Making things worse in Pakistan

Tom Maguire details problems in Pakistan reported in the New York Times:

Unlike previous no-strings aid packages, Kerry-Lugar makes support conditional on Pakistan's military being subordinated to its elected government, and taking action against militants sheltering on its soil. But by dangling the prospect of a desperately needed aid package on terms deemed intrusive by the military and opposition parties, the legislation may be weakening the very civilian government it hoped to bolster.

The furor over the aid package has left President Asif Ali Zardari increasingly isolated as normally fractious opposition parties unite against its "humiliating" conditions, with even the junior partners in Zardari's ruling coalition expressing misgivings. Public opinion ranges from suspicion to hostility, and the army high command broke with its recent habit of remaining quiet on political matters to issue an ominous statement.

In an effort to slake the Pakistani thirst for American leadership Team Obama nearly drowned the Pakistani civilian government - Heckuva job!

My friend JMHanes, has noticed what others seem to have overlooked, the clumsy diplomacy of Richard Holbrooke, the White house czar dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan and the consequences of his actions:

I don't know if the New York Times covered this story, but in the past couple of weeks, it seems to me that Holbrooke, the premier practitioner of DC c.y.a., has been getting an almost complete pass. A recent article on Afghanistan strategy sessions at the White House, describing numerous comments from other major players, only quoted Holbrooke "aides" not Holbrooke himself. There's only one vague reference in the Times article you link today: "Qureshi met the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke."

You'll find a real assessment of Obama's Afghanistan Czar, in USA Today:

Special representative Richard Holbrooke's bid to rapidly shift U.S. aid from American contractors to local Pakistani organizations will "seriously compromise" the effort to stabilize Pakistan, a U.S. diplomat says in a "dissent channel" message to senior State Department officials. [...]

The problem - according to the memo by C. Stuart Callison, an economist with the U.S. Agency for International Development - is that Holbrooke is canceling successful programs run by U.S. contractors and preparing to bypass them by giving large sums to local organizations with shaky financial track records.

Holbrooke, the top civilian overseeing Obama administration policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, has asked to personally approve every project funding renewal involving U.S. contractors, Callison wrote - and "the disapprovals already received are shockingly counterproductive."

Check out the PDF of Callison's Dissent in all its glory. It's about as scathing as diplomacy gets. The memo was apparently "sensitive" but not classified, and the fact that it has made a public appearance, suggests that folks on the ground in Af/Pak are seriously alarmed.

Maybe it's just me, but lately I've had the sense that there's a perfect storm brewing internationally, and that we will be seeing what happens when an administration goes wobbly on U.S. exceptionalism, from economic instability to foreign policy retreat, and when the concept of U.S. strategic interests is supplanted by myopic pettifoggery.


Tom Maguire details problems in Pakistan reported in the New York Times:

Unlike previous no-strings aid packages, Kerry-Lugar makes support conditional on Pakistan's military being subordinated to its elected government, and taking action against militants sheltering on its soil. But by dangling the prospect of a desperately needed aid package on terms deemed intrusive by the military and opposition parties, the legislation may be weakening the very civilian government it hoped to bolster.

The furor over the aid package has left President Asif Ali Zardari increasingly isolated as normally fractious opposition parties unite against its "humiliating" conditions, with even the junior partners in Zardari's ruling coalition expressing misgivings. Public opinion ranges from suspicion to hostility, and the army high command broke with its recent habit of remaining quiet on political matters to issue an ominous statement.

In an effort to slake the Pakistani thirst for American leadership Team Obama nearly drowned the Pakistani civilian government - Heckuva job!

My friend JMHanes, has noticed what others seem to have overlooked, the clumsy diplomacy of Richard Holbrooke, the White house czar dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan and the consequences of his actions:

I don't know if the New York Times covered this story, but in the past couple of weeks, it seems to me that Holbrooke, the premier practitioner of DC c.y.a., has been getting an almost complete pass. A recent article on Afghanistan strategy sessions at the White House, describing numerous comments from other major players, only quoted Holbrooke "aides" not Holbrooke himself. There's only one vague reference in the Times article you link today: "Qureshi met the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke."

You'll find a real assessment of Obama's Afghanistan Czar, in USA Today:

Special representative Richard Holbrooke's bid to rapidly shift U.S. aid from American contractors to local Pakistani organizations will "seriously compromise" the effort to stabilize Pakistan, a U.S. diplomat says in a "dissent channel" message to senior State Department officials. [...]

The problem - according to the memo by C. Stuart Callison, an economist with the U.S. Agency for International Development - is that Holbrooke is canceling successful programs run by U.S. contractors and preparing to bypass them by giving large sums to local organizations with shaky financial track records.

Holbrooke, the top civilian overseeing Obama administration policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, has asked to personally approve every project funding renewal involving U.S. contractors, Callison wrote - and "the disapprovals already received are shockingly counterproductive."

Check out the PDF of Callison's Dissent in all its glory. It's about as scathing as diplomacy gets. The memo was apparently "sensitive" but not classified, and the fact that it has made a public appearance, suggests that folks on the ground in Af/Pak are seriously alarmed.

Maybe it's just me, but lately I've had the sense that there's a perfect storm brewing internationally, and that we will be seeing what happens when an administration goes wobbly on U.S. exceptionalism, from economic instability to foreign policy retreat, and when the concept of U.S. strategic interests is supplanted by myopic pettifoggery.