On July 12 2007,US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, told a Congressional panel that the United States is paying around $ 100 million a month for the deployment of 80,000 Pakistani troops on its border with Afghanistan.These payments are funded to Pakistan are “for stationing troops and moving them around, and gasoline, and bullets, and training and other costs that they incur as part of the war on terror.”Boucher admitted to the panel that this “reimbursement” totals around $1.2 Billion per year and is explicitly earmarked for paying for Pakistan’s military expenses in the region.In all, US aid to Pakistan is now close to $ 2 billion a year, according to figures provided by Boucher.In 2006, Congress authorized to aid Pakistan with an additional $ 738 million in assistance programs which also include $ 300 million in separate military aid. This overall figure now places Pakistan in the top three recipients of U.S. aid for military assistance with Israel and Egypt. But wait that’s not all! The United States has set aside an additional $750 Million dollars which will be pouring into the lawless tribal areas of northern Pakistan in an effort to win the “hearts and minds” of the people. This area is home to 3.2 million people and remains a desolate landscape where the Pakistani government has no authority and the smuggling of opium and other contraband is routine. Although there was recently a 10 month old peace accord with militants in the area, on July 14 they ended the peace pact with the government and launched two days of suicide attacks and bombings that killed at least 70 people.The violence comes on the heels of last week's government storming of a radical mosque in the capital, Islamabad, a clash that left more than 100 people dead. These new developments have offered a respite to President and Military Chief Pervez Musharraf who has been under pressure by pro-democracy movements to renounce his army post and allow fair and free balloting.Some now believe the Musharraf may put off elections scheduled for this year and declare a state of emergency.But the respite from political pressures has now placed Musharraf in the line of fire of militants and tensions are quickly heating up to what could become a large scale civil war. In an analysis over the weekend, Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation argued that “if President Musharraf is to succeed in liquidating extremism, he would need U.S. support. U.S. officials should make it clear, that eliminating terrorism requires that the Pakistan army resumes its offensive in the Tribal Areas.”Pakistan has played the fence with both the United States and Islamic militants for years and is now forced to make a decision that will dictate the future of the country.Considered one of the most dangerous places in the world it is home of significant senior al Qaeda officials, possibly including Osama bin Laden and the former Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Recently, Danielle Pletka, Vice-President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute characterized Pakistan as a Nation that “has teetered between quasi-democracy and autocracy for decades, is home to a significant stock of nuclear weapons, has gone to war three times with its nuclear armed neighbor, and has a small but committed minority of extremists bent on killing the Pakistani President and taking over the country.” If the United States continues to ignore Pakistan’s failure to make significant political and social reforms then Pakistan could quite easily dissolve into civil war – making it much easier for militants to cease even more territory, support, weapons and stability.The U.S. must take a harder stance on how Pakistan disburses the financial aid we supply in order to ensure that these reforms are met.This includes insuring that free elections are held this year and that the recommendations set by the 9/11 commission report regarding education reform are instituted. We should as well demand that either Pakistan begins a campaign to rid the militants from its borders or allow U.S. troops to operate within its territory to do so. With the growing militant and civil unrest in Pakistan as well as an uncertain future with Iran that could include U.S. military action at some point, Pakistan remains a vital component in the war on terrorism.Although some experts feel that we should not pressure Pakistan by issuing demands for reform which may decrease Musharrafs ability to wage war, I believe this is a mistake. Success in the region hinges upon empowering the civilian base as well as empowering the army at the same time. We must enter into a long-term, broader working relationship with Pakistan to ensure that it remains an ally or risk the possibility of nuclear armed militants.
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