Ambassador Haqqani spoke in Denver last week and reiterated the point that US support for Pakistan is a key to winning the struggle against militants. Most importantly, he reinforced the call for greater economic cooperation between the two nations and the development of greater economic opportunity for Pakistanis.
“If the United States cannot get the people on its side, then any number of bombings from high altitude are not going to change the ground reality,” Haqqani said. “This is an ideological war, and it is an economic war. You have to create economic opportunities, because somebody who does not have a future is more likely to become a suicide terrorist than somebody who has a chance to earn a college degree.”
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US went on to discuss the country’s fight against militants and its role in the conflict ongoing in neighboring Afghanistan.
“When the U.S. government says they’ve been able to eliminate 13 of the top 20 al-Qaeda leaders in the past 14 months, it hasn’t been without Pakistani support,” he said. He defended the performance of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
He urged the equivalent of the post-World War II Marshall Plan in Europe to create schools and clinics in Pakistan, where U.S. neglect during the 1990s, after mobilizing legions of holy warriors to fight Soviet occupiers, fostered “deep-seated anti-Americanism.”
“I’d rather that people had the opportunity to make boxer shorts for Wal-Mart than IEDs for the Taliban,” Haqqani said.
Yet Taliban forces on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border benefit from a $3 billion opium trade and “close to $100 million a year” sent from outside Pakistan “under the guise of charities.”
Pakistan still needs more military technology including helicopters and night-vision gear that has been delayed by Congress amid concerns that Pakistan could use the weaponry against India, he said. And Predator drones “need to be operated by Pakistanis” or deployed “with Pakistani participation” to minimize resentment.
But it is not only military might that is necessary to defeat the Taliban, said the Ambassador. There must be increased cooperation between the two nations to show that US is a partner with Pakistan and respecting Pakistan’s sovereign rights. Working as equal partners, US can help Pakistan can form a stronger and more prosperous nation and a leader in the region.