U.S. to offer more support to Pakistan

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 8, 2011; 12:00 AM

The Obama administration has decided to offer Pakistan more military, intelligence and economic support, and to intensify U.S. efforts to forge a regional peace, despite ongoing frustration that Pakistani officials are not doing enough to combat terrorist groups in the country's tribal areas, officials said.

The decision to double down on Pakistan represents the administration's attempt to call the bluff of Pakistani officials who have long complained that the United States has failed to understand their security priorities or provide adequate support.

That message will be delivered by Vice President Biden, who plans to travel to Pakistan next week for meetings with military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and top government leaders. Biden will challenge the Pakistanis to articulate their long-term strategy for the region and indicate exactly what assistance is needed for them to move against Taliban sanctuaries in areas bordering Afghanistan.

The strategy, determined in last month's White House Afghanistan war review, amounts to an intensifying of existing efforts to overcome widespread suspicion and anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, and build trust and stability.

President Obama and his top national security aides rejected proposals, made by some military commanders and intelligence officials who have lost patience with Pakistan, to allow U.S. ground forces to conduct targeted raids against insurgent safe havens, officials said. They concluded that the United States can ill afford to threaten or further alienate a precarious, nuclear-armed country whose cooperation is essential to the administration on several fronts.

The conclusions were referred to in a publicly released, five-page summary of the review as unspecified policy "adjustments." Several administration officials said that the classified review identified areas where stronger effort was needed rather than specific new programs.

The review resolved to "look hard" at what more could be done to improve economic stability, particularly on tax policy and Pakistan's relations with international financial institutions. It directed administration and Pentagon officials to "make sure that our sizeable military assistance programs are properly tailored to what the Pakistanis need, and are targeted on units that will generate the most benefit" for U.S. objectives, said one senior administration official who participated in the review and was authorized to discuss it on condition of anonymity.

Pakistan has complained in the past that promised U.S. aid, currently projected to total more than $3 billion in 2011, has been slow to arrive and that requests for helicopters and other military equipment have remained unfulfilled.

Beginning with Biden's visit, the time may be ripe for a frank exchange of views and priorities between the two sides, another administration official said. The Pakistanis "understand that Afghanistan-Pakistan has become the single most important foreign policy issue to the United States, and their cachet has gone up." But they also realize that they may have reached the point of maximum leverage, this official said, "and things about their region are going to change one way or the other" in the near future, as Congress and the American public grow increasingly disillusioned with the war and a timeline for military withdrawal is set.

"Something is going to give," he said. "There is going to be an end-game scenario and they're trying to guess where we're heading."

On intelligence, the administration plans to address Pakistan's complaints that the Americans have not established enough outposts on the Afghan side of the border to stop insurgent infiltration, while pressing the Pakistanis to allow U.S. and Afghan officials to staff border coordination centers inside Pakistan itself.

The intelligence coordination is part of an effort to build political, trade and security links between Pakistan and Afghanistan as a way of assuaging Pakistan's fears that India, its traditional adversary, is building its own influence in Afghanistan. "We think there's a lot of room for improvement on that front," the senior official said.

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