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U.S.-Pakistan Trust Deficit

Interviewees: Daniel S. Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations
Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow, Heritage Foundation
Interviewer: Jayshree Bajoria, Staff Writer, CFR.org
October 15, 2009

A new U.S. aid package has drawn the ire of the Pakistani opposition and its military. Referred to as the Kerry-Lugar bill, after its authors Senators John Kerry [D-MA] and Richard Lugar [R-IN], the bill seeks to triple nonmilitary assistance to Pakistan by offering $7.5 billion in aid over the next five years. But the Pakistani military has expressed concern about the bill, saying it impinges upon Pakistan's sovereignty. CFR Senior Fellow Daniel Markey says Washington should have foreseen Pakistan's response and Congress should have drafted the bill differently. However, Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, argues the United States must ensure that U.S. taxpayer money is not indirectly undermining U.S. objectives in Afghanistan. She says Congress is well within its bounds to tie military aid to concerted efforts by Pakistan to counter the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

Pakistan, Markey says, will be an incredibly difficult challenge for the United States. The latest crisis over the aid package highlights the disconnect between the two countries. "In some ways it's kind of tragic that legislation that was intended to demonstrate a closer U.S.-Pakistan partnership would lead to such a diplomatic and political dustup," he says.

The furor over the aid package comes amid increased attacks inside the country and growing concerns for the country's stability. Curtis says these attacks should emphasize the threat the Taliban and the other terrorist groups pose to Pakistan and regional stability. She says the links between al-Qaeda and the Taliban remain strong and it is not prudent for Washington to limit its focus in the region to a counterterrorism strategy. "We really do need a comprehensive region-focused strategy," she says.

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