Pakistan: ‘Economic Development’ Needed To Fight Taliban

Philip H. Gordon
Philip H. Gordon Former Brookings Expert, Mary and David Boies Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy - Council on Foreign Relations

August 3, 2007

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RFE/RL: You advocate more economic and humanitarian aid for Pakistan. Why?

PHILIP H. GORDON: I think, in the long run, it’s really economic development and modernization that are going to help with the problem of extremism. I think in the United States right now — especially with the talk of Al-Qaeda reorganizing and extremism growing — there’s a temptation to want to deal with these issues with military force. And I think that there is a real risk that that would backfire and alienate the populations of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and I think that in the long run it’s not the right approach.

RFE/RL: The U.S. Congress in late July passed legislation that would tie all U.S. aid to Pakistani efforts against Al-Qaeda and Taliban, and also its effort to promote democracy and reduce poverty and corruption. Do you think that this legislation will have a similar effect to that of the Pressler amendment targeting Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program in 1992, when Pakistan was sanctioned up to its eyeballs?

GORDON: That, of course, was very unpopular in Pakistan and that caused a lot of resentment in Pakistan — and, I might add, didn’t really deal with the problem because Pakistan pursued its nuclear program anyway. And I worry that this could have a similar effect in alienating the Pakistani population, in impeding Pakistan’s development, and yet not actually getting the government to take the measures that the United States wants it to do.

RFE/RL: How do you respond to other experts who point to the dismal performance that Musharraf has shown in curbing Al-Qaeda and Taliban?

GORDON: I agree with those critics who say that Pakistani action in those areas has been mixed. I think, on one hand, there is a sign that Pakistan is helping — a number of the so-called high-value detainees that the United States has captured have been captured in Pakistan [and] Pakistan has deployed soldiers and lost some of them in battles with extremists. So there is some sign that Pakistan is helping. There are also signs that it is not, and that Taliban from Afghanistan get refuge in Pakistan and that Pakistan’s efforts are not 100 percent. But the question is whether cutting off American aid to Pakistan would lead to the sort of whole-hearted successful effort that the United States, understandably, would like to see. I’m not sure that it would, and I fear that it could backfire.

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