Recent events have caused many Americans to question why their government sends billions of dollars in aid every year to Pakistan, a country that seems less than keen on helping root out terrorists. An answer can be found in the Egyptian revolution.
The United States has a well established military-to-military relationship with Egypt. Much of American aid to Egypt has gone directly to its military. Egyptian officers have often attended U.S. military schools. Personal relationships between American and Egyptian officers have been created at these schools and have been fostered through regular collaboration on training and intelligence. Although the U.S. received political benefits as a result of sending the aid money (particularly adherence to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and related cooperation), the military connection arguably turned out to be the more beneficial aspect of the relationship for the U.S.
When protests began in Egypt, America took the position that violence should not be used, but the Mubarak regime ordered the protesters to be forcefully dispersed. The police moved in, and a battle raged off and on for about a week between the protesters and police. The protesters won. At that point, it was clear that only the military could break up the protests. However, the military officers were in constant contact with their American counterparts. The Americans encouraged them to remain neutral and allow the protests to proceed. When it began to appear that Mubarak had lost legitimacy, the Americans began pushing the military to nudge him out of office and take over the country to maintain order.
In short, American foreign policy in Egypt worked perfectly. The policy was never to keep Mubarak in power. The policy was to keep Mubarak working with the U.S. as long as he was in power while developing the ability to prevent an anti-U.S. regime from taking hold in the event of a revolt. One could call this the “Anything But Iran Policy.” When the protests became serious, the U.S. judged that they were not primarily anti-American in nature. Thus, the best way for the U.S. to prevent an anti-American regime from taking power was to distance itself from Mubarak, nudge him out of power and convince the Egyptian military to maintain stability until elections could take place and a new constitution could be written.
Broadly speaking, U.S. foreign policy in Pakistan is similar. The U.S. gives significant amounts of aid directly to the military. If there were a revolution in Pakistan, there would be a danger of an anti-American regime taking over. So, while aid does not buy Pakistan’s compliance with all of America’s desires, it does buy a degree of influence over the military, which could prove invaluable in a crisis, as it did in Egypt.