Sunday, April 5, 2009

Time is running out for Pakistan

Among the plethora of plans submitted by the Obama administration lies one that has garnered very little attention. It has the potential to have significant effects on a country and to our efforts of putting a stop to al Qaeda’s reign of terror and governmental destabilizing. The plan calls for tripling the amount of monetary aid we have been providing Pakistan from $500 million to $1.5 billion annually. This aid is cloaked under the guise of “nonmilitary” assistance due to the crumbling economy in Pakistan. This plan, not unlike many of the President’s other plans, has one codicil attached to it that refutes the nonmilitary assistance it purports to be.

The administration has made it clear that if the Pakistani government does not increase its efforts to stop the flow of Taliban forces into their country; this aid will be significantly reduced if not eliminated entirely. This is something that the government can ill afford considering they were on the brink of bankruptcy as recently as last fall. Amidst all of this we find a refreshingly pragmatic voice of reason in the person of Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Levin has expressed concern over the possible backfiring of this plan should the Pakistanis perceive it as a bribe of sorts.

"It's got to be that we are supporting Pakistan policies because if we appear to be buying something they would otherwise not pursue, it is counterproductive."

Personally, I have trouble seeing how they can perceive it any other way! Do we actually think that they are incapable of seeing directly through this charade, or is it that we know we have them in a corner.

According to Julian Barnes of the LA Times: both Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of Defense Policy, and Gen. David H. Patraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, feel that increased support by the Pakistani military is vital to our effort to stem the tide of further infiltration by extremist forces. The Taliban has already made significant strides in establishing a foothold in many areas of Pakistan. This is an extremely critical time and without additional support; Pakistan is placing itself in an even more precarious position.

This is a situation that Pakistan definitely doesn’t need at this time. The government, headed by President Asif Ali Zardari, is currently under attack from opposing political parties and Zardari has shown that he has no problem imposing martial law to prevent any possibility of being ousted. The magnitudes of the problems facing Pakistan, both internally and in its dealings with the Taliban, are best described by James Traub. Traub is a writer for the New York Times Magazine and author of the book The Freedom Agenda. He has spent over a year in Pakistan and with President Zadari. His depiction of the President provides additional concerns regarding our revised aid plan.

It is important to note that Zardari spent 7 years in prison after Zardari and his wife, then Prime Minister, were accused of embezzling $1.5 billion from the government. The irony in that amount is alarming to me! There were also allegations of murder and attempted murder that led to his imprisonment earlier. To further emphasize the instability of the government; Zardari’s wife, Benazir Bhutto, who had served two terms as Prime Minister, was assassinated by terrorists in December of 2007; shortly after her return from exile. It would appear that unstable would be a very generous description of the Pakistani government.

To further exacerbate their problems; Samina Ahmed, the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) longtime Pakistan analyst, has stated that the Taliban now have gained control of one half of the country and have rendered their security forces useless in these areas. U.S. military commanders have acknowledged that the city of Quetta in one of the larger provinces in Pakistan has become the headquarters of the Taliban.

If things weren’t bad enough; the constant bombing missions by our unmanned Predators (an apt name), which are responsible for countless deaths of innocent civilians are also responsible for driving the Taliban further into Pakistan. The military strategies employed by the U.S. along with Pakistan’s seemingly deliberate ignorance of the threat posed by the extremists have created a virtual time bomb.

Normally, I would be the first one to call for our immediate withdrawal from this border region and leave that joke of a government to its own devices. However, there are some very serious ramifications that may result from these actions. Should the Taliban succeed in gaining control of Pakistan; not only would they be in control of a very strategic part of the world but they would also have access to a large nuclear arsenal presently possessed by the government. Once again; I have more questions than answers, but there is one thing I am certain of. Nuclear weapons in the hands of al Qaeda will only result in further atrocities for the U.S. and its allies. This is a situation we simply cannot walk away from.

1 comment:

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