Article

Supporting Pakistan’s Civilian Government

A panel of experts discussed critical issues for the U.S-Pakistan relationship and how to implement Obama administration’s new strategy for the region.

 

 

“We are only at the beginning of what looks like it is going to be a long battle, and the question is whether or not Pakistan is ill suited or not to prosecute that battle,” said Congressman John F. Tierney (D-MA) of the challenges that the U.S. and Pakistani governments face when confronting militants in Pakistan. He was part of Tuesday’s panel hosted by CAP Action, “Stopping Pakistan’s Militants,” which focused on displaced refugees, U.S. aid to Pakistan, and the Obama administration’s new diplomatic approach to the region.

Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, the president of the Middle East Institute, and Dr. Samina Ahmed, the South Asia project director at the International Crisis Group, joined Tierney on the panel. The panel was moderated by Caroline Wadhams, a Senior National Security Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund who explained the challenges Pakistan faces.

“The news out of Pakistan is very daunting,” Wadhams said. “We are constantly seeing regular, high-profile terrorist attacks in Pakistan’s major cities, continued military operations in Swat against the Taliban, and an estimated 3 million people that have been displaced.”

As the Obama administration seeks to usher in a new era of relations between the United States and Pakistan, analysts agreed that a mutual “trust deficit” remains a major obstacle to progress. Chamberlin explained that the two militaries remain suspicious of one another, and that the two countries are “working against a common enemy, but we are not working together against this common enemy.”

Tierney believed that solving Pakistan’s problems while working with its government has been difficult because its leaders “continue to view all matters with what would seem to be a distorted prism of rivalry with India.” That mentality may be deeply ingrained, but he said that getting Pakistan to see the “mutuality of interests” between the two countries could help.

More than $12 billion in U.S. aid has been delivered to Pakistan between 2001 and 2008, Tierney said, but the lack of oversight has limited its effectiveness. Tierney noted the perception in Pakistan that, by transferring $6 billion in Coalition Support Funds to cover the costs of fighting militants, the United States was buying Pakistani support for its own unilateral interests. “It looked to everyone that it was our fight and we were paying them for any costs they incurred in helping us with it,” said Tierney.

Tierney described plans currently under consideration in Congress, in which conditions are placed upon military aid. “In order to release the funds, the president would have to submit to Congress a determination that there is cooperation with the dismantling nuclear supplier networks, cooperation in ceasing support for extremists and terrorists groups, cooperation with closing terrorist camps and taking efforts to prevent cross-border attacks in neighboring countries,” he said.

Ahmed also expressed her concern about the use of previous aid, As much as 40 percent of the aid is unaccounted for, and much of the aid that can be accounted for was spent on military operations. She does not believe that this is an effective use of funds and that the “tools being used to wage counterinsurgency are inappropriate.”

She proposed that civilian efforts should be a larger part of the counterinsurgency effort. “If counterinsurgency is winning hearts and minds, then 80 percent of your efforts should be devoted to other than military operations, and the military’s insistence on taking a lead on counterinsurgency is depriving the civilian actors of a role,” she said.

All of the panelists agreed on the need for greater accountability for the distribution of aid and better targeting of funds to meet Pakistani needs. Ahmed highlighted the need for a rapid response to the humanitarian crisis in Swat, where military operations have displaced at least 3 million people and public sympathies are in flux. Short-term relief efforts alone would not solve Pakistan’s problems, she added, arguing that rehabilitation and reconstruction would also be necessary for long-term stability.

Large dollar contributions alone will not solve the problems presented by Pakistan’s militants, Chamberlin argued, saying it is “not an issue of funding. It’s an issue of planning.” Conducting effective planning to meet Pakistan’s security and development challenges will require both a reform of U.S. diplomatic and aid mechanisms, as well as a much greater focus on responsive governance by the Pakistanis.

For more on this event, please visit the events page