Bin Laden killing sparks suspicion over Al-Qaeda and Pakistan allegiance, is it time to review the goals and achievements of US military aid to the country?

Transnational terrorism and the US military arid to Pakistan, and the incentive to misrepresent

From Journal of Peace Research

The killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan this week has generated large suspicion regarding the country’s possible allegiance with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Is US military aid to Pakistan to disarm Al-Qaeda failing?

Shortly after the Obama Administration assumed office in 2008, the Interagency Policy Group recommended an increase in military aid to the Pakistan government to bolster its fight against militant groups. The goal of the aid was to give the government the tools it needed to disarm Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters that were responsible for continuing attacks in Afghanistan. This policy follows alarger consensus that military aid to host states from which transnational terrorists operates is a valuable tool.

This study reveals that military aid does not give host states incentive to accelerate the demise of terrorist groups, as in such a case the aid would stop. It is recognized that military aid is instead effective at preventing host states from negotiating with terrorist organizations and therefore supports the status quo to keep terrorist groups out of power.



This study proposes a strategic explanation for theUSA’s continued provision of military aid to host states with problems of terrorism, despite its poor empirical record. Using a game theoretic model, I demonstrate thatUSmilitary aid creates a moral hazard problem. If host states are provided with the tools to pacify their territory only if terrorist campaigns are ongoing, but will lose this aid once the problem of terrorism ceases, host states have little incentive to accelerate the demise of terrorist groups. However, the model demonstrates that while military aid does not accomplish theUSgoal of disarming terrorists, military aid is effective at preventing host states from negotiating with terrorist organizations. The provision of military aid provides a disincentive for host states to reach a negotiated settlement with terrorist groups, and therefore prevents terrorist organizations from altering the status quo that is favorable to theUSA. This suggests that while military aid may not be effective at actually disarming terrorist groups, it can be effective at keeping terrorist groups out of power. These hypotheses are tested using the Jones & Libicki (2008) data on terrorism from 1997 to 2006. The empirical results support the conclusions of the theoretical model.


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Article details
Bapat, N. (2011). Transnational terrorism, US military aid, and the incentive to misrepresent Journal of Peace Research DOI: 10.1177/0022343310394472

This article has been published online ahead of print.

It is part of a special issue on Terrorism published May 2010

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