US to ‘expand Pakistan assistance’

Increased military, intelligence and economic support to be aimed at overcoming ally’s misgivings, US daily says.

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Deadly drone attacks blamed on the CIA are believed to be one major source of anti-Americanism [GALLO/GETTY]

The US has decided to offer more military, intelligence and economic support to Pakistan, in response to complaints from government officials there that the US government does not understand Pakistani strategic priorities, the Washington Post reports.

The increase in aid comes despite ongoing US frustration over Pakistan delaying a ground offensive against suspected militant hideouts in North Waziristan.

The plan to increase assistance was part of last month’s Afghanistan war review carried out by the White House.

Joe Biden, the US vice-president, plans to travel to Pakistan next week for meetings with General Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani army chief, and high-level government leaders. It is expected that he will consult Pakistani officials regarding the concrete details of the increased assistance during that visit.

Biden will ask Pakistani officials to articulate their long-term strategy for the region, and to indicate precisely what assistance would be needed for them to move against suspected Taliban sanctuaries in the area bordering Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported.

A publically released five-page summary of the Afghanistan war review refered only to unspecified policy “adjustments” vis-a-vis Pakistan.

Anti-American sentiment

Several administration officials said that the classified review identified areas where stronger efforts were required, rather than specific new initiatives. The US will be attempting to intensify efforts to overcome widespread suspicion and anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

Barack Obama, the US president, and his national security aides also rejected proposals made by some military commanders and intelligence officials to authorise US ground forces to conduct targeted raids on Pakistani soil, officials said.

The review resolved to “look hard” at what measures could be taken to improve economic stability, particularly on tax policy and Pakistan’s relationship with, and recent reliance on, international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.

It directed administration and Pentagon officials to “make sure that our sizeable military assistance programs are properly tailored to what the Pakistanis need, and are targeted on units that will generate the most benefit” for US objectives, a senior administration official who participated in the review and was authorised to speak about it on condition of anonymity.

The review concluded that the US cannot afford to further alienate Pakistan, a crucial ally in efforts to target fighters in Afghanistan and to shut down militant sanctuaries.

The official who spoke to the Washington Post also said that there was an understanding that a shift in focus from a classic “clear, hold and build” model of military operations could be replaced with a combination of political, military, counterterrorism and intelligence operations.

North Waziristan operation

Operations by the Pakistani military have pushed fighters into the North Waziristan agency, but no large-scale ground operation has so far been ordered in that area.

Kayani has previously said that his forces are overstretched, but that the question regarding a North Waziristan operation was one of when, not if.

In the meantime, an increasing campaign of drone attacks have targeted the suspected Taliban targets in the area. The CIA does not normally confirm drone operations, but it is the only organisation operating such aircraft in that area.

Regarding Pakistan, the official speaking to the Washington Post said that the US administration realised that US policy makers had to “try to look at this through [Pakistan’s] lens. Not because we accept it wholesale, but because their actions are going to continue to be driven by their perspective”.

The US is already projected to provide approximately $3bn in aid to Pakistan, but officials in Islamabad have complained that it is slow to arrive, and that specific military requests (such as for additional helicopters) have not been fulfilled.

Source: News Agencies