The George W Bush administration is preparing to present President-elect Barack Obama with a lengthy, classified study of new approaches it could take to the interlinked insurgencies that threaten Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the option of telling Pakistan’s military that billions of dollars in American military aid will now depend on its success in creating an effective counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency force.
The inclusion of that option — one of many in a three-month study of what has gone wrong in the seven-year war along the Afghan-Pakistan border — amounts to an acknowledgment that roughly $10 billion in military aid provided to Pakistan as “reimbursements” for its efforts to root out militant groups has largely been wasted.
The payments have been the source of increasing criticism from independent review groups, which have concluded that Pakistan diverted much of the money to build up its forces against India.
Revamping the aid to the military is part of a set of options in the report that calls for a new and broadly regional approach to insurgencies that move freely across the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the short term, it calls for continued covert strikes into Pakistani territory from Afghanistan, though the American military has been reluctant to repeat the kind of ground attack that led to an open exchange of fire with Pakistani border forces in September.
“We’ve gone seven long years proclaiming that Pakistan was an ally and that it was doing everything we asked in the war on terror,” said one senior official involved in drafting the report. “And the truth is that $10 billion later, they still don’t have the basic capacity for counterinsurgency operations. What we are telling Obama and his people is that has to be reversed.”
Drafts of the current study say the US has never focused sufficiently on nation-building, on creating jobs, building enough roads and schools and, most important, pushing the Pakistani government to focus on counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency.
It also urges Obama to take a far more regional approach to the problem.
“The Pashtun tribes treat these countries as one territory, and we have to begin to do something similar,” an official said.