Wednesday, March 4, 2009

US think tank shows dismal scenario for Pakistan

* Report by independent bipartisan experts says Pakistan may be greatest challenge for Obama * US intelligence experts say Pakistan lacks counter-terrorism strategyBy Sajjad MalikISLAMABAD: A report by an independent bipartisan think tank of US experts on Pakistan – shared with journalists, politicians and analysts in Islamabad on Thursday – depicted a dismal picture of the country, saying Pakistan may be the single greatest challenge for the next American president.The report by the Pakistan Policy Working Group is aimed at offering ideas to the next US president and his administration on managing the critical partnership with Pakistan, and has been titled ‘The Next Chapter’. It says US intelligence experts believe that the next major terrorist attack against the US will originate in Pakistan.No control: “Today, Pakistan lacks both an effective counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency strategy, and the situation in the country is grave and deteriorating,” the report says in its introduction.It says that nuclear-armed Pakistan had virtually no control over a large swath of territory along its Afghanistan border. “Dangerous extremist groups that are intent on attacking the US, such as Al Qaeda, enjoy safe havens in these border areas,” it alleges.The report says that most Pakistanis either blame the problems on Pakistan’s counter-terrorism co-operation with the US or tend to discount the threat faced by the country.Formulating major recommendations for the new government, it asks for commissioning of a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to form a common operating picture within the US government on what Pakistan and other are doing to counter or support militancy.It recommends assigning primary responsibility for co-ordinating and implementing Pakistan-Afghanistan policy to a senior US official with sufficient authority, accountability and institutional capacity.It supports the proposed Biden-Lugar legislation committing $1.5 billion annual non-military spending for Pakistan. “Such assistance must be performance-based and must be accompanied by rigorous oversight and accountability. The report also supports enhanced access to Pakistani textiles and early legislation on Reconstruction Opportunity Zones in FATA.The report recommends the new administration exhibit patience with Pakistan’s democratically elected leaders and develop far reaching public democracy programmes to improve the US image and highlight common interests.Sharing the report at the US embassy, Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation Lisa Curtis said that the US needed to bring Pakistan back from the brink of disaster and forge closer ties for mutual benefits.John Gastright of Dyn Corp said that US spent near $12 billion during the Musharraf regime but the money failed to reach the common Pakistanis, which was a mistake. Three quarters of Pakistanis today have negative views about US, he said.Daniel Markey of Council of Foreign Relations said that the major aim of the new administration should be to improve Pakistan-US relations, end global terror and mitigate violence inside Pakistan.The team of working-group members of the report was co-chaired by Kara Bue of the Armitage International and Lisa Curtis, and the report was reviewed and endorsed by former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and former US representative and co-chair of the 9/11 Commission Lee Hamilton. Daily Times

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