Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pakistan at the Cross-roads

The Middle East has not spared itself of global scrutiny amid a flurry of challenges and milestones, and as foreign assistance continues to flow in and out of this development hotspot.

The Afghan economy continues to suffer from the shackles of organized drug trade and deeply-ingrained corruption, and this week, President Hamid Karzai shut down 172 international and national NGOs. In Pakistan, the looming threat of a vicious comeback of Taliban forces is stirring worldwide alarm.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is visiting Washington to discuss U.S. funding for and military presence in the Mideast country, as well as its track record on good governance, agriculture, poverty reduction and and women’s welfare. Japan, meanwhile, reportedly increased its Afghanistan aid budget four-fold, focusing on infrastructure and social issues.

Amid the looming Taliban threat, Republican Sen. Dick Lugar asserted in an op-ed piece that the U.S.-Pakistan cooperation is "more important than ever". The U.S. announced it was willing to provide additional funding and purchase more combat facilities to support Pakistan’s counter-insurgency strategy. But the debate continues about how to best manage USD7.5 billion worth in U.S. assistance for Pakistan.
While some places in the Middle East continue to attract foreign assistance, emerging donors such as Kuwait and the Islamic Development Bank are funding development projects within and outside the Middle East, including Pakistan.
The U.S. is putting more pressure on Pakistan to fight insurgents; it is willing to provide additional aid if necessary, according to two Obama administration officials. The U.S. also revealed the possible connection of the recent failed car bombing in New York to the Pakistani Taliban and Kashmiri Islamist group. The U.S. considers the country’s battle against militants as crucial to its fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Author Ahmed Rashid warns that the Taliban forces are back in the seven tribal agencies that make up the federal administered tribal areas, and in Swat. The issue has again caught the attention of the international community following the attempted car bomb attack in New York. According to Rashid, there is a need to design a coherent counter-insurgency strategy or doctrine to prevent the current security situation from worsening.
Despite being a conflict-affected area, USAID has taken the initiative to promote the district of Swat as a major tourist attraction. As such, USAID has partnered with Sarhad Tourism Corporation, Gandhara Art & Culture Association, and Aik Hunar Aik Nagar to participate in the Dawn News International “Travel & Tourism Show” on May 10 to raise public awareness of the valley. Swat valley is famous for its handicrafts and has been an ideal destination for adventure seekers.

The U.S. is strengthening its military relationship with Pakistan as the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue’s bilateral security assistance working group met in Rawalpindi on May 5. The meeting addressed the status of military facilities delivered in Pakistan to upgrade its counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operational capacity.

Source: Global Development Briefing

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