The Pakistan Development Hearing That Could Be

June 22, 2011

Tomorrow, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will convene for a much-anticipated hearing in which secretary of state Hillary Clinton will testify on U.S. goals and progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Coincidentally (?), this hearing will start barely 12 hours after President Obama finishes telling the nation and the world about his plans to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.As we have pointed out (see, e.g. p12 here), in contexts where Afghanistan and Pakistan are considered together, the immediate concerns of Afghanistan—where, after all, the lives of U.S. troops are at stake—usually absorb 90% of the time and energy. The remainder is mostly spent discussing security issues in Pakistan, leaving hardly any time at all to discuss the important long-term challenge of development in Pakistan. Given the timing, it is not likely that tomorrow’s hearing will break the mold.There are plenty of questions that should be debated about the U.S. approach to supporting development in Pakistan and hopefully a few will be addressed tomorrow. However, to really dig into the topic, a hearing wholly dedicated to the goals and progress of the U.S. development program in Pakistan is probably needed. Here are a few of the questions that, if not addressed tomorrow, could form the basis for a Pakistan development hearing. I encourage you to add others in the comments below. Short-term/long-term & non-aid tools:Pakistan matters to the United States because of the extremist threat that can spill across its borders and reach the United States. It matters because of the role Pakistan will play in resolving the conflict in Afghanistan. However, the future of Pakistan also matters to the United States for its own sake. We will be better off if Pakistan, soon to be the fourth most populous country in the world and the most populous Muslim country in the world, can turn the corner to stabilize politically and develop its economy. Especially as the pressures of our process to withdraw forces from Afghanistan begin to mount, how does the United States avoid neglecting our long-term interests in Pakistan? How can the United States demonstrate in the most difficult times in our relationship with Pakistan that we maintain an interest in that country’s long-term success?We provide direct economic aid to support Pakistan’s government and people. Aid is a key component of the U.S. civilian strategy in Pakistan, but cannot be the only component. What are the tools beyond aid the U.S. should be deploying to help spur private sector job creation in Pakistan (and, by extension, our long-term interests in Pakistan’s economic and political stability)?Transparency:In a May 25th, 2010 letter to the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Senator Kerry lamented the fact that a lack of transparency around U.S. civilian assistance to Pakistan was creating "confusion and unnecessary speculation in Pakistan," undercutting the potential for assistance to promote development or improve public perceptions of the United States. In his June 14th response, Ambassador Holbrooke pledged to put more information on the USAID and Embassy websites about U.S. civilian assistance to Pakistan. More than a year later, the U.S. government still does not provide up-to-date information on spending plans or aid disbursements to Pakistan. There is no detailed information on U.S. projects which is publicly available either to the American or Pakistani publics. What steps is the State Department taking to publicly provide this information? Measuring what matters:The State Department Pakistan assistance strategy report (dated December 14, 2009) describes three key objectives of U.S. assistance to Pakistan: to improve the Government of Pakistan's capacity to address the country's most critical infrastructure needs; to help the Pakistani government address basic needs and provide improved economic opportunities in areas most vulnerable to extremism; and to strengthen Pakistan's capacity to pursue economic and political reforms that reinforce stability.  Does the State Department and USAID have a process to regularly collect data and track indicators that would provide a sense of whether these three objectives are being met? If so, when and how will this information be shared publicly (or even privately with members of Congress)? (As of December 31, 2010, even the inspectors general charged with monitoring the assistance program in Pakistan reported that "one year after the launch of the civilian assistance strategy in Pakistan, USAID has not been able to demonstrate measurable progress.")Staffing:One of the impediments to the success of the United States’ civilian strategy is that it has been difficult to adequately staff and train U.S. civilian agencies in Pakistan for the expanded size and scope of the assistance program there. There are many constraints on the ability of U.S. staff in Islamabad and in the provincial capitals to work as effectively as needed. Could we follow the lead of other donors and hire well-respected Pakistanis, experts in their fields, to help lead specific elements of our civilian assistance program?One difficulty, in particular, is the often short duration of staff postings. Has there been any progress made to institute a long-term rotation that would allow U.S. government staff to spend several years developing expertise and relationships in and on Pakistan?


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.