American Senator Dick Lugar has written that the Faisal Shahzad case will not cause America to turn its back on Pakistan. Actually, it will only make the partnership stronger. Writing for Foreign Policy, US Senator Dick Lugar says that “Close cooperation between our two nations is more important than ever.”
Just before midnight on Monday, a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan was arrested for allegedly driving a car bomb into New York’s Times Square in what is believed to have been an attempted act of terrorism. The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, spent time in his homeland earlier this year, and there are reports that Pakistani officials have made several arrests in connection with the case.
This occurs at a time when Pakistan’s military has engaged in increasingly sophisticated counterinsurgency operations in Taliban-addled regions and U.S.-Pakistani cooperation in intelligence operations has helped neutralize several high-level Taliban and al Qaeda militants. But the failed attack in Times Square re-enforces the need for our governments also to work together to combat lower-level extremism lurking within local communities in both our countries. Close cooperation between our two nations is more important than ever.
It was to help undergird such cooperation that President Barack Obama last year signed the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act authorizing $7.5 billion in assistance over five years. This non-military aid package is intended to help reverse Pakistan’s converging crises of a growing al Qaeda sanctuary, an expanding Taliban insurgency, political brinkmanship, and a failing economy. These conditions were intensifying turmoil and violence in the country, helping to incubate extremism and putting in question the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal, as well as our own domestic security.
Key political decisions by leaders on both sides have helped strengthen the partnership between Pakistan and the United States. Now comes the hard part — making this partnership work. While important progress has been made, I am concerned that more must be done on both sides to establish transparent and responsive mechanisms to implement U.S. economic and security assistance.
The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act signaled a new dynamic between our countries that shifted the relationship from a strictly security-oriented focus. Although certain aspects of the bill initially created an unfortunate backlash of America-bashing in Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the issue forthrightly and unapologetically during her visit in October and helped deflate the controversy. Such straight talk should be the rule as our countries work to quell the extremism that threatens the safety of our citizens.
It is also important to manage expectations. Anti-Americanism runs deep in Pakistan. If we are to break the cycle of high hopes and disappointments that has characterized the relationship, we, with our Pakistani partners, must set goals that are clear and achievable. We must be determined, in the face of inevitable setbacks, in demonstrating our commitment to democracy, pluralism, economic growth, and the fight against extremism.
On the American side, the responsibility right now for delivering the resources throughout all of Pakistan has fallen upon our embassy team in Islamabad, which is working ably to cope. We need to beef up our consulates and improve our capacity to implement sustainable, consequential projects. Predictably, the embassy is under pressure — from both sides — to show quick results. But expecting a sudden gusher of money is both unrealistic and unwise, for it would undercut the long-term development aims of the legislation.
On the Pakistani side, the top leaders must be consistent and vocal in their commitment to use our funds to confront poverty and extremism, and that must be matched by the day-to-day actions of politicians and the bureaucracy. Cooperation with U.S. officials on the Times Square terrorist case has apparently been good so far, but much more may be needed as the investigation proceeds. In the past, things haven’t always gone smoothly. Pakistani bureaucrats have sat on official visa applications by American diplomats and other U.S. personnel and have held up land acquisitions needed by the State Department. A visa for a key accountant for Coalition Support Funds was delayed for weeks even while Pakistan was complaining about the slow payments to its military.
Such bureaucratic obstacles, I believe, point to the challenges that lie ahead. The government must unite in the goal of using this assistance to create a stronger democracy and governance structure and to build a better foundation for economic growth. Political factions must end the practice of viewing programs and spending proposals as simply threats or opportunities in ongoing squabbles with their rivals.
I encourage Pakistan’s leaders to use the promise of the Enhanced Partnership Act to unite the government and the country around a set of national objectives and to push for principled compromises on contentious issues so that all sides can go forward together. This will require hard and sustained effort, but without it, Congress and the American people are unlikely to maintain their support for continued in-depth engagement.
Dick Lugar is a Republican senator from Indiana and the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.