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It has been a big week for those of us
working on Pakistan. New attention on the intensely fractured
relationship between the US and Pakistan has led to questions about the
fate of current and planned aid packages- with emphasis on the Enhanced
Partnership with Pakistan Act (or the Kerry-Lugar Act). Even before the
death of Osama Bin Laden cast a spotlight on the strained relationship
between the two nations, the Act (which provides non-military
development assistance over a five year period) was facing scrutiny.
Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office issued a
scathing report showing that only $179.5 million of the $7.5 billion
dollar program had been dispersed (1.5 billion was allocated for 2010
The debate around aid to Pakistan is extremely concerning (to learn more, I suggest this excellent account by Josh Rogin). However, what is perhaps more interesting than the fate of the funds is the debate about how the US Government defines the intent of aid to Pakistan, what expectations accompany it, and what success would look like.
Last week, I was on the Hill for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on US Policy in Pakistan. Experts pushed lawmakers to question the foundational premise that civilian aid can and should impact U.S. interests for improved peace security in Pakistan. Foreign aid to Pakistan, said Mr. Moeed Yusuf of USIP, may be an excellent tool for addressing immediate needs, but not for winning hearts and minds. Expectation of such, he suggested, is further straining the relationship between the US and Pakistan.
Refugees International has long been interested in the impact of Kerry-Lugar in providing non-military assistance to those internally displaced in counterinsurgency operations, specifically from the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In 2010, my colleagues reported on the lack of resources reaching IDPs from FATA. Dr. Samina Ahmed, of ICG, who also testified before the committee last week, remarked that the IDPs still have yet to get assistance.
Why is this concerning? Well, if our intent is to enhance security, then
why are we leaving out the most vulnerable populations? Take for
example two of the most underfunded relief sectors in FATA: education
reform and protection for women and girls. Have these sectors been
ignored because they are not of immediate US security interests? Surely
the rising youth bulge, coming of age with little educational and
economic resources, represent both risk and opportunity, albeit longer
term. The same is true for empowering women and girls—the equality of
whom correlates with improved state stability on the international
level. If winning hearts and minds is the goal, these are two
populations worthy of supporting. And yet, both nations have failed to do
I agree with Mr. Yusuf: aid can be one useful tool for shifting America's image, but it is not a quick fix. No longer can we rely on the unsubstantiated idea that aid buys goodwill and goodwill oversteps radical extremism (and other competing ideologies). In fact, hoping to do so, and then not delivering that aid creates more bad will than it had the potential to offset.
I also believe we cannot ask the Pakistani civilian population to suffer because of failures of governance. Dr. Ahmed urged lawmakers to ensure that Kerry-Lugar funds not be “a casualty of recent events,” a sentiment reflected in the writing of Dr. Christine Faire. I agree with these experts: we should not at this time cut or place conditions on aid further. Instead, action by the USG should focus on helping to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.
Secondly, if we seek to advance peace and security, a new government strategy needs to be put in place. Doing so would depend on Congress and the US Government thinking more clearly about implementing aid in a long-term, strategic manner as opposed to creating new conditions that will stress the relationship further. This would rely on the continued strong leadership of the State Department’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Grossman.
Finally, we must think collectively about the holistic needs of the communities and beneficiaries in Pakistan (especially refugees and IDPs) by thinking more clearly about our own intent and approach. As Senator Kerry concluded in the Senate hearing, this will be based on thoughtful, careful action which considers the big picture and makes use of the “limited space we have to make a difference.”