’s local affiliate.
And all that’s just in the open budget. The so-called “black budget” — that is, the intelligence budget, which included $27 billion in military intelligence last year — undoubtedly has even more for the shadow wars.
As this collection of conflicts mutates far beyond what began in Afghanistan a decade ago, a different provision in the new budget is especially noteworthy: The Defense Science Board must “conduct a review and evaluation of DOD’s strategy to counter violent extremism.” With all the cash being thrown around in these clandestine battles, you’d hope that was a strategy that was already in place.
Photo: U.S. Special Operations Command
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