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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Co...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager - Part Time

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital agency based in Ashford, Ke...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Marketing Executive

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent