As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

We Don't Even Have A Partner To Receive Aid

As a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine of war go down, the Administration and Congress has talked of a "civilian surge" in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, providing more non-military and development aid to both countries. This was realized in the Kerry-Lugar bill, which gave $7.5 billion in aid over 5 years to Pakistan. It was one of Joe Biden's old bills that they repurposed, and would give an opportunity for the US to help Pakistanis out of grinding poverty and achieve some goodwill with them.

And Pakistan went apeshit:

The Obama administration's strategy for bolstering Pakistan's civilian government was shaken Wednesday when political opposition and military leaders there sharply criticized a new U.S. assistance plan as interfering with the country's sovereignty.

Although President Obama has praised the $7.5 billion, five-year aid program -- approved by Congress last week -- Pakistani officials have objected to provisions that require U.S. monitoring of everything from how they spend the money to the way the military promotes senior officers.

Their criticism threatens to complicate the administration's efforts in the region, where Pakistan's assistance is seen as crucial to the war in Afghanistan.

"Obviously, it demonstrates we've still got work to do," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said of the Pakistani criticism.

Kerry and Lugar tried to push back by calling out some myths being put forward by the Pakistanis. For example:

MYTH: The $7.5 billion (Rs. 62, 500 crores) authorized by the bill comes with strings attached for the people of Pakistan.

FACT: There are no conditions on Pakistan attached to these funds.

The $7.5 billion (Rs. 62,500 crore) authorized is all for non-military aid. These funds are unconditioned— they are a pledge of U.S. friendship to the Pakistani people. There are strict measures of financial accountability on these funds that Congress is imposing on the U.S. executive branch—not the Pakistani government, to make sure the money is being spent properly and for the purposes intended. Such accountability measures have been welcomed by Pakistani commentators to ensure that funds meant for schools, roads and clinics actually reach the Pakistani people and are not wasted.

MYTH: The bill impinges on Pakistan’s sovereignty.

FACT: Nothing in the bill threatens Pakistani sovereignty. Period.

This bill is an extended hand of friendship, from the people of America to the people of Pakistan. It will fund schools, roads, energy infrastructure, and medical clinics. Even when Americans are going through a deep recession and tough economic times, the United States is pledging $7.5 billion (Rs. 62,500 crore) as a long-term commitment to Pakistan. Those seeking to undermine this partnership, to advance their own narrow partisan or institutional agendas, are doing a serious disservice to the people of the United States and of Pakistan.

But this isn't going to be good enough. The real problem here is that the Pakistani people HATE the Americans, and any effort to infringe on their sovereignty will be met with this kind of anger, whether true or false. There are many in Pakistan who would probably want to be left alone rather than be given aid as a fig leaf for the destruction and death in the region. And disapproval of this package probably equals popular support across much of the country. In particular, the Pakistani army is angered by this, I would guess because so much of it is non-military aid, and they control a lot of the economy there. And remember, the Pakistani army and Pakistani intelligence is intimately linked to insurgent forces of the kind who may have blown up the Indian Embassy in Kabul, just like they did a year ago.

If we can't give money to Pakistan without an international incident, it says quite a lot about our prospects for controlling outcomes in the region.

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