To stem terror in Pakistan, US looks beyond military
Washington is seeking to build the Pakistani state and its economy as a way to wean the country from Islamic extremism.
In an admission that its dependence on the Pakistani military has yielded few results against the Taliban, the United States is now seeking to change its relationship with Pakistan – the world's sole Muslim nuclear power and home of Al Qaeda's leadership.Skip to next paragraph
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President Barack Obama's first budget, released last week, proposes significant increases in nonmilitary aid to Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan. In addition, two influential senators are expected to file legislation in the coming days that would triple nonmilitary US aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year and include $5 billion to stave off an imminent economic crisis.
The shift is part of an increasing awareness within the Beltway of Pakistan's precarious position – beset by economic collapse, political weakness, and a spreading insurgency – and that more than military operations will be needed to build a stable state capable of beating back Islamic extremism in the long term.
"If we fail, we face a truly frightening prospect: terrorist sanctuary, economic meltdown, and spiraling radicalism, all in a nation with 170 million inhabitants and a full arsenal of nuclear weapons," said Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts last week, while releasing a report about Pakistan.
Along with Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana, Senator Kerry is a key supporter of the expected new legislation on Pakistan. It mirrors a plan that Vice President Joe Biden proposed last year when he was still a senator. Then, as now, it is a thinly veiled criticism of the Bush administration's Pakistan policy, which focused aid and relations on ousted military leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Pentagon on board
Last week, Pentagon officials emerged from a meeting in Washington with Pakistan's Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani to say they supported a more "comprehensive" strategy for US relations with Pakistan – albeit one that encompassed smarter and more effective military assistance. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded a similar note when she met with Pakistani and Afghan officials last week.
She announced that trilateral US-Afghanistan-Pakistan talks will become a regular feature of the Obama administration's plan for region. It further points to the Obama administration's desire to look beyond the military alone for solutions to the conflict spanning the Afghan-Pakistan border – an area he and others consider the epicenter of global terrorism.