At an event co-hosted by the Atlantic Council and International Relief and Development (IRD), Ambassador James Dobbins, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, US Department of State, said the international community’s provision of civilian assistance to Pakistan was a calculated bet on regional stability, economic progress, and long-term development.
Dobbins said that “we are beginning to see the payoff” on this bet, noting that indicators of democratic and civil governance are strengthening and that the country’s “security dilemma is changing subtly,” moving away from the focus on domestic terrorism toward regional security, including relationships with Afghanistan and India. The country is also pinning its future on sustained economic growth, especially in the energy sector, Dobbins said.
Larry Sampler, assistant to the administrator, Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, US Agency for International Development, discussed the importance of continued support for the newly elected government, saying that aid can help encourage the perception that government has the capacity to listen and respond to the population, especially in fragile and undeserved areas of the country such as FATA and PKP. Sample suggested that continued progress will require political will, not just from Pakistan but from the United States as well.
“I think everyone agrees that engagement with Pakistan is much better, on both the civilian and military sides,” Sampler said, adding that development assistance is one way to foster and sustain engagement.
In the panel discussion that followed, Center for Global Development President Nancy Birdsall; National Security Council Director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs Tamanna Salikuddin; and IRD Stability and Governance Practice Senior Program Officer John Sampson outlined their views on how the new Pakistan government could strengthen stability as well as the role foreign assistance might play in the process. The discussion was moderated by Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center Director Shuja Nawaz. The panelists recommendations, among others, included:
- Extending the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act for five years as the basis for an ongoing development dialogue between the US and Pakistan.
- Focusing on policy issues such as tax policy and international investment rather than project-focused assistance.
- Encouraging the private sector to play a larger role in jumpstarting economic growth and investment in infrastructure.
- Supporting resiliency against instability by keeping a focus on community-led solutions and transparent systems and processes that can deliver essential services to vulnerable populations.
- Maintaining realistic expectations about the US-Pakistan relationship and using U.S. assistance to support a shared, long-term vision for Pakistan rather a reward or punishment for short-term behavior.
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