During President Obama’s commencement speech at West Point in May, The President mentioned plans for the creation of the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF). The fund would finance U.S. efforts to enhance the capacity of states such as Lebanon and Iraq by expanding the training and equipping of foreign militaries, bolstering the counterterrorism capabilities of allies, and supporting efforts to counter violent extremism and terrorism ideology.
The plan for the bill is to add a new reserve to the Defense Department’s fiscal 2015 budget request and to draw from the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, which is not part of the Pentagon’s base budget (money that is supposed to be used to help fight America’s wars, and is not considered part of the Defense Department’s core budget.)
Supporters of the bill claim that by training and equipping foreign security forces, other countries can conduct counterterrorism operations with little American involvement. They point to how the past 13 years have proved that it would be impossible, as well as unwise and unnecessary, for the United States to act on every terrorist threat. They believe a 9/11-style attack on the United States is now less likely than an attack on Americans overseas.
Opponents, however, believe that CTPF is too vague and should not be run out of the Pentagon. Some senators are skeptical about whether the new fund will do any good, considering the large amount of money that the administration has already asked for to bolster allies against terrorism for next year and more funds might not be completely feasible in the tight fiscal environment. For example, Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois states,
“The administration has already asked for nearly $8 billion in International Security Assistance funding, which includes both international military training and financing programs.”
Former officials also warn that unless the administration comes to Congress with detailed plans of how the money will be spent and why those tasks can’t be completed inside the Pentagon’s currently large budget, the bill will not likely be passed.
Opponents also point to Iraq as a cautionary example of what can go wrong with a heavy spending policy directed at a foreign country. Even though the United States spent years and $25 billion building up the Iraqi Army to defend the country, the entire unit disintegrated in weeks and many weapons were turned over to corrupt groups.
Others are in support of the idea of helping other countries’ counterterrorism plans but believe that supplying weapons and training armies is not the right approach. They argue that the program must not be run solely out of the Pentagon but should also address the social and political drivers of instability and involve civilians as well as military officials. For example, training must involve not only soldiers but also police officers, judges and prosecutors, and should emphasize on the rule of law and human rights. This can prevent the radicalization of more people or the empowerment of authoritarian leaders. By investing in community projects, education and moderate groups that build civil society and discourage extremism the fund can decrease the amount of human rights abuses in these countries.
Therefore, if the bill passes, congress must be careful how it spends the $5 billion so it will not fund security services that violate international laws. This will take extreme precaution because human rights abuses are common within militaries in terrorist strongholds like Somalia and Nigeria, so it will be difficult to prevent the money from ending up in the hands of soldiers who are guilty of the same crimes as the terrorists they hunt.