Thursday, April 9, 2009

Can US Afghan War Remake Pakistan?

The $663 billion US defense budget for 2010 announced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates emphasizes higher spending on counterinsurgency weapon systems, and cuts back on expensive conventional weapon systems. For example, there is a huge increase in the budget for predator class armed drones, helicopter gunships, surveillance, cyber warfare and special (commando) operations. At the same time, it envisions deep cuts in spending on the expensive F22 Raptor stealth fighter, large navy ships and anti-missile defense shield.

Here is a quick summary of winners and losers in the 2010 defense budget:

Key Winners:

1. Intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR): budget to be increased by 2 billion dollars.

2. Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV): Fielding and sustaining 50 Predator-class UAVs.

3. Army aviation forces: recruiting and training of additional Army helicopter crews and increase the budget by 500 million dollars.

4. Special forces: increasing special operation personnel by more than 2,800 and buying more aircraft for the special forces.

5. F-35 fighters: Gates plans to buy more F-35 fighters in fiscal year 2010, raising the F-35 budget from 6.8 billion U.S. dollars to 11.2 billion dollars. The proposal is to double the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters the Pentagon buys next year -- to 30 from 14 in 2009. The F-35 is a cheaper, more multipurpose plane but it can't begin to compete with the F-22 as a fighter jet.

6. Littoral Combat Ships (LCS): Gates proposes to increase the purchase of LCS, seen as crucial to counterinsurgency operations in coastal regions and to improve inter-theater lift capacity.

7. F/A-18 fighter jets: Gates plans to buy 31 more F/A-18 fighter jets in fiscal year 2010.

8. Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV): increasing the charter of Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) ships from two to four until the Pentagon's own production program begins deliveries in 2011.

Major Losers:

1. F-22 Raptor fighter jets: Gates said the Defense Department would complete its contract for 183 F-22 fighters and add four more, bringing the total to 187, before stopping the purchases.

2. VH-71 presidential helicopters: Gates said he plans to terminate the program, which had nearly doubled in cost to over US $ 13 billion and was six years behind schedule.

3. Transformation Satellite Communication System: Gates plans to cancel the program and buy two more Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites instead.

4. CG-X next generation cruiser: Gates plans to scrap the program for now, which was initially planned to be based on the DDG-1000 design.

5. Aircraft carriers: Gates also envisions to reduce the number of aircraft carriers from 11 to 10 after 2040.

6. Future Combat Systems (FCS): Gates will restructure the Army's modernization program and cut costs.

7. Missile defense: Gates will cut annual funding for missile defense by $1.4 billion. The losers include the Airborne Laser, designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in the boost phase, and additional interceptors planned for the ground-based system in Alaska.

Combat Search and Rescue X (CSAR-X) helicopter program: Gates plans to cancel the 15-billion-dollar program to build new search and rescue helicopters.

8. Amphibious ship and sea-basing programs: Programs such as the 11th Landing Platform Dock (LPD) ship and the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) SHIP will be delayed.

Gates characterized the budget shift as tailored to face the challenges of America at war with a host of players, many of them stateless and highly mobile, as opposed to the Cold War approach that long dominated the Pentagon's view of planning.

Gates acknowledged that his decisions would invite a lot of strong reaction.

"There's no question that a lot of these decisions will be controversial," he said at a press conference on Monday where he outlined his budget proposal. "My hope is that, as we have tried to do here in this building (Pentagon), the members of Congress will rise above parochial interests and consider what is in the best interest of the nation as a whole."

Going by the history of defense budget process, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are more interested in funneling money to their home states than in spending dollars most effectively. Democrats and Republicans both help themselves and their constituents' short-term interests while criticizing the executive branch for failing to make tough choices.

The announced US defense budget for 2010 is nearly $700 billion (more than half of the trillion dollars spent on defense by the entire world) while the total aid for the developing countries from all the rich countries is only about $60 billion, including about $20 billion from the United States, accounting for less than 1% of US annual budget.

Here are some facts about the US foreign aid program:

1. Less than half of aid from the United States goes to the poorest countries.

2. The largest recipients are strategic allies such as Egypt, Israel, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

3. Israel is the richest country to receive U.S. assistance ($77 per Israeli compared to $3 per person in poor countries).

4. Even after the planned tripling of the US aid to Pakistan, it still amounts to less than $8 per Pakistani.

The planned $1.5 billion annual aid to Pakistan will be just over 1 percent of the $130 billion US budget for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Professor Anatol Lieven of London's King's College recently put it, "the stabilization and development of this country (Pakistan) is not merely an aspect of the war in Afghanistan, but a vital US interest in itself. Indeed, Pakistan in the long term is far more important than Afghanistan. The second is that changing Pakistani opinions will mean changing Pakistani society, and that is a project that will require massive, sustained and consistent aid over a generation." The professor adds, "Eight dollars per head is not going to transform anything much in the country. More over, the US statement emphasizes that the aid will be made conditional on Pakistan’s help to the US against the Taliban. This is a recipe for constant hold-ups, congressional blockages and the wrecking of any consistent, long-term programs."

The process of piling on all sorts of conditions by various interest groups and Indian lobbyists in Washington has already started as the aid to Pakistan bill comes up for debate in US Congress. According to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, the first major condition for aid requires Pakistan to undertake not to support any person or group involved in activities meant to hurt India and to allow US investigators access to individuals suspected of engaging in nuclear proliferation if it wants to qualify for a threefold increase in US economic assistance. This is probably just one of many conditions that Pakistanis will see as an insult to and assault on the nation's sovereignty.

With Pakistan's growing population and rising expectations of its young people, it appears to me that the radical Islam is now spreading beyond its traditional home in NWFP and FATA to Pakistan's heartland of Punjab. It is also clear that the new generation of Pakistanis do not want to accept life under a feudal or tribal system that denies them basic human dignity. In the absence of significant economic growth (even the phenomenal 8% growth roughly equals 2.5m jobs), not enough jobs are being created for 3 million young people ready to join the work force each year, resulting in growing availability of recruits for terror outfits who pay them fairly well by local standards. According to Rand corporation estimates, the Taliban pay about $150 a month to each fighter, much higher than the $100 a month paid by the governments in the region. This fact has been amply illustrated by recent growth of the Punjabi Taliban who have been found recruited by terrorist groups for suicide bombings and violence within and outside Pakistan.

By adding more American UAVs and US troop reinforcements in Afghanistan, the commitment of significantly more money for greater firepower will remake neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan. On the contrary, it is certain to have major long-term negative repercussions for Afghanistan, Pakistan and the American interests in the region. At the very least, it is natural to expect more fighting and mounting American and civilian casualties during this year and the next few years, unless saner minds prevail and US changes course in favor of more political dialog and much greater use of soft power in the region.

Here's a video clip of Secretary Gates announcing his defense budget priorities:

Related Links:

Obama Seeks $ 663 billion for 2010 Defense

Pakistan's Choice: Globalization or Talibanization

Insights Into a Suicide Bombing in Pakistan

Feudal Punjab Fertile For Terrorism

Shaukat Aziz's Economic Legacy

Valuing Life in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Pakistan's Defense Industry


Anonymous said...

As the people so the country. Short sightedness is the disease of pakistan. For the last 60 years, it had wasted its precious economic resource in creating hatred toward india rather than in creating infrastructure for growth.

In the short run the taliban could pay 150usd per month for the soliders. This is possible only till they are not the ruler and they can plunder the government and people.

Pakistan / tabila one majore mistake is that they are not understanding that they donot have oil like iran or iraq to sustain.

Presuming in six months time, taliban is the ruler where will they get funds to pay. Then the starting of another afghanistan. Sow poverty, reap poverty and distribute poverty. To add to its troubel there will be international embargo from their earlier friend USA.

Destiny is all powerfull. who knows what is in store as no body would have ever thought that american can be in economic chaos few years back .

Anwar said...

So used to handouts, PK is still hoping to get some money from US and sink even deeper in the hole... If the ruling class sets up its capital in Bannu, Dir, Swat or any place in Baluchistan, only then will they understand the gravity of the situation.

Anonymous said...


There is no concern from anyside. Politicians wants to make money in the name of democracy. USA wants to fiddle around afghan using pakistan for its ego trip. Army wants a retribution with india for bangladesh. People are fed and want immediate justice which is being handed over by taliban.

What is a country ? A country is people and only people. If the people are not open to see their own mistakes and blame others nothing is going to happen as the inherent weakness will not go out.

Intellectuals including this site wants to project to the whole world that all is fine with pakistan and the problem is only in india. I find comments that its is usa/israel and india which is fiddling with pakistan.

Probably usa / israel might be right but not india as it has its own set of problems and god grace the past history was that the india was focusing its energy more on developement rather than sowing seeds of hatred for anybody.

Immediately there will be quoting of varun / bjp / gujarat / orissa. Pls see this as a perentage to the overall india. Pls see the influence of fundamentalist in pakistan to the over all area.

India is not looking out for any aid. Rather america is looking out for india as a market to dump its stupid nuclear reactors for which all the politicans of india has already been sold out. When usa is not doing any nuclear reactor after 1970 why to india ???????????????? Till such time that has to happen USA will love india.

Saleem said...

Here's an excerpt from an article by David Ignatius in today's Washington Post:

"We are all Taliban," one young man said -- meaning that people in his region support the cause, if not the terrorist tactics. He explained that the insurgency is spreading in Pakistan, not because of proselytizing by leaders such as Baitullah Mehsud but because of popular anger. For every militant killed by a U.S. Predator drone, he says, 10 more will join the insurgent cause.

Anonymous said...


I think saleem could be a good sample which you have not seen on your modern muslim youth.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the anonymous who said "Saleem could be a good example of modern muslim youth"
While there are good number of muslims who understand the gravity of crisis islam in general is in and pakistan in particular,Saleem represents a excellent example of why taliban is growing and only growing in Pakistan.You do not need any enemy to destroy our nation-here we have enough saleems.I may have many times written this but again- every time a moderate supports a taliban at any level -it is inexcusable and equal to terrorism. Hypocrisy combined with high levels of hatred are classic hallmarks of Pakistan islamic establishment. No wonder we see so many muslim youth who live in denial and refuse to see that the real problem is that the citizens of our nation are responsible for 90 percent of the nations problems instead of blaming west or India .Blaming nonstop the nonmuslim world is not going to get results anyday!!! Again one need not to see any dictionary for the meaning of hypocrisy and religious fanatism -come to the great pakistan!!!

Riaz Haq said...

Anon & Anon:

I believe Saleem is merely reporting what the Washington Post Columnist David Ignatius about Holbrooke/Mullen meeting at the US Embassy in Islamabad during their recent trip to the region.

It is important to understand what motivates the Taliban if you want to deal with them.

Riaz Haq said...

According to a PBS news report, the UNODC estimates that the Taliban earned $90 million to $160 million per year from taxing the production and smuggling of opium and heroin between 2005 and 2009, as much as double the amount they earned while in power nearly a decade ago, reported the Agence France-Presse.

"The Taliban's direct involvement in the opium trade allows them to fund a war machine that is becoming technologically more complex and increasingly widespread," Antonio Maria Costa said.

He called the Afghanistan-Pakistan border "the world's largest free-trade zone in anything and everything that is illicit -- drugs of course, but also weapons, bomb-making equipment, chemical precursors, drug money, even people and migrants."

Less than 2 percent of the opium and heroin is seized by authorities before it leaves Afghanistan, with 40 percent of the heroin trafficked out of the country through Pakistan, 30 percent into Iran and about 25 percent through Central Asia, Reuters reported.

Central Asian nations intercept just 5 percent of the drugs flowing into their countries, as opposed to 20 percent in Iran and 17 percent in Pakistan, the report says, according to the AFP.

Worldwide, only 20 percent of Afghan opiates are intercepted before reaching addicts, while twice as much cocaine from South America is seized, the study said.

Of the 15.4 million opiate users worldwide, 11.3 million use heroin, while the rest use opium, the thick paste from poppies that is used to make heroin, reported Reuters.

Nearly half the world's heroin is consumed in Europe and Russia, and 42 percent of the world's opium users are in Iran.

Heroin and opium cause up to 100,000 deaths a year. Opiates are also helping spread HIV at an unprecedented rate through users sharing needles, the report said.

It should be recalled that the Taliban had completely eradicated poppy from Afghanistan when they ruled in 2000-2001.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting Op Ed warning Obama about possible loss of Pakistan to Chinese influence:

The United States and Pakistan are becoming increasingly divided over the fight against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. There are strong elements in Pakistani intelligence (ISI) who openly back the Taliban. And there is deep resentment against the United States for drone strikes and attacks against Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. Now the Pakistani government is warming up further to China in the hopes of counterbalancing US strength in the region. Pakistan has already invited China to deploy 11,000 troops in their country. A high-ranking Chinese PLA delegation visited the Pakistan-Afghan border last year. At the same time, Pakistan is pushing for the Chinese to become more heavily involved in Afghanistan and they are actively buying Chinese weapons, aircraft and ships.

The fate of Pakistan matters not just because of how it will affect the fight against radical Islam. It also matters because Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And China is the source of nuclear reactors for Pakistan. Were Pakistan to move into firmly China’s orbit, it would be a big geopolitical win for Beijing. It would give the Chinese a foothold in the Middle East. It would give Pakistan a protector, with China providing cover much as it already does for North Korea. And we all know how loose the leash is for Kim Jung Il. Hello, but do we really want a nuclear-armed Pakistan where we have little or no influence?

The Obama Administration needs to stand tough and firm before we lose Pakistan to China.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting Op Ed warning Obama about possible loss of Pakistan to Chinese influence:

The United States and Pakistan are becoming increasingly divided over the fight against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. There are strong elements in Pakistani intelligence (ISI) who openly back the Taliban. And there is deep resentment against the United States for drone strikes and attacks against Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. Now the Pakistani government is warming up further to China in the hopes of counterbalancing US strength in the region. Pakistan has already invited China to deploy 11,000 troops in their country. A high-ranking Chinese PLA delegation visited the Pakistan-Afghan border last year. At the same time, Pakistan is pushing for the Chinese to become more heavily involved in Afghanistan and they are actively buying Chinese weapons, aircraft and ships.

The fate of Pakistan matters not just because of how it will affect the fight against radical Islam. It also matters because Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And China is the source of nuclear reactors for Pakistan. Were Pakistan to move into firmly China’s orbit, it would be a big geopolitical win for Beijing. It would give the Chinese a foothold in the Middle East. It would give Pakistan a protector, with China providing cover much as it already does for North Korea. And we all know how loose the leash is for Kim Jung Il. Hello, but do we really want a nuclear-armed Pakistan where we have little or no influence?

The Obama Administration needs to stand tough and firm before we lose Pakistan to China.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Atlantic piece on a new better model for delivering US aid in Pakistan:

So while USAID is very good at quickly mobilizing assistance to disaster-afflicted communities, it carries a lot of political baggage -- so much so in places like Pakistan that the U.S might be better off in the long run by downsizing USAID's direct activities there and working through alternative programs.

One good model might be the Rural Support Programmes Network. A sprawling collection of local NGOs, the RSPN was founded by the Agha Khan Network in 1982, and has since become its own, separate program. While the stats about its reach are impressive -- reaching millions of the poorest homes across a vast swath of Pakistan -- what's especially fascinating about RSPN are its methods.

Put simply, RSPN has a different focus than normal aid programs. They emphasize the development of institutions first, and only after that institution is established do they worry about its output or performance. The NGO also heavily invests in the smallest scale of the community, from conceptualization to execution, hiring mostly locals to administer projects. Lastly, they have extraordinarily long project timelines -- sometimes as long as 15 years from start to finish.

Focusing on short term projects is a critical weakness of how the U.S. conducts both warfare and aid. Put simply, you make very different decisions if you have to show progress next year than if you have to show progress next decade. RSPN's longer term focus lets it work on more difficult goals, such as creating institutional capacity that can exist without foreign input. It also means RSPN can build out micro-infrastructure projects like micro-hydro power plants that allow communities to finance their own development -- again, without foreign input.

But the most interesting project RSPN has done in rural Pakistan is a collaborative micro-healthcare insurance system. For very little money -- $3.50 a year in some cases -- poor people can get access to basic medical care (especially maternity care) and assistance if they face hospitalization.

A hyper-local focus on poor, isolated communities has created an unexpected way to provide previously unfathomable sorts of services to the poor at very low cost. The RSPN affiliates who provide microinsurance reach almost a million people, and at very little cost, by employing local community members for expertise, services, and administration.

This structure applies to much of what RSPN does: local projects, run by locals. It is a sharp contrast to even the ostensibly locally focused aid projects administered by U.S. and European NGOs and aid agencies, which focus on establishing a strong presence in capital cities and rely on expensive expatriate administrators. RSPN's local focus carries significant spillover effects in its communities as well: providing opportunities and improving the quality of life makes those communities significantly better off as a consequence. The "brain drain" of young people leaving to find opportunity elsewhere is diminished, and with better health and finances they can develop themselves, without the distorting effect of foreign money.
If anything, what the RSPN shows is that focusing on the small scale, and on the hyper-local, is actually a more effective way of developing isolated, poor, rural communities..

Riaz Haq said...

I think those who advocate using aid as leverage should remember what US Ambassador Anne Patterson wrote back on Sept 23, 2009 in a cable leaked by Wikileaks. She said, "The Pakistani establishment, as we saw in 1998 with nuclear test, does not view assistance-even sizable assistance to their entities-as trade-off for national security".

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg Op Ed titled "No More Bullying Pakistan" written by former State Dept official Vali Nasr:

It took eight months, but the U.S. has finally apologized for killing 24 Pakistani soldiers in a firefight on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

With that, the U.S. military is again able to use routes through Pakistan to supply its forces in Afghanistan without paying exorbitant fees. Plus the threat that Pakistan will bar U.S. drone strikes is for now moot.
However, the main implication of the apology, a triumph of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over both the White House and the Pentagon, is that it ends the experiment of the U.S. trying to bully Pakistan into submission.

The clash in November between U.S. and Pakistani forces was a mess, with miscommunication on both sides but fatalities on only one. Pakistan, still seething over the U.S. breach of its sovereignty in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, closed U.S. military supply routes to Afghanistan when the U.S. initially refused to apologize. The U.S., in turn, froze $700 million in military assistance and shut down all engagement on economic and development issues. In a further deterioration of ties, the Pakistani Parliament voted to ban all U.S. drone attacks from or on Pakistani territory.
No Sympathy

The Pakistanis held firm in their insistence on an apology. Officials at the Pentagon thought the case didn’t merit one. Many had no sympathy for the Pakistanis, whom they regarded as double-dealers for stoking the insurgency in Afghanistan and providing haven to the notorious extremists of the Haqqani Network. The White House feared that an apology would invite Republican criticism. Throughout the crisis, Clinton and her senior staff argued that the U.S. should apologize. She supported re-engaging with Pakistan to protect a critical relationship while also holding Pakistan accountable for fighting the Taliban and other extremists, a point she has raised in each of her conversations with Pakistani leaders.

Clinton’s recommendations were contrary to the policy the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency put in place in early 2011. Relations had soured when the Pakistanis held CIA operative Raymond Davis after he shot two Pakistanis. Frustrated with Pakistan’s foot-dragging on counterterrorism, the two agencies successfully lobbied for a strategy to reduce high-level contacts with Pakistan, shame Pakistan in the news media, and threaten more military and intelligence operations on Pakistani soil like the bin Laden assassination. It was a policy of direct confrontation on all fronts, aimed at bending Pakistan’s will.

It failed. Pakistan stood its ground. Far from changing course, Pakistan reduced cooperation with the U.S. and began to apply its own pressure by threatening to end the drone program, one of the Obama administration’s proudest achievements.
The conclusion: Open conflict with Pakistan was not an option. It was time to roll back the pressure.

The apology is just a first step in repairing ties deeply bruised by the past year’s confrontations. The U.S. should adopt a long-term strategy that would balance U.S. security requirements with Pakistan’s development needs. Managing relations with Pakistan requires a deft policy -- neither the blind coddling of the George W. Bush era nor the blunt pressure of the past year, but a careful balance between pressure and positive engagement. This was Clinton’s strategy from 2009 to 2011, when U.S. security demands were paired with a strategic dialogue that Pakistan coveted. That is still the best strategy for dealing with this prickly ally.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wired magazine story on CIA drone strikes in FATA, Pakistan:

The sixth U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in 2013 has killed at least eight people, as if to announce the impending arrival at the CIA of the drone campaign’s chief advocate.

About 19 miles east of Mirin Shah, the main city in the tribal province of North Waziristan, at least one missile fired by a U.S. Predator or Reaper hit a compound Monday night, killing an alleged, unnamed “foreign tactical trainer” for al-Qaida, according to Pakistani intelligence sources talking to Reuters. Another strike hit the nearby village of Eissu Khel, the Long War Journal reports. In addition to the alleged al-Qaida member, at least seven others were killed and three more were injured.

While the statistical sample is small, it’s starting to sound like the drone campaign over Pakistan is ticking back up after a recent decline. A trio of drone-fired missile strikes between Wednesday and Thursday killed a Pakistani Taliban commander and at least 19 others. Another on Sunday reportedly killed another 17 people, bringing the estimated death toll in this young year to 35.

The U.S. launched 43 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2012, according to the tally kept by the New America Foundation, reflecting a two-year downward trend from 2010′s high of 122 strikes. The average time in between strikes last year was 7.7 days. But eight days into 2013, there have already been six deadly drone strikes, for reasons that remain unclear. It’s worth noting that senior Obama administration officials recently reversed their earlier rhetoric that the U.S. was on the verge of defeating al-Qaida and have returned to describing a protracted shadow campaign.

The drone strikes are likely to play a central role in the Senate confirmation hearing of John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism official whom President Obama nominated Monday to lead the CIA. Brennan, a CIA veteran, has been at the center of the drone campaign in Obama’s first term, even providing Obama with the names of suspected militants marked for a robotic death.

But even if the White House doesn’t know a target’s name, he can still be marked for death. Obama has provided the CIA with authority to kill not only suspected militants, but unknown individuals it believes follow a pattern of militant activity, in what it terms “signature strikes.” The drone program has killed an undisclosed number of civilians. A recent study conducted by Center for Civilians in Conflict and Columbia Law School’s human-rights branch explored how they’ve torn the broader social fabric in tribal Pakistan, creating paranoia that neighbors are informing on each other and traumatizing those who live under the buzz of Predator and Reaper engines. Those traumas are raising alarm bells from some of the U.S.’ most experienced counterterrorists.

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former chief of the Joint Special Operations Command and the NATO war in Afghanistan, has been publicly ambivalent on the drones for months. In July, he told an elite audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival about how a drone spotted an Afghan man “digging in the ground” at night, leading his forces to order a deadly helicopter attack on the presumption the man was burying a bomb. McChrystal later learned that tilling soil at night is a tradition among Afghan farmers, and the dead man posed no threat.

The retired general went further in a Monday interview with Reuters’ David Alexander. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates,” McChrystal said. “They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

Brennan’s nomination is renewing the national discussion about drone strikes. ....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Eurasia Op Ed by Musbashir Akram on multiple dimensions of US-Pak ties:

Nations maintain multiple levels of engagement. And political, defence, regional and strategic engagements are not the only ones that we should be looking at. It is in the interest of better understanding that areas where cooperation is smooth and provide clear benefits should also be given “equal treatment” in the popular media. This is needed so that media audiences can broaden their horizons.

Many Pakistani and American critics conveniently ignore the fact that both countries have a long history of mutual cooperation, such as training teachers during the USAID Teacher Education Project, building the Satpara Dam in Gilgit-Baltistan and providing essential support to each other’s political and regional goals, such as ensuring security, stability and peace in Afghanistan, particularly after the scheduled withdrawal of US and Allied Forces in 2014.

It appears that both countries, the United States and Pakistan, share more things in common than differences. The United States is currently assisting Pakistan in many social and institutional development initiatives from supporting legislative programs to education sector reforms.

The relatively new but welcome commitment of the United States to Pakistan’s democracy, in part through the USAID Pakistan Legislative Strengthening Project, is extremely encouraging. It’s worth noting that, though Pakistan’s democracy is not new, it’s the first time in the country’s history that a democratic government is completing its term instead of a military regime.

At present, Pakistan is the largest recipient of the US Educational Foundation’s Fulbright Program in the world. There are 569 Pakistani students studying in the United States at American universities of their choice. In addition, America recently contributed to upgrading the education system in Pakistan. Eight leading American universities have partnered with their Pakistani counterparts to form distance-learning programs using the internet.

For example, on 3 February 2013, San Jose State University signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Allama Iqbal Open University to improve the educational methodologies for their respective students via a distance learning program. Conducting joint research, updating curricula and faculty exchange programs are just a few aspects of the program. Seven other universities have also benefited from the program.

Earlier, Fatima Jinnah Women’s University, National University of Modern Languages, Quaid-e-Azam University, Shaheed Benazir Women’s University entered into joint partnership with the University of Texas, the University of North Texas, Ball State University, and Southern Methodist University respectively. These MOUs are expected to inject nearly $9 million into Pakistani universities that are now linked with their American counterparts. This exchange will also enable Americans to learn about a country that usually gets negative press, and its people.

At another level, the United States is providing financial assistance to various provincial government programs that educate nearly 3.2 million children in Pakistan. America has helped 16 public universities in Pakistan to build teacher training facilities. Moreover, other educational programs provide higher education scholarships to nearly 12,000 Pakistani students. As Pakistan struggles to improve standards and quality of education, such activities improve the situation of thousands of Pakistani students.

It is extremely heartening that the United States and Pakistan have chosen educational cooperation, among other types, as a key instrument of engagement with each other. This should be institutionalised over the long term as this not only strengthens Pakistan, but also connects Pakistani youth with their American counterparts....