As US President Barack Obama unveiled his much awaited Afghan-Pak policy,it became clear that for the United States,Afghanistan and Pakistan are now going to be one theatre of operation.
This was acknowledged by a top Obama Administration official who headed his interagency review of the policy.
“Thus far,our policy sees Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries but one theatre of operation for our diplomacy,and one challenge for our overall policy,” Bruce Riedel told reporters after new policy for the region was unveiled.
“The cornerstone of this strategy,I think,is that it’s a regional approach,and for the first time we will treat Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries,but with one challenge,in one region. Our strategy focuses more intensively on Pakistan than in the past,and this is normal because it’s a — it’s a newer problem,” said General James Jones,National Security Advisor,during his interaction with foreign correspondents.
“This calls for more significant increases in US and international support,both economic and military,linked to performance against terror,” he said.
Referring to the announcement made by Obama,Riedel said: “We’re going to engage intensively with the Pakistani government. We have very concrete proposals for increasing economic assistance to Pakistan,proposals that have already been put forward by the Congress. We’re also looking at what we can do on the military side.”
On the Afghanistan side,he said Obama has resourced fully the requirements of the mission — not just on the military side,but on the civilian side,as well. “Now,for the first time,we are providing the kind of civilian support that this mission has always needed,” he said.
However,the proposed support to Pakistan is not going to be what Obama said “a blank check”,he argued. “For the last eight years,Pakistan received billions of dollars in support from the US — much of it was unaccountable; much the Pakistanis don’t even know where it went,” Riedel said acknowledging the failure of the previous administration in this regard.
“As the President indicated in his speech,we’re going to make sure that there is rigorous oversight by an Inspector General’s office. We’re going to work very,very intensively with our Pakistani partners,the democratically elected civilian leadership in Pakistan,to see that we’re moving in the right direction,in the same direction that we want to go,” he argued.
Observing that the US has a long history of legislative- required sanctions on Pakistan,Riedel said: “I think one of the things that we have learned from that history is that we need to be very careful in how we do this,and that we need to work with the Pakistanis and not box ourselves in or box them in.”
Riedel said the White House would work very closely with the Congress on the legislation in this regard. “But we’re going to try on this area,as in every other area,to maintain the adaptability of our strategy,so that we can avoid finding ourselves boxed into a corner,” he said.
Jones said the US recognises that there is a lot of work to do in Pakistan. “But the President really believes that the efforts that we undertake in Pakistan are extremely important and will materially affect,how ultimately Afghanistan turns out and how the region itself turns out,” he said.