Columnist Morton Kondracke wrote in yesterday’s issue of the newspaper Roll Call that Pakistan is a bright spot among the difficulties present in South Asia and the Middle East, and that the US Congress has the opportunity to make a difference in the region by continuing support to Pakistan.
As late as five months ago, Pakistan appeared to be plunging into chaos — menaced by terrorists, mired in political turmoil and economically in crisis.
But, thanks to unexpected political leadership from Pakistan’s democratic government, a big Taliban scare and support from the international community, especially the United States, a lot has turned around.
Dozens of extremist leaders have been killed in U.S. missile strikes, including the Pakistani Taliban’s top leader, Baitullah Mehsud, the man responsible for the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The success of Predator-borne missile strikes bespeaks a high level of military, intelligence and political cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan — and success in penetrating hostile areas along the Afghan border to identify targets.
The US can help Pakistan in its struggle against militants by passing the Kerry-Lugar bill in Congress, says Kondracke:
Specifically, Congress needs finally to pass legislation, sponsored in the Senate by John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), authorizing $1.5 billion a year in long-term economic and security assistance.
More controversially, Congress and the Obama administration need to make it clear that the United States will do what it takes to prevent the Taliban from retaking neighboring Afghanistan.
Final passage of Kerry-Lugar — sponsored in the House by Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) — will authorize a tripling of U.S. assistance to Pakistan and make a statement that the United States is dedicated for the long haul to Pakistan’s social and economic progress.
Pakistan has made great improvement in the fight against militants and extremists, and the government has been working closely with other world leaders to turn around Pakistan’s economy in the midst of global recession. No nation can overcome all these challenges alone, though, and this support from the US would be a boost to the government as it works to establish Pakistan as a leader in the region.