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Washington Quarterly: Time for Sober Realism: Renegotiating Relations with Pakistan

Author: C. Christine Fair
April 2009

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Washington Quarterly's C. Christine Fair argues that despite the largesse of the U.S. budget spent to further goals in Pakistan, only minimal progress toward most of these objectives has been achieved.

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, the United States has sought to help Pakistan transform itself into a stable, prosperous, and democratic state that supports U.S. interests in the region, is capable of undermining Islamist militancy inside and outside its borders, commits to a secure Afghanistan, and actively works to mitigate prospects for further nuclear proliferation. Washington has also hoped that Pakistan, along with India, would continue to sustain the beleaguered peace process to minimize the odds of a future military crisis between them. Between fiscal years 2002 and 2008, the United States has spent more than $11.2 billion, presumably to further these goals. The FY 2009 budget request includes another $1.2 billion.

Despite this largesse, the United States has failed in large measure to achieve all but minimal progress toward most of these objectives. Pakistan is more insecure, not less, since the onset of U.S.-Pakistani reengagement in 2001. Pakistanis appear to be more distrustful of the United States than they are of al Qaeda. Indeed, about 80 percent of Pakistanis recently polled said that al Qaeda's principle aim is standing up to the United States, and 57 percent support that goal. In that same survey, more than 52 percent blamed the United States for the violence wracking the country, compared to 15 percent who blamed various militant groups. Fewer than one in two Pakistanis believed that al Qaeda and the Taliban operating in Pakistan pose a serious problem, and wide swaths of Pakistanis embrace negotiating with the raft of militant groups savaging their country and oppose military action to eliminate them. Since joining forces with the United States, albeit reluctantly, Pakistan continues to lurch from one crisis to another, be it economic, political, or military.

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