Friday, October 3, 2008

Next US leader must revamp Pakistan policy

The next US president must revamp policy toward Pakistan, mixing deft diplomacy, security support and economic aid to help Islamabad defeat a grave threat from extremists, an experts' report said on Thursday.

Pakistan Policy Working Group, a bipartisan group of a about a dozen experts on US-Pakistan relations, said the nuclear-armed Muslim country of 160 million people could pose the "single greatest challenge" for the next US president.

"Washington needs to rethink its entire approach to Pakistan," said the report. "We must be much smarter about how we work with Pakistan, with whom we work, and what sort of assistance we provide," it added. The report said last month's bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad showed that US options were diminishing rapidly and there was no time to lose.

It also warned that increased US missile attacks on targets inside Pakistan, reflecting impatience with Islamabad, are counterproductive.A review of policies toward Pakistan, recipient of $11 billion in mostly military aid from the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, should begin with updating the National Intelligence Estimate on the country to form a strategic plan for all US government agencies, it said.

The 43-page report sets out recommendations for new US policies in the areas of Pakistani domestic politics, counterterrorism and domestic security, regional relationships and US aid to Pakistan.

In the domestic arena, the United States needs to be patient with the new elected government, help build up democratic institutions and support broad reforms, it said. "Just as the US was too slow in gauging the public disaffection with former president Musharraf before the 2008 elections, it must not too quickly lose patience with Pakistan's elected leaders," it said.

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