- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

In pursuing Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorist network for the murder of innocent American civilians Sept. 11, American foreign policy architects are reshaping our relationship with Pakistan. Following the attacks, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf assured the U.S. that his government would assist and support the international coalition's efforts to find bin Laden and eradicate terrorist training facilities in neighboring Afghanistan. This he did at significant personal and political risk, and we salute President Musharraf for his commitment to end terrorism.

For many years, Pakistan has given sanctuary to Afghan refugees, numbering from 2 million to as many as 6 million at a time, often at shocking costs to its own social and economic stability. A few months ago, I visited a sprawling camp for unregistered refugees in Peshawar seeing firsthand the horrid conditions under which these families live. Pakistan is a fragile country that struggles to improve the already difficult lives of its own citizens. The additional burden of caring for the refugees has been difficult to bear due to the lack of resources. Now, the situation has become exponentially worse with the wholesale flood of Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban and the potential military reprisals.

Right now, Congress and the Bush administration are discussing how the United States can assist. The U.S. must be ready to act and act soon to provide meaningful assistance to Pakistan. Secretary of State Colin Powell and his foreign policy team must develop a sustainable long-term American strategy, one that will serve to channel assistance for this crisis and others that will inevitably flare up along vulnerable cultural and religious fault lines.

As chairman of the House subcommittee responsible for managing our foreign aid budget, I believe there are four criteria we must adhere to when constructing aid packages.

First, the U.S. must identify what Pakistan can do to cooperate with us. After that, the administration will need to calculate a cost for reasonable action within our overall budget for the fight against terrorism keeping in mind that Pakistan may be only the first country teetering on the edge of popular unrest and new forms of extremism.

Any State Department plan should obviously be constructed to complement U.S. foreign policy aims in the region particularly with India. The U.S. should aim at improved relations with both India and Pakistan, selling those improvements as a "win-win-win" end-game that benefits all parties while reassuring India that Islamabad's gain is far from being New Delhi's loss.

Second, the U.S. should move swiftly to build a program based on what Pakistan can accomplish, consistent with U.S. interests. Debt reduction, not total debt forgiveness, can be an important part of this program. American technical assistance to improve the rule of law, reform the judiciary and strengthen Pakistan's education and health-care systems should play significant roles. However, the program must be realistic. It should incorporate an anti-corruption emphasis as well as transparency and accountability to ensure the proper end use of any U.S. assistance.

Third, America should help Pakistan generate jobs and hope. To do this, the U.S. should unilaterally increase Pakistani import quotas. This single action will immediately generate jobs and income and will act faster than any foreign aid. Doing so also will enhance U.S. national security interests and significantly benefit American consumers in the process. The U.S. has done this in the past for Turkey.

Fourth, the U.S. should help Pakistan feed and shelter Afghan refugees. The U.S. has provided half of all recent humanitarian aid provided to Afghan refugees and has been the single largest provider of humanitarian support to Afghanistan. We should continue to do what is needed but we must also press other countries (e.g., Japan and the European Union) to do more, as well.

From a congressional perspective, U.S. assistance to Pakistan will occur only so long as Pakistan is working toward our shared mutual interests. Future assistance will require measurable progress from Pakistan in terms of improved regional security and expanded economic and humanitarian freedoms. Insofar as Islamabad remains committed to these ends, the United States will remain committed to helping Pakistan fashion a prosperous, sustainable and democratic future.

Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican, is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Foreign Operations Appropriations.


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