The Cable

Clinton to announce new aid to Pakistan Thursday

When the international community convenes Thursday in New York to organize a relief fund for Pakistan, expect key officials from the United States and other countries to argue that failing to support Pakistan in its time of need yields ground in the war against Islamic extremists. The Obama administration has already pledged $90 million in ...

When the international community convenes Thursday in New York to organize a relief fund for Pakistan, expect key officials from the United States and other countries to argue that failing to support Pakistan in its time of need yields ground in the war against Islamic extremists.

The Obama administration has already pledged $90 million in relief funds, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce additional support Thursday, according to Mark Ward, the acting director for USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.

Meanwhile, in the Swat Valley, the epicenter of the devastating floods that have affected as many as 20 million Pakistanis, militant groups are competing with the government and the international community, demonizing international aid efforts, and even using the crisis as a chance to foment new violence, including coordinated attacks by militants against Pakistani police stations near the Afghan border.

The Pakistani civilian leadership hasn’t helped itself.

Reports of the lack of international assistance in some of the devastated areas highlight ordinary Pakistanis’ frustration with their government, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, who spent the first few days of the crisis in Europe, including a widely criticized sojourn at his family’s chateau in France. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that U.S. government officials have been deeply frustrated with Zardari’s response to the crisis.

Over the last year and a half, the Obama administration has sought to strengthen the Zardari government’s legitimacy as a means toward improving overall U.S.-Pakistan relations, but also to bolster the fight against the Taliban and other militant groups that operate in Pakistan’s northern regions — the very same regions hit hardest by the floods.

The flood crisis and its aftereffects "have the potential to further weaken an already weak Pakistani state," a new report by the Congressional Research Service warns. "Such a scenario would make it more difficult to achieve the U.S. goal of neutralizing anti-Western terrorists in Pakistan."

The report spells out several ways the flood could exacerbate security problems in Pakistan, such as by expanding ungoverned areas, creating "dispossessed" Pakistanis that could serve as a new recruiting base for militant groups, or even by sowing confusion that could lead to open conflict with India.

When Clinton, Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi kick off tomorrow’s event, they will implore the international community to do more to show solidarity with the Pakistani people, whose situation is only getting worse by the day.

One of the arguments they will make is that the international community must compete with organizations with ties to the militants, such as the Jamaat ud-Dawah (JUD), an Islamist charity organization banned by the U.N. The JUD has reportedly been active in flood-relief efforts.

"We’re aware of the reports related to organizations such as JUD," said Frank Ruggiero, Holbrooke’s new chief deputy. "We think that the support that the international community can provide is on such a scale beyond what can be provided by organizations such as that."

The stated short term-need, according to the U.N., is $450 million, but that doesn’t cover long term relief and reconstruction. Countries including France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, and Estonia have each pledged less than $1 million so far. Even Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries on Earth, has pledged a full $1 million. Overall, the U.N. has received pledges for less than half of the $450 million total.

"As the scale of this flood is so dramatic, the United States continues to call on the international community to provide the people of Pakistan with the support it needs at this dire time," said Ruggiero. "This crisis will get worse before it gets better.  This is also a long-term crisis and it affects the vast majority of Pakistan."

Eric Schwartz, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, said that the multitude of humanitarian crises around the world has been rising and many countries may simply be wary of contributing to yet another massive relief effort.

"Donor fatigue is an issue, but I think it’s not an issue for the United States," he said. "There’s no question that the world economic situation, as a general matter, has had an impact on the ability of many governments around the world to give, and give generously. It just makes it all the more important that the United States of America plays such a strong leadership role on international humanitarian response."

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visited the flood area Monday and criticized the pace of the international funding assistance.

"I am here also to urge the world community to speed up their assistance to Pakistan," he said. "Waves of flood must be met with waves of support from the world."

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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