Nothing recruits terrorists like corrupt security forces committing human rights abuses with impunity

by Jeremy Ravinsky
December 17, 2015
Antiwar.com

The War on Terror is at a stalemate.

Recent, disparate terrorist attacks have shown that far from being “degraded and destroyed,” the Islamic State’s reach is growing. Unwilling to commit large numbers of U.S. boots on the ground, policymakers have instead doubled down on a “small footprint” approach of military aid to foreign governments. But this strategy is failing.

Contrary to what one might expect, US military aid doesn’t produce willing, cooperative, or effective security partners. Instead, it incentivizes bad behavior and drives the sources of terrorism: corruption, violence, and poor governance. Unwittingly, this policy is creating its own enemies.

The logic of military aid – or security assistance, as it is euphemistically referred to – is twofold: US military equipment, training, and support will build strategic relationships with partner nations and then empower them to fight terrorists on our behalf.

This thinking has led to explosive growth of military aid since 2001. According to the Security Assistance Monitor, the United States is poised to spend almost $20 billion on foreign military assistance in 2016 alone, through programs scattered between the State Department and the Pentagon.

In practice, this logic is severely flawed. Rather than creating cooperative partners, research shows that military aid produces reverse leverage: The more aid given to a recipient country, the less likely it is to do what we want. For example, Pakistan receives $1.6 billion in US military aid every year, but the Pakistani government still supports extremist groups in Afghanistan and has deep ties to the Haqqani terrorist network.

The reason lies with the incentives that US military aid creates.

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