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.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker