Tag Archives: aid

84-335: Congress Votes Against Repeating Past Mistakes

US Congress

Last night, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s (R-Calif) amendment to cut funding for Pakistan was soundly defeated 84-335. As with Rohrabacher’s bill supporting the balkanization of Pakistan, though, it was unlikely that this proposal would go anywhere to begin with.

After Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan last year, House members contemplated a number of measures that would have cut aid to Pakistan. Two amendments proposing to cut aid to Pakistan were defeated, however, as lawmakers decided that cutting aid would be in neither country’s interests.

Still, Pakistan and its representatives in the US did not take it for granted that Rohrabacher’s amendment would meet the same fate. Pakistan’s Ambassador, Sherry Rehman, was seen working the Hill late Thursday, explaining Pakistan’s position to Members of Congress. After 8pm, the Pakistani Ambassador Tweeted that she had been working the Hill until the vote was assured.

Writing for the blog “emptywheel”, Jim White makes an astute observation:

“…the Pakistani government is not a monolith that always acts with all of its participants working together for the same outcome. Rather than supporting those within Pakistan who will advance US interests, Rohrabacher wants to punish all of Pakistan because of those who work against US interests.

Using aid as part of a “carrots and sticks” approach to Pakistan has failed in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. It’s a strategy that fails because it feeds anti-American narratives at the expense of moderate, democratic forces in civil society. US lawmakers recognize this, as was demonstrated by Sen. McCain’s acknowledgement earlier this week that “one of the gravest mistakes in recent history was the so-called Pressler Amendment” which cut off aid to Pakistan in the 1990s, resulting in the “trust deficit” that continues to plague US-Pakistan relations.

Officials from both countries will travel to Chicago this weekend to continue critical discussions around bilateral cooperation on issues of national security. The defeat of Rep. Rohrabacher’s amendment ensures that these discussions will not be burdened by the repetition of past mistakes.

Sec. Clinton, Amb. Rehman focused on improving Pakistan’s economy

State Dept Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland

QUESTION: Ambassador Rehman also said that what Pakistan is looking – not aid from the U.S., but trade, and she said that as far as textile tariffs are concerned – and also, what I’m asking you is: Is Pakistan – is U.S. focusing more to spend money more on the development in Pakistani people in order to have a better image of U.S. in Pakistan?

MS. NULAND: Well, Goyal, as you know, the Secretary has been one of the most vocal advocates of switching as much of our economic relationship with Pakistan from aid to trade. That’s been the focus of the Department’s efforts with the Pakistani Government over the last couple of years, and some of the internal reviews we’ve done are focused on that. So we are investing in the economic health and strength of the country. We are investing in energy. We’re investing in education. We are investing in democracy programs and development, so – and micro-lending and all of these kinds of things. So it’s not about improving our image. It’s about helping to strengthen a stable, peaceful, democratic Pakistan.

Replacing carrots and sticks with mutual respect

Ambassador Sherry Rehman and Gen James Mattis

In her first address as Ambassador, Pakistan’s new envoy to the United States, Sherry Rehman, identified a path out of recent tensions: A new paradigm for US-Pakistan relations based on mutual respect. It seems her American counterparts were listening.

This week, a new attitude towards Pakistan has been emerging in Washington – one that is less concerned with what Pakistan can do for the US, and more concerned with how the US can better understand and appreciate Pakistan’s perspective, and how the two allies can work as partners towards shared goals.

Over the weekend, Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, wrote a persuasive rejoinder to an article in Foreign Affairs calling for a tougher stance towards Pakistan. According to Ms. Birdsall, such a policy has been tried – and failed – before. Instead of treating aid to Pakistan as a bribe, she argues, the US needs to treat aid as an investment in strengthening Pakistan’s civil society.

In short, the purpose of U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan is to help build a better state. It is not to bribe or reward the “government” (neither the military nor the civilian leadership). Withholding military aid would likely not punish the military anyway. It would, however, reduce the resources available to the civilian government, since the evidence is that the military can get what it wants from the government’s overall available resources. And withholding civilian aid obviously would not punish the military. It would, however, take away a modest tool of America – investing to educate kids, create jobs, and strengthen civil society and representative institutions and thus give Pakistan a better shot at becoming a stable, prosperous and democratic country in the long term.

This raises an important question: If the US no longer uses aid to persuade Pakistan, and we don’t want to use force, what is left? The answer: respect.

The Hill reported that Pakistan’s chief lobbyist has been busy explaining Pakistan’s perspective on the NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and recommending to Members of Congress and US officials that the US issue an official apology for the incident.

Today, it appears that the White House is listening. The New York times reports that the US is sending the head of the military’s Central Command, Gen. James Mattis, to Pakistan to repair strained relations, and that the State Department is supporting a proposal to issue a formal apology.

“We’ve felt an apology would be helpful in creating some space,” said an American official who has been briefed on the State Department’s view and who spoke on the condition of anonymity as internal discussions continued.

This is a positive development, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it shows a change in the way American officials are viewing the relationship with Pakistan. A formal apology for the November 26 airstrike would be far more valuable than any aid package. If Gen. Mattis can deliver this to Pakistan, we could see the beginning of a new, more productive relationship between the US and Pakistan – one based not on strategic interests, but mutual respect and shared values.

Time For A New Approach to US-Pakistan Relations

Zalmay Khalilzad

A response to Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s op-ed in The Washington Post

US-Pakistan relations may not be broken, but they’re certainly strained. Events in recent months have reinforced fears on both sides, and leaders in both countries are under increasing pressure from their respective publics to abandon each other. It’s clear that a new approach to US-Pakistan relations is needed. Unfortunately, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s op-ed in The Washington Post reflects a mindset steeped in past thinking, and his recommendations represent an old and dis-proven approach

What drives Pakistan?

Amb. Khalilzad offers two theories for why Pakistan’s military might support militant groups: Either they are trying to prolong the Afghan war in order to extort US aid, or they are trying to conquer Central Asia. This represents not only a false dilemma, but a fundamentally silly one.

The Kerry-Lugar-Burman bill (KLB) provides for $1.5 billion in economic aid annually for five years. While this aid is valuable, it represents about 0.3 percent of the nation’s GDP. Moreover, in the first year of KLB, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that only $179.5 million was actually disbursed. Even if it were possible to buy Pakistan’s cooperation, this amount of foreign aid is simply insufficient to do so.

The alternate theory offered – that Islamabad has a secret “ambitious plan to consolidate regional hegemony in Central Asia” – is equally nonsensical. With China and India sitting on its doorstep, Pakistan’s strategic priority is not to expand its influence across Asia, it’s to defend its own sovereignty. If Pakistan seeks influence in Kabul, it is not as a means of expanding its influence to Tashkent, it’s as as means of preserving it’s control of Lahore which sits precariously on the border with India.

So why might some in Pakistan’s military support the Afghan Taliban and militant groups like the Haqqani network? The same reason that they – and the US – supported these groups in the 1980s: they keep other people out. During the Cold War, the US supported the Taliban as a way of fighting Soviet influence in Kabul. Similarly, some security strategists in Pakistan today see the Taliban as a way of fighting Indian influence and preventing the nation from being boxed in by hostile neighbors.

What drives Pakistan is neither banditry nor ambition – it’s a basic desire for self-preservation. While some individuals in Pakistan may have ideological or religious affinity for the Taliban, this does not represent an official position any more than the existence of radicals in the US represent any official positions on the part of the US.

This is why it is disappointing that Amb. Khalilzad continually references “Pakistani support” for militant groups. By suggesting there is some state policy in support of these groups, the Ambassador ignores the incredible sacrifices that Pakistanis have made in the fight against militancy and extremism including the lives of over 35,000 Pakistani citizens.

Carrots and Sticks, re-revisited

Ambassador Khalilzad proposes using aid along with the promise to facilitate trilateral talks between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. In other words, what we’re already doing. But if these carrots are not sufficient to change Pakistan’s strategic outlook now, why would they be tomorrow?

The fact is that Pakistan seeks to reduce its reliance on aid, not prolong or deepen its dependency on foreign donors. We know this because it has been stated repeatedly by Pakistan’s President, Asif Zardari, as well as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani.

And the the Government of Pakistan has been doing more than just talking about improving its domestic economy. Pakistan announced this week that it has beat tax collection targets, bringing its tax-to-GDP ration to 9.2 percent, up from 8.9 percent a year ago. This demonstrates that the Government of Pakistan is making serious efforts to get its books in order, despite significant political obstacles – something Washington may want to eye with more sympathy as American lawmakers struggle to create consensus on their own economic policy.

Rather than continuing attempts to use economic and military aid as leverage, the US would be better advised to listen to Pakistan’s leadership and seriously discuss the possibility of improved trade deals such as Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ), lower textile tariffs, and investment in energy production and delivery to improve capacity in Pakistan’s domestic industry.

Similarly, the “sticks” proposed by Amb. Khalilzad amount to little more than cutting aid to Pakistan – a strategy that will only further entrench anti-democratic forces in Pakistan and reinforce suspicions that the US is a less reliable ally than Taliban militants. Again, we don’t have to assume this to be the case. We can look to the outcome of America’s policy of disengagement in the 1990s as a response to Pakistan’s nuclear program – a nuclearized Pakistan suspicious of US motives and interests.

Strengthening Civil Society

Despite his other errors, Amb. Khalilzad gets one thing right: “Ultimately, only the Pakistani people and a new generation of civilian leadership can rein in the country’s military leaders.” Whatever US interests in South Asia, the future of Pakistan will be defined by Pakistanis themselves. If the US wants to see a free and prosperous Pakistan, the only way forward is to invest in the success of Pakistan’s civil society.

That means dealing with the civilian political leadership, even when it might seem more efficient to deal directly with the military; it means focusing aid and investment on sustainable ways of improving the lives of ordinary Pakistanis; and it means listening to Pakistanis about their own priorities, rather than trying to convince them to prioritize American interests. Above all, if we are going to see a peaceful and stable Pakistan, the US must move beyond the strategies of the past and engage Pakistan as a partner, not a patron.

It's the Economy…

Textiles

Bill Clinton knew it. Hu Jintao certainly knows it. Barack Obama is learning it the hard way. And if we really want to ensure democracy and justice in Pakistan, Congress needs to figure this out, too: It’s the economy, stupid.

Pakistan’s democratic government continues to suffer incredible attacks from militant extremists. Just last week, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – a terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan – attacked a security compound in Karachi killing at least 18 and wounding over 100. And this was only the latest in a wave of deadly attacks that have plagued the city in recent months.

Karachi is financial heart of Pakistan. That may be one reason terrorist militants are so keen to destroy it. Undermining stability in Karachi has a direct impact on foreign investment in Pakistan; undermining the nation’s economy undermines support for the democratic government. It creates a feeling of hopelessness and frustration that militants use to recruit new foot soldiers.

Discussing the nation’s education system, Pakistani analyst Mosharraf Zaidi told PBS Frontline that a lack of economic opportunity can have dire consequences.

“You look at the consequences of these kids not going to school — and let’s set aside the fearmongering and the scare-mongering of saying, you know, ‘What if all these kids become terrorists?’ Setting that aside, the real problem is that, if you aren’t capable of participating in the global economy, you will be very, very poor. And desperate and extreme poverty has some diabolical consequences for societies and for individuals.”

Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes that one of the keys to creating peace and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan is economic stimulus for the region through trade liberalization.

Struggling economically, Pakistan needs such a shot in the arm, and a trade deal could arguably do even more than aid at this point.

Over the weekend, the US and Pakistan agreed to cooperate on a new $375 million wind farm near Karachi to provide 150 megawatts of power. This is a good start. Projects of this nature go beyond mere aid and create sustainable infrastructure that can reduce Pakistan’s dependence on foreign energy supplies while also providing a much needed boost to employment.

This is a good start, but the US needs to do more if we’re going to continue to have a strong relationship with the South Asian power. Pakistan’s president Zardari is no American puppet, and he has been making successful overtures to Chinese investors keen to profit from Pakistan’s unrealized potential.

The President said that there existed a great potential between Pakistan and China to further expand their bilateral trade and Pakistan was keen to welcome greater Chinese investment in the country.

He said that Pakistan and China have established a Joint Investment Company (JIC) with the help of China Development Bank to assist joint ventures and signed the Free Trade Agreement on goods and services, which were helping integration of Pakistani and Chinese economies.

The President said that the Government has put in place policies directed towards rapid economic growth, employment generation, poverty alleviation and encouragement of the private sector.

And it’s not only the cash-flush Chinese who are looking – the UK is also beginning to see the potential of investment in Pakistan.

[British Deputy High Commissioner] Robert Gibson pointed out that British entrepreneurs working in Pakistan were having continued interest to work and safeguard their businesses and were looking forward to opportunities to further increase their operations by expanding existing projects and explore new avenues for investment.

The US can begin its program of economic investment by liberalizing trade, specifically through granting preferential market status to Pakistani textiles, a policy encouraged in a new report by the Council on Foreign Relations.

“To reinforce US-Pakistan ties and contribute to Pakistan’s economic stability in the aftermath of an overwhelming natural disaster, the Obama administration should prioritize and the Congress should enact agreement that would grant preferential market access to Pakistani textiles,” former deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage and former national security adviser Samuel R. Berger, stress in the report.

This agreement would help revive the Pakistani industry and all of the associated sectors of the economy, including Pakistan-grown cotton, the report adds.

Additionally, Congress should revisit legislation establishing Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ), a bill first introduced by President Bush and passed by House Democrats in 2009.

Conventional wisdom says that American policy towards Pakistan should involve ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks.’ This thinking is misguided. Targeted aid packages like Kerry-Lugar and flood assistance are necessary, but not sufficient if the goal is to develop a strong and lasting partnership. Pakistan has demonstrated that it will not be a client state, nor should any such outcome be at the heart of American foreign policy. Only by developing economic partnerships that benefit both countries will lasting trust be established. Investment in Pakistan may involve certain risks at this time, but ignoring this opportunity poses greater risks still.

Secretary Clinton Announces Official Pakistan Relief Fund

“Currently more than 20 million Pakistanis have been affected by the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history. That is more than the population of New York State. The enormity of this crisis is hard to fathom, the rain continues to fall, and the extent of the devastation is still difficult to gauge.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones, those who have been displaced from their homes, and those left without food or water. The United States has and continues to take swift action to help. But governments cannot be alone in helping the people of Pakistan.

“That is why the United States Government through the Department of State has established the Pakistan Relief Fund for all Americans to join in this tremendous relief, recovery and reconstruction effort.
“The pictures we see coming out of Pakistan are painful images of human suffering at its worst. In surveying the lives and landscape affected by this disaster, we see brothers and sisters; mothers and fathers; daughters and sons. We see 20 million members of the human family in desperate need of help. This is a defining moment – not only for Pakistan, but for all of us.

“And now is a time for our shared humanity to move us to help. Americans have always shown great generosity to others facing crises around the world. And I call on you to do what you can. Every dollar makes a difference. $5 can buy 50 high energy bars providing much needed nutrition; $10 can provide a child or mother with a blanket; and about $40 can buy material to shelter a family of four.

“So I urge my fellow Americans to join this effort and send much needed help to the people of Pakistan by contributing to the Department of State’s Pakistan Relief Fund. Please go to www.state.gov or send $10 through your mobile phone by texting the word FLOOD, F-L-O-O-D, to 27722.

“If we come together now, we can meet this challenge and ensure that future generations in Pakistan have a chance to have the bright future they deserve and fulfill their own God-given potential.”

Source: US State Department