Jul 16, 2007

Checkbook Counterinsurgency


Economic action is considered to be an indispensable aspect to a successful counterinsurgency program.

But you have to make sure that the funding fits as seamlessly as possible with the other two legs of the tripod -- political action and military action.

Simply throwing this kind of money into a situation in which it can potentially be siphoned off by corrupt elements in the Pakistani government and military, or -- more likely -- much less savory types, could work against U.S. interests in the long run.

The fact that the Pakistani people -- due to cultural sensitivities -- will generally not be made aware of the source of the assistance (unlike most U.S. foreign aid programs) is an additional argument against the premise of the endeavor.

The United States plans to pour $750 million of aid into Pakistan's tribal areas over the next five years as part of a "hearts and minds" campaign to win over this lawless region from Qaeda and Taliban militants.

But even before the plan has been fully carried out, documents and officials involved in the planning are warning of the dangers of distributing so much money in an area so hostile that oversight is impossible, even by Pakistan's own government, which faces rising threats from Islamic militants.

Who will be given the aid has quickly become one of the most contentious questions between local officials and American planners concerned that millions might fall into the wrong hands. The local political agents and tribal chiefs in this hinterland on the Afghan border have for years accommodated the very groups the American and Pakistani governments seek to drive out.

A closely scripted visit to the hospital here, used for a pilot project by the United States Agency for International Development, showed the challenges on full display. The one-story hospital here was virtually empty on a recent day.

Local people had no way to get there. Three of the 110 beds were occupied. Two operating tables had not been used in months. Many doctors had left because the pay was too meager and security too precarious, said Dr. Yusuf Shah, the chief surgeon. ...

"Delivering $150 million in aid to the tribal areas could very quickly make a few people rich and do almost nothing to provide opportunity and justice to the region," said Craig Cohen, the author of a recent study of United States-Pakistan relations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Yet it is here in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, as the region is formally called, that Washington is intent on using the development aid as a counterinsurgency tool, according to a draft of the Agency for International Development plan given to The New York Times by an official who worked on it. ...

The hostility to almost anything that smacks of foreign influence is such that money from the modest development agency program, administered by the charity Save the Children at the hospital here, was being delivered anonymously, undercutting any potential public relations benefit for the United States.

"We can't do branding," said Fayyaz Ali Khan, the program manager for Save the Children, in an interview in the city of Peshawar. "Usually we say the aid comes from the American people, but here we can't." ...

A senior American official in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, who would not speak for attribution, defended the plan's goals as necessary and achievable. The official said that "Pakistani firms, consulting organizations and nongovernmental organizations" would be the main deliverers of the assistance.

The official said, referring to the international aid agency, that these would in turn be "managed under USAID direct contracts and grants to American and international organizations."

Mr. Cohen, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was skeptical. Almost every potential recipient of the money was suspect in the eyes of the people it was supposed to help, he said. "The notion that there’s going to be $150 million a year to Pakistani nongovernmental organizations who are going to be out in the open seems na├»ve to me," he said.

2 comments:

Minstrel Boy said...

Pakistan needs jobs. I'd rather see jobs go to Pakistan as part of a textile free trade agreement than to China.

Meatball One said...

Food for thought, MB.