This is a joint post with Wren Elhai and Molly Kinder and first appeared on ForeignPolicy.com’s AfPak Channel blog. Read the report of the Study Group on U.S. Development Strategy in Pakistan here. A response from Alexander Thier, head of USAID’s Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs can be found here.
For nearly two years, the United States has been trying something completely new in Pakistan. In 2009, with President Obama’s backing, Congress passed a bold piece of legislation that committed the United States to support Pakistan’s people and its economy, as opposed to focusing almost exclusively on the country’s military. The United States would try to help Pakistanis consolidate the transition to democracy they won in 2008, and -- for the first time -- it seemed the United States would place an equal emphasis on long-term development and short-term stability in Pakistan.
So far, however, this new approach has not lived up to its potential. During a recent trip to Pakistan, we listened to dozens of Pakistanis in and out of government tell us of their frustrations with the U.S. aid program and American inaction on trade and investment policies (just look at the ongoing debate about lifting tariffs on the Pakistani textile trade with the United States) that would naturally complement aid. Over the past year, a study group of American and Pakistani experts convened by the Center for Global Development have gathered to figure out what’s amiss—and how to put it right. In a report released today, we sum up the problem this way: