The Ghosts at the Table: As these and other analy: sts’ views reflect, it has become evident that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship cannot be discussed without acknowledging the ghostlike presence of India and Afghanistan.
In an article in September’s Foreign Service Journal, “Pakistan: Washington’s Blind Spot in Afghanistan,” Malou Innocent, a policy scholar at the Washington-based Cato Institute, underscore’s the United States’ heavy reliance on Pakistan, “which allows 70 percent of U.S.-NATO military supplies to travel through its territory into landlocked Afghanistan.” Innocent identifies the dilemma for U.S. Pakistan policy in terms of the Afghanistan engagement thus: “In the long term,” Innocent says, “an alliance of the world’s largest democracies would be mutually advantageous, particularly given India’s sizable population, burgeoning economic potential and leverages against what former U.S. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair has called a ‘more military, aggressive forward-looking’ China.” But, as she points out, “a long-term policy of engagement (by the United States) with India will likely make Pakistan less inclined to cooperate with the United States in the short term.”
“¦U.S. objectives toward Af-Pak tend to be seen principally through a military prism”¦
Frank Schell, Richard E. Friedman and Lauren Bean take a different approach in “American Foreign Policy toward Pakistan,” which appeared in the Chicago-based National Strategy Forum in August 2009, attempting to more clearly focus U.S. Pakistan policy within its regional context. Policy towards Pakistan should be centred on the shared U.S.–Pakistan objective, which is to combat the Taliban and al-Qaeda: “U.S. objectives toward Af-Pak tend to be seen principally through a military prism, or as some might say, through the target acquisition sensors of a Predator drone.” However, in the post-9/11 days, the report says, U.S. policy towards Pakistan “evolved into support for democracy, drug interdiction, maintaining the dictatorial Musharraf and Karzai governments, winning over warlords, averting disintegration, and now fighting a rejuvenated Taliban insurgency to prevent the takeover of a nuclear-armed nation while protecting the Afghan countryside.”
Meanwhile, the Pakistani objective has in large part been to secure foreign aid and to assure regime survival, the report concludes, with just enough engagement with the Taliban to placate the U.S., but not enough to provoke a domestic crisis or coup d’etat by Taliban members or sympathisers within the army and ISI: “Further, Pakistan has used the strategic threat of India to justify the high profile and voracious appetite of its professional army, the most respected and capable of its institutions, and to rally public opinion behind various military and civilian governments.”
“¦the Pakistani objective has in large part been to secure foreign aid and to assure regime survival”¦
Schell et al. note that there is a widespread perception in Pakistan that the U.S. is interested only in its own selfish objectives, such as counterterrorism, military engagement with the Taliban, and the security of Pakistani nuclear weapons, rather than in the underlying social causes of unrest in the country. Some Pakistanis attribute U.S. interest in Pakistan to the country’s shared borders with China and Iran and its proximity to Russia and the Caspian oil region. The presence of the U.S. coalition in Afghanistan is identified as a cause of instability in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), now renamed “Khyber-Paktunkhwa” by Islamabad, in view of the conflict being pushed into Pakistan.
“There is also a view that the lack of hands-on monitoring of U.S. aid, administered over decades, has contributed to a culture of corruption of major proportions, with very little support getting through to the intended recipients. Furthermore, some observers maintain that the U.S. will abandon Pakistan as soon as U.S. objectives are substantially met — above all, suppression of the Taliban and its influence. In the meantime, the U.S. is perceived as supporting an unstable and corrupt Pakistani government, all the while professing its commitment to democracy. The street in Pakistan reportedly harbors anger toward its own government and toward the United States, which it considers a facilitator of corruption. The Predator drone strikes, with their collateral civilian casualties, have incensed rural populations. The intelligentsia is generally less anti-American than the street, although it continues to be cynical about the U.S. and its intentions,” the Schell report says.
“¦that U.S. funding is directed at equipping the Pakistan army for a new type of warfare, and not for more armor, artillery and aircraft to be deployed against India.
As far as recommendations go, Schell et al. propose the following 10 steps:
“First, it must be recognized that there is no quick fix; it may take a decade or more to stabilize this part of South Asia. . . . There is no reason to assume that this generation of U.S. political leaders will have the world view, technology and ability to assure a positive outcome.
“Second, the focus of the Pakistan government, as well as that of the U.S. and other countries that seek a stable Pakistan, should be on offering a message of hope to the people of Af-Pak as a counter to the Taliban and other extremists’ recruitment and appeal. This is a battle of ideas for the minds of young people who have no alternative prospects in life. With a renewed effort at effective public diplomacy, leveraging global telecommunications, the U.S. may be able to sway public opinion in its favor and strike a blow to the Taliban stronghold.
“Third, the long-term solution is the provision of social services to the Pakistani people. . . . There should be a major branding effort to identify the U.S. as the source of these services, including a robust media campaign. It must also be understood that the underlying social conditions in Pakistan and the ‘haves versus have-nots’ conflict are the root cause of unrest in Pakistan. Poverty will continue to burden Pakistan in the absence of a comprehensive national strategy led by their government. Thus, U.S. aid should be directed at education, public health, food and basic social service needs and at rural reconstruction projects to provide opportunities for employment.
India needs to offer a positive and public signal to Pakistan. It must recognize that if Pakistan disintegrates, it will have a failed nuclear-armed territory on its frontiers with a likely hostile and unpredictable orientation.
“Fourth, a new humanitarian aid distribution and oversight mechanism must be developed and should involve official U.S., foreign NGOs, or neutral party advisors as monitors. . . .
“Fifth, the U.S. should emphasize and accelerate the training of the Pakistan army in CI (counterintelligence), HUMINT and psychological operations. Continued military aid should be subjected to the same control and scrutiny as humanitarian aid, so that there is confidence that U.S. funding is directed at equipping the Pakistan army for a new type of warfare, and not for more armor, artillery and aircraft to be deployed against India.
“Sixth, the U.S. should engage religious leaders constructively. Many are moderates who believe that the Taliban is distorting Islam to further its objectives. The power and communications network of the approximately 20,000 madrassas should be used, rather than feared.
“Seventh, India needs to offer a positive and public signal to Pakistan. It must recognize that if Pakistan disintegrates, it will have a failed nuclear-armed territory on its frontiers with a likely hostile and unpredictable orientation. . . . The words India uses matter. Even more helpful would be an initial and modest pullback initiated by India from the Line of Control in Kashmir, then reciprocated by Pakistan. These actions would be largely symbolic, but symbolism matters.
“¦.the reliance of the Karzai government in Afghanistan on the U.S. for its existence and the new partnership with India give the U.S. historically unprecedented influence”¦
“Eighth, Pakistan should be encouraged to reciprocate Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to India as envisioned by GATT, which was superseded by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. . . . Advice from India on economic reforms and lessons learned, if offered without looking patronizing, would be useful.
“Ninth, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India must be brought to the table together to formulate a long-term strategy formulated to share intelligence, to use the network of madrassas, and to leverage the strengths of each country for the benefit of the others. . . .
“Tenth, fear of the Taliban is evident in Tehran, even if the Iranians are now convulsed by their own internal struggles. This could offer both the U.S. and Iran some common ground for constructive engagement. As moderates, youth, women, intellectuals, the middle class and other voices of reform rise to be heard in Iran, the desire to sever ties to clerics and theocracy will be stronger. By extension, the brand of extremism offered by the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda cohorts will have less appeal in a modernizing Iran.”
Schell et al. also add that “the reliance of the Karzai government in Afghanistan on the U.S. for its existence and the new partnership with India give the U.S. historically unprecedented influence with all three countries. China and Russia are not seen as constructive influences and there is limited affinity for those two states in either Pakistan or India.”
Anti-Americanism in Pakistan
There is also a growing concern among U.S. policymakers about the increased anti-Americanism among ordinary Pakistanis in recent years. A poll by the Pew Research Center last July showed that about 6 in 10 Pakistanis (59%) consider the U.S. the enemy of their country and are concerned that the U.S. could turn into a military threat to them. Just 11% consider the U.S. their partner. Although there were earlier reports of burning of the American flag and general spouting of anti-America venom by Pakistanis, these poll results came as a surprise to Washington—mainly because the general understanding among U.S. policymakers is that Pakistan has been financially well-rewarded by the United States in the post-9/11 period.
Pakistan transfers captured detainees to the Americans, but there is no clear understanding of the criteria on which these people are arrested and why they are extradited.
Some analysts have now begun to discuss the necessity of turning around this anti-American outlook. According to Moeed Yusuf of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), this can be attained only when the official relationship between the two nations becomes more transparent, when the frequency of visits by U.S. officials to Pakistan is reduced, and when “image-correcting aid”—such as building power-generating stations to help meet the massive short supply of electrical power—is provided in addition to the long-term assistance.
What Yusuf refers to in his study as nontransparency in the relationship has to do with policies that seem arbitrary to the average Pakistani. For instance, the U.S. transfers coalition support funds (CSF) to Pakistan, but it is not clear where this money goes or how is it spent. Similarly, Pakistan transfers captured detainees to the Americans, but there is no clear understanding of the criteria on which these people are arrested and why they are extradited. Clarity also seems to be missing when it comes to American drone attacks inside Pakistan and the use of Pakistani air bases by the Americans. The agreements and arrangements by which Islamabad has permitted this American activity and access have never been explained to the Pakistani citizens.
“¦the Americans are the real policymakers in terms of what occurs within Pakistan, and the military brass and Pakistani political leaders just take orders from them
Frequent visits by high-level American officials to Pakistan, meeting all the top Pakistani officials, have also been a subject of discontent. People wonder, and now they are asking openly, why the Americans come so often. Many Pakistanis have come to the conclusion, and they are angry about it, that the Americans are the real policymakers in terms of what occurs within Pakistan, and the military brass and Pakistani political leaders just take orders from them. Says Yusuf: “. . . The most common conclusion is that American officials dictate actions to their Pakistani counterparts, who in turn act as surrogates to their senior partners in the deal.”
American Economic Aid to Pakistan
The Bush administration’s post-9/11 policy towards Pakistan was most obvious in economic areas. During this period, Pakistan has ranked among the top five recipients of U.S. civilian and military aid, in a group with Israel, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq. In June 2003, President George W. Bush vowed to work with Congress in establishing a five-year, $3 billion aid package for Pakistan. Annual instalments of $600 million, split evenly between military and economic aid, began in fiscal year 2005.
The United States provided $11.2 billion between FY 2001 and FY 2008 (see Table 1), the bulk of which has gone to security assistance either through military aid or reimbursements. Security-related assistance, including reimbursements, arms sales and internal security assistance, ran to $8.1 billion. The remaining $3.1 billion was invested in development programs. Pakistan has balked at U.S. requests for information about how CSFs have been spent, citing Pakistani sovereignty over the funds. Pakistan’s unwillingness to give an accounting of how these funds have been spent has contributed to criticism of both Islamabad and these programs (Pakistan: Can the United States Secure an Insecure State? Rand Corporation, 2010).
U.S. efforts to foster development in Pakistan have focused on education, health, financial stability and general economic development. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the United States supported the financial stabilisation already under way in Pakistan with significant budget support that helped the country pay off some of its outstanding debt. The focus of U.S. aid then shifted to more traditional development areas, including especially health and education. In 2007, the United States began a five-year $100 million program to support the government of Pakistan’s own efforts to improve education in primary and secondary schools. This program emphasised teacher training for primary education, especially in Baluchistan and Sindh. U.S. funds have also gone to improve the public health care system and, in particular, to maternal, child, and reproductive health. The United States also spent $70 million on humanitarian assistance in response to the October 2005 earthquake in Kashmir.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) continues to fund reconstruction projects worth $193 million in earthquake-affected areas. Earthquake relief is thought to have improved the U.S. image in Pakistan, but most Pakistanis still have a poor image of the United States. U.S. funds are provided both on a project basis and in the form of cash transfers to the government’s budget. There is some debate over the effectiveness of the conditions placed on the budget support, and there is concern that it may not go to supporting the intended programs. Such concerns have encouraged the United States to target the larger part of its development assistance to specific projects.
Operating conditions in FATA are difficult for aid workers of any origin, but especially for Americans. Widespread corruption increases the chances that U.S. funds will fall into the hands of militants.
The problems of militant groups and the porous Afghan border have led the United States to target an increasing amount of development aid to FATA. In 2006, Pakistan drafted the “FATA Sustainable Development Plan 2006–2015,” which aimed to foster economic development, extend the state, and enhance security in the region. The United States allocated $750 million over five years for this program. USAID also provides technical assistance in FATA as part of this plan, and it administers a range of specific programs to improve education and health care and to foster economic activity.
Some observers have been sceptical about how effective U.S. development aid to FATA can be. Pakistan’s own commitment to development in FATA has been weak; some fear that continued lack of attention to the region on the part of the Pakistani government will make it even more difficult for the United States to successfully implement its own programs. Operating conditions in FATA are difficult for aid workers of any origin, but especially for Americans. Widespread corruption increases the chances that U.S. funds will fall into the hands of militants. The FATA development plan is sometimes presented as a counterpart to the FATA security plan, but the two have, in fact, been developed independently of each other according to the Rand Corporation report cited earlier.
Meanwhile, in the United States, many are frustrated with the aid provided to Pakistan. They point out that Pakistan is at the centre of U.S. hopes to turn around the flagging Afghan war, but persistent anti-American feelings limit the extent of actual Pakistani cooperation. In a telling remark during her visit to Pakistan in July, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mused that Americans must wonder “why we’re sending money to a country that doesn’t want it.”
Pakistani analysts are quick to point out that there are many reasons American aid has not created a positive image of America for an ordinary Pakistani. They cite poor coordination with the Pakistani government, a lack of understanding of Pakistan’s needs and a reluctance to produce iconic projects, lest they become targets for terrorists. “American assistance is always of a nature that is not seen or felt,” Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States told Griff Witte of the Washington Post on 24 August. “How many dams were built? How many highways? Can you touch anything that was built with U.S. assistance?” On the other hand, U.S. officials say aid money is making a positive impact, if not always a widely noticed one.