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Obama's Lifeline to Pakistan

Author: Sundaa A. Bridgett Jones
April 9, 2009
The Root

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The Obama administration's new policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan plans to hurl a lifeline to the government of Pakistan. It outlines increased counterterrorism and counterinsurgency assistance to Pakistan's security forces to "disrupt, dismantle and destroy" al Qaeda and its allies operating in safe havens in Pakistan. Further, the policy recognizes an urgent need to balance a military strategy with substantially more development assistance and diplomacy to bolster the Pakistani government's capacity to address the economic needs of the Pakistani people.

It is an ambitious plan, but what are the chances of its success? Has anything changed in Pakistan's strategic security calculations that would allow us to believe that this new strategy can be effective?

From the U.S. perspective, the new plan of more targeted military support, increased economic aid and greater attention to governance are uncontroversial tactical steps to help shore up an insecure ally.

The stakes are high. Pakistan is a weak state, described by one expert as a "hot house" for terrorists. It has approximately 60 nuclear weapons, when just one is more than enough to wreak havoc.

But the new U.S. policy precariously assumes that Pakistan shares the same priorities. The daunting complexity of the situation obscures Pakistan's true interests and motives. The main problem is trying to decipher the tensions and the alliances between and among the various stakeholders-the party in power, the party out of power, the Inter-Services Intelligence, the military, the militants and the Pakistani people.

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