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November 08, 2007

A Reasonable Approach on Pakistan
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

As I’ve written before and many have agreed we are stuck in total policy paralysis on Pakistan much the way we were in the final days of the Shah.  I have a proposal in my inbox this morning from Senator Obama seems like an utterly reasonable first step (I'll link to it if I find it).  A good way to start pressuring Musharraf while not undermining the counterterrorism mission or hurting the Pakistani people.

Basically, what Obama is arguing for is maintaining support for the counterterrorism mission and economic aid and development assistance.  But temporarily cutting off aid for a good chunk of the military hardware (we all know that this is aimed at India).  Once democracy is restored and the Pakistanis demonstrate that they have a clear plan for how to deal with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Northwestern tribal areas, the aid can resume. 

One of the key elements here is that the Bush Administration has asked for $300 million in Foreign Military Financing.  Much of this goes towards tactical missile defense system (that you imagine are to be used against India), anti tank missles (Last I checked Al Qaeda’s vehicle of choice is not the tank), Naval weapons systems that are to be used for in close range (I don’t think the Pakistani military will be fighting any naval battles with Al Qaeda anytime soon).  There’s also a $380 million that will be a direct cash transfer into Pakistan’s treasury and that we have little oversight over.

This approach seems utterly reasonable to me.  Rather than blindly continue to support the Pakistanis, use this to pressure Musharraf without undermining the counterterrorism mission or development aid.

Update: Biden says something similar and also quite reasonable.

Update II:  Obama's release.


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Do we give the same kind of military aide to India as well? Because if we are, a more rationale approach would be to, I don't know, stop funding a regional Cold War.

*The way it's supposed to work in Pakistan is first parliamentary elections and then the newly elected parliament selects the president. So Musharraf had the presidential selection first (selecting him) and now we're pressuring him for parliamentary elections, and to take off his uniform. Big deal. The current problem for Pakistanis is the 'emergency' with its court dismissal and harsh crackdowns.

* The US gives Musharraf $1.4 billion in untraceable cash annually. Neither the US nor certainly Mushy is about to give up this relationship. Security trumps democracy every time, and money talks. (To the US it says "goodbye".)

* Pakistan is powerless against AQ in NWFP. That's been proven. In fact, Islamic fundamentalists are taking over the Swat valley.

* Guess what foreign country has the most influence in Pakistan? China, on Pakistan's border. And China's terrorism concerns outweigh those of the US.

*Who is the real enemy of Pakistan? As has been suggested, India is. India has just built its first foreign base in Tajikistan (thus bracketing Pakistan) and has influence in Karzai's Afghanistan, which could be countered in the future by a return of the Pakistan-friendly Taliban.

How can the current crop of amateurs at State deal with all this? They can't.

Fact is that if Pakistan has any real enemy, it is Pakistan itself.

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