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Changing the direction of U.S.-Pakistan relations

Op-Ed

Until now, the United States has treated Pakistan as an instrument for fighting or spying on territory around Pakistan. That has to change.

September 19, 2011|By George Perkovich

Finally, Washington would serve American and Pakistani interests by acknowledging that well-intentioned civilian development and assistance programs — Congress authorized $7.5 billion for these purposes in 2009 — are not working as intended. There is enough money, but there are so many restrictions on it, and program administrators are rotated in and out of Pakistan so frequently, that it makes the British empire look positively sensitive and innovative by comparison. The U.S. should stop — temporarily — making new project commitments in order to give itself time to work with multinational organizations and Pakistani civil society groups, business leaders and officials with grass-roots knowledge to find a way to fund programs that actually alleviate Pakistan's internal crises.

Pakistan's security establishment will remain an impediment to healing the many internal injustices and conflicts that have kept the country from realizing the hopes of its founding. But if Washington stops doing harm and makes its support of progressive Pakistanis clearer, there is a chance that Pakistanis can step forward and renew their own country.

George Perkovich is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the author of a forthcoming Carnegie publication, "Stop Enabling Pakistan's Dangerous Dysfunction."

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