Clinton’s Af-Pak Initiative

Taking an apparent break from its militaristic approach, Washington has come up with a civilian strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In its endeavour to win the controversial war against terrorism, the United States seems to be in a fix, as its policies have only bred discontent and chaos in the region. That is why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believes that the time has come to address the issue in its totality, and lay more emphasis on an engagement plan, which should be people-centric rather than government-specific. The move, which comes weeks after President Barack Obama committed 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, is meaningful. How effective the new policy would be is anybody’s guess, given the administration’s tilt towards quick-fix solutions ignoring realities on the ground.

The new strategy, which is self-explanatory, calls for a drastic increase in civilian experts to the region. Drug trade, human trafficking, infrastructure building, cooperation in the fields of agriculture and industry are some of the avenues the US feels like exploring for cementing a new relationship. The other thrust is to expand counter-insurgency assistance to help fight the phenomenon of Taleban regrouping in both the countries. While stabilising Afghanistan and Pakistan has been President Obama’s top priority, the initiative needs to be supplemented with a concrete implementation mechanism, coupled with monitoring and feedback. The challenges in the fields of security and foreign policy can only be addressed when the people of both the countries feel like having a common denominator with the United States aims and objectives in the long run.

This is, however, not a first attempt on the part of policy-makers at the US State Department. A similar plan to funnel in socio-economic aid and assistance to the dispossessed and war-scared people of Afghanistan and Pakistan now rests somewhere in its archives. The announcement that former president George W. Bush made in Islamabad, to build economic processing zones in the restive tribal areas of Pakistan, is yet to see the light of the day. Rather than engaging the people in constructive activities, Washington and its military commanders have embarked on an unending death and destruction on both sides of the Durand Line.

Clinton’s initiative on the civilian front cannot be a success if the prevalent military strategy is not amended. The US obsession to bombard civilian areas with the help of drones has to come to an end. Its so-called precision bombing, apparently targeting high value Al Qaeda members, has become a laughing stock owing to poor and faulty intelligence.

Washington, which nurses grievances with both Kabul and Islamabad, and is thrashing about in the dark over its future role and influence in the region, cannot underestimate the option of investing in civilian capacity building. However, such a move should not be seen as an element of colonising the people, after having subjugated them militarily.

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