Aid comes at a price for 'AfPak' leaders

Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari publicly praised President Obama's new policy for the region, but questions are already being asked about the ability of their governments to control terrorism. Andrew Buncombe and Omar Waraich report

The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan (now yoked together in Washington as AfPak) publicly welcomed the Obama administration's new policy for the region yesterday, but experts warned that the US and its allies faced huge challenges in achieving their aim of neutralising militancy in South Asia.

The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, said he supported the proposal for increased civil and military aid and highlighted a plan for reaching agreements with "moderate" elements of the Taliban. The policy was "better than we were expecting," said Mr Karzai. Pakistan's leader, Asif Ali Zardari, also backed the new strategy, which will see his country receive up to $7.5bn (£5.2bn) in non-military aid, and vowed it would not be a haven for terrorists.

In a move that will be immediately welcomed by the US, Mr Zardari also sought to ease his country's political uncertainty by saying he supported the return to power of the party of a political rival in the key province of Punjab. The West has been anxious that Pakistan's leaders should not be distracted by the turmoil caused by the ousting last month of the regional government of the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's party. Mr Zardari's announcement represents a significant climbdown; by reaffirming his commitment to democratic reforms, he has opened the way for parliament to claw back the autocratic powers he inherited from his predecessor, General Pervez Musharraf.

Yet the Obama administration's proposals are far from uncontroversial. In Afghanistan, the administration's policy of reaching compromises with Taliban elements, while welcomed by some as realistic and the best way of avoiding even more civilian casualties, will invite criticism from those who say the loss of hundreds of Western troops has been in vain. Even as the proposal was being drafted, it proved to be the most contentious of the plans.

In Pakistan, meanwhile, Mr Obama's undertaking to pursue terrorist targets "one way or another" has been seen as nothing less than a warning that the contentious use of drone missiles could be extended, possibly into Baluchistan province, which is believed to be the base of many senior militants. Such a move, which would increase anti-American feeling, would be very damaging for the civilian government. Mr Zardari yesterday repeated an undertaking that Pakistan will "not allow anyone to violate our sovereignty".

Ayesha Siddiqa, an author and military analyst, said: "At this point the Americans feel that paying off Pakistan has not helped. So it's time to use the other tactic, and raise the cost for Pakistan of non-cooperation."

What is certainly clear is that the US now considers the futures of AfPak inextricably linked in the same way that Pakistan and India used to be joined. Easing the violence in Afghanistan will be possible, Washington believes, only if it can more effectively deal with militants based inside Pakistan, close to the porous Afghan border. "We have a clear and focused goal to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qa'ida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future," Mr Obama, said on Friday.

To that end, the Obama policy will also look to Pakistan to improve conditions in the restive tribal areas, which have long complained about the lack of government investment and resources. Talat Masood, a former general turned analyst, said: "I think it's very positive. If only Pakistan will take the opportunity to take advantage of the economic aid that is now being offered. But of course it depends on how the government is able to utilise these funds. To carry out economic development, they have to be able to secure the tribal areas."

Mr Karzai, considered by his critics to be a tool of the US, has long championed the idea of reconciliation with the Taliban as a means of easing violence. The Bush administration opposed the idea, but Mr Obama acknowleged that in Afghanistan there could be no "peace without reconciliation among former enemies".

The Obama administration's willingness to negotiate with "reconcilable" elements of the Taliban represents a significant break with tradition, and perhaps a tilt towards Islamabad's thinking in the region.

After the attacks of 9/11, General Musharraf embarked on a policy of trying to wean the Taliban away from al-Qai'da. Indeed, in Pakistan several deals with militants are already in place. Last month, the government agreed an arrangement with militants who had seized control of the Swat Valley to allow the operation of courts using sharia.

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Supply Teachers Required

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of Pay, Excellent CPD : Randstad Educati...

NQT and Experienced Primary Teachers Urgently required

£90 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: NQT and Experienced Primary Teac...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor