- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani called Tuesday for a $30 billion “Marshall Plan” for Pakistan and Afghanistan over the next five years to fight al Qaeda, blunt anti-American sentiment and secure Pakistan from extremists bent on destabilizing its civilian government.

Mr. Haqqani, who plans to attend an international donors meeting for Pakistan in Tokyo next week, told editors and reporters of The Washington Times that the cost to the West of an aid program like the one provided to Europe after World War II would be negligible compared with that of rescuing failing banks and corporations.

“Despite the economic issues that the world is facing, the cost of a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan is going to be minuscule [compared with] the bailouts being given to American car companies and [American International Group],” Mr. Haqqani said. “And the impact in terms of American security and in terms of the longer-term stability of the world in a very precarious region will be far greater. Pakistan has the will to fight terrorists. It needs the means, and the United States should provide those.”

Mr. Haqqani said Pakistan needs $5 billion a year for the next five years from the United States and its allies to build a local law enforcement force of about 100,000, strengthen counterinsurgency against the Taliban and al Qaeda and convince average Pakistanis that the U.S.-led war on extremism is Pakistan's war and essential for the country's survival.

Another $1 billion a year should go to Afghanistan, he said.

The Obama administration has pledged $7.5 billion in civilian aid over five years to Pakistan. President Obama, however, made clear that in return, Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to fighting al Qaeda and Taliban extremists who have used Pakistan's tribal borderlands as a haven from which to launch attacks on U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

Mr. Haqqani spoke as Richard C. Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held talks in Pakistan on a new strategy to defeat Islamic extremists and bolster Pakistan's civilian government.

The ambassador said the government of President Asif Ali Zardari faces challenges in dealing with domestic opposition and countering anti-U.S. sentiment within the Pakistani public and intelligence services.

He denied published reports that the Inter-Services Intelligence agency is still helping the Taliban, which the ISI helped create 20 years ago.

“There are contacts for source building,” Mr. Haqqani said. “The era of active support for jihadis is over.”

He noted that Pakistanis chose secular over Islamic parties in the most recent elections and were turning against extremists as suicide bombers hit major cities.

“The question is, is [civilian control over the military and intelligence agencies] moving in the right direction?” the ambassador asked. He suggested that it was.

Despite Mr. Haqqani's assurances, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman, California Democrat, last week introduced a bill that would withhold U.S. military aid to Pakistan unless Mr. Obama certifies that it is not supporting terrorist attacks on India.

The Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act, or PEACE Act, would triple U.S. economic aid to $1.5 billion a year, similar to legislation in the Senate.

“This bill has one essential purpose: to strengthen our relationship with Pakistan,” Mr. Berman said. “Our commitment to Pakistan's political stability and economic development is matched only by our sense of urgency in ensuring that Pakistan has the right tools to protect its people, secure its borders and intensify its operations against extremist elements.”

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