Wen Extends Support to Embattled Pakistan

Premier Wen Jiabao of China praised Pakistan’s efforts at combating terrorism on Sunday and promised to further advance the two countries’ strategic partnership in a speech before parliament. Over the weekend China and Pakistan signed some $15 billion worth of trade deals which is just half of the total value of the agreements signed during the premier’s three day trip to the country.

Bilateral trade between China and Pakistan has grown rapidly in recent years. At a business summit in Islamabad this Saturday, Wen pointed out that in 2002, trade between the two countries amounted to just $1 billion. After the signing of a free-trade agreement in 2006, last year, that number had risen to nearly $7 billion.

China has long been a friend of Pakistan’s, an alliance that is largely inspired by shared animosity with India. Pakistan’s president visits Beijing regularly, several times a year indeed and although the Chinese preferred to work with his predecessor, the more authoritarian General Pervez Musharraf, they gladly continue commerce and an exchange of arms technology up to this very day. China is one of Pakistan’s largest weapons suppliers and currently building two nuclear reactors in the country.

As the Chinese are also set on expanding their economic ties with South Asia, Sino-Indian rivalry is heating up. New Delhi frets being surrounded by a Chinese string of pearls ranging from Hong Kong to Port Sudan with naval stations in Sri Lanka and Pakistan in between.

During his visit to India last week the premier tried to convey the message that there is enough space in the world for China and India to develop together, even cooperate. But India’s political allegiance with the United States is a complicating factor.

When he came to India last month, President Barack Obama called for closer business ties with India and affirmed American support for the country’s bid to permanent United Nations Security Council membership. From the American perspective, securing a stable working relationship with India is pivotal. With some 1.2 billion people and an economy that is booming, both in manufacturing and services, India acts as a natural check on China’s ambitions. It is difficult to imagine a centralized, semi-democratic government taking shape in Kabul without India’s support or at least consent moreover.

At the same time, the war in Afghanistan has spilled over into the mountainous tribal areas of western Pakistan and America needs Pakistani support to fight terrorism in the area. The administration’s most recent assessment of the war specifically pointed at sanctuaries in Pakistan as detrimental to the American counterinsurgency effort. Should American aid for Pakistan disappear, it will have even less reason to destroy these safe havens and be tempted to turn to China or Saudi Arabia or both for support.

The Saudis rather prefer an Islamist regime over an Afghan government allied too closely with the West while the Chinese will jump on any opportunity to strengthen Pakistan as a counterweight to India’s rapid ascension. New Delhi may be able to persuade the Saudis otherwise as its own bilateral relation with Riyad is improving but China’s interference can only amplify an already fragile nuclear balance as Pakistan’s ties with Muslim fundamentalists will pose a constant threat to India’s security.

The United States have tried to convince the Chinese that they should exert greater pressure on Islamabad to crush the Taliban insurgency along its Afghan frontier but it is difficult for President Obama to make that case while his administration appears to side with India unequivocally.

The president’s latest Asia trip may have only confirmed suspicion about America’s true allegiances among the Chinese and Pakistanis. Neither were on Obama’s itinerary while a joint statement of the president’s and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recognized India’s role in East Asia.

The three great powers involved share similar interests however. China is India’s largest trade partner and despite geopolitical competition, they are united in opposition to Western tariffs, nuclear proliferation and Islamic extremism. Wen would not recognize that specifically while in Pakistan hough. “The fight against terrorism should not be linked with any religion or ethnic group,” he said as lawmakers burst into applause. Yet China is coping with a separatist threat of its own which is increasingly looking at Islam for ideology.

Sanctuaries Hamper Progress in Afghanistan

Progress in Afghanistan is improving, according to the administration, but recent gains are still “fragile and reversible.” The most recent assessment of the war expressed cautious optimism about General David Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy but warned that security consolidation remains problematic.

According to the administration’s study, the insurgents’ momentum has been “arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas,” particularly in the south, while the surge in both civilian and military resources, “along with an expanded special operations forces targeting campaign and expanded local security measures at the village level, has reduced overall Taliban influence.” As long as sanctuaries for the extremists continue to exist across the border in Pakistan however, it is impossible to root out the insurgency. Read more “Sanctuaries Hamper Progress in Afghanistan”

Gains in Afghanistan “Fragile and Reversible”

The Obama Administration completed its most recent assessment of the war in Afghanistan this week. Although the full report remains classified, an executive summary was released to the press which, besides optimism about General David Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy, cautiously expresses concerns about the consolidation of recent gains.

David Petraeus, who masterminded the “surge” in Iraq 2007 that turned the tide of the war there, was appointed commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan this summer. With several tens of thousands of additional troops, he significantly expanded the war effort. American combat operations in Afghanistan have mounted in number and intensity in recent months. Night raids are up sixfold; airstrikes nearly doubled.

NATO commanders have been giddy about the results, pointing out that the Taliban are on the defensive. Civilian officials have been boasting about the implementation of new reconstruction projects and the building of new schools. NATO training teams are increasingly confident that the Afghan Army is growing in manpower and capability.

According to the administration, the insurgents’ momentum has indeed been “arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas,” particularly in the south, while the surge in both civilian and military resources, “along with an expanded special operations forces targeting campaign and expanded local security measures at the village level, has reduced overall Taliban influence.” These gains “remain fragile and reversible” however, especially if sanctuaries for the insurgents continue to exist across the border in Pakistan. Al Qaeda’s leadership in that country is supposed to be weaker “than at any other point since it fled Afghanistan in 2001” though.

The report recognizes Pakistan’s near hopeless predicament, noting that the country “has endured thousands of casualties in their military ranks and among their civilian population from terrorist attacks” which undermines the ability of its government to work with the United States.

As they know that America is preparing to leave Afghanistan, Pakistan’s leaders can no longer afford to do Washington’s bidding but have to prepare for the likelihood of Taliban victory and possibly the emergence of an autonomous “Pashtunistan” occupying the border region in the northwest.

At the same time, the report recommends greater cooperation between Pakistan and the United States to deny safe havens to terrorists. Unless it intends to deploy ground forces, drone strikes are currently America’s default option but military force alone can’t remove the sanctuaries, according to the report.

Although President Barack hailed Pakistan for its counterterrorism efforts during a press conference Thursday, “progress has not come fast enough,” he said. “We will work to deepen trust and cooperation,” he promised, and “speed up our investment in civilian institutions and projects that improve the lives of Pakistanis.” Next year the president is scheduled to visit the country.

The White House affirmed its commitment to start pulling out troops next year but the emphases is on the 2014 deadline which the NATO partners agreed to in Lisbon, Portugal last month. A major challenge during the transition period “will be demonstrating that the Afghan government has the capacity to consolidate gains in geographic areas that have been cleared by ISAF and Afghan Security Forces.”

Such consolidation remains difficult. A Defense Department report to Congress earlier this year pointed out that increased violence and persistent fraud and corruption among the Karzai regime remain the single greatest impediments to progress. Even if Western forces manage to defeat the Taliban militarily in a given area, the “inability of the government to provide essential services, and exploitative behavior” of both civilian authorities and Afghan Security Forces personnel “are contributing to the success of the insurgents’ campaign.”

US Set to Expand Drone Strikes in Pakistan

When Pakistan’s battle with militancy is concerned, the United States have very few options. Introducing American troops into North Waziristan to flush out the militants would be an extremely difficult mission, and it would no doubt further expand a war in Afghanistan that people are already growing tired off. Poking and prodding the Pakistani armed forces to launch another offensive has been rebuffed time and time again. The Pakistanis argue that they must first consolidate military gains in South Waziristan and Swat before another front is opened. Ordering US Special Forces into the area is risky, since disclosure would provoke a harsh Pakistani response.

With all of these limitations, the use of drones has become the default alternative for Washington. It is not as if drone strikes have been a terrible policy. Top Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders have been killed as a result of the CIA program. Militants from the Haqqani network are constantly on the run, diverting time that could be used for planning attacks toward ensuring their own personal safety. The Pakistani government is even complicit in the attacks since much of the intelligence that makes drone strikes so successful is disseminated from Inter-Services Intelligence.

Obviously, there are problems. The United Nations Human Rights Council submitted a report earlier in the year exposing the program’s unethical nature. Philip Alston, the man in charge of the council, claims that the attacks may even be illegal under international law.

Pakistanis residing in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, North Waziristan in particular, are often killed when the missiles are targeting militants. There have been a number of cases where mothers and children were among the casualties due to their personal relationships with Al Qaeda, Haqqani, or Pakistani Taliban insurgents.

Despite the criticism, there really isn’t another options for keeping militants on their toes.

The tribal regions are nearly impossible to navigate by foot, rendering any ground operation lengthy and perhaps downright impossible. Therefore, it’s no wonder that Washington is trying to increase the range in which drones are permitted. American and NATO intelligence have already requested that American drones be allowed to scan targets in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban leadership is believed to be based. The request has been denied by Pakistan, but the fact that the CIA submitted it expresses how valuable the unmanned vehicles have been in the fight against international terrorism.

Civil and human rights activists and organizations will be disappointed by the request. But surely a missile targeting a single house, acting on accurate information, is better than the alternative: a full-scale ground invasion? The former kills the intended target with limited civilian casualties. The latter option would no doubt leave many more people dead or wounded, in addition to destroying a tribal infrastructure system that is already weak at the margins.

The United States recognized this discrepancy long ago. It may be time for others in the international community, including the United Nations, to recognize it as well.

Obama’s India Visit Overlooks Geopolitics

President Barack Obama’s trip to India this week could be termed as a diplomatic success for both sides as one sees and hears the body language, cheers and laughter.

International politics however, which very much determine how nations play in the world stage has many other components besides diplomacy. Geopolitics is one such element.

Take this itinerary of Obama which included trips to Mumbai’s Taj Hotel where he met the survivors of the 26/11 terrorist attack. As the president of the United States he did his best to understand the pain of the barbaric act which he himself mentioned during his speech before the Indian Parliament. He couldn’t openly refer to Pakistan but made it clear to the Indian audience that this country promotes terror against India. He did mention neighboring Burma’s poor track record on human rights and political freedom and asked India to do more to make the authoritarian regime understand the principles of democracy. This is where the cold realities of geopolitics come into play. Read more “Obama’s India Visit Overlooks Geopolitics”

Rumors of Negotiation in Afghanistan

Readers who have been following the news from Afghanistan lately have undoubtedly come across several front page articles suggesting that representatives of the Taliban have engaged in “peace talks” with the government in Kabul. The New York Times has run a couple of stories to this affect. On October 20 for instance the newspaper wrote that, “Taliban elite, aided by NATO, join talks for Afghan peace.”

Talks to end the war in Afghanistan involve extensive, face-to-face discussions with Taliban commanders from the highest levels of the group’s leadership, who are secretly leaving their sanctuaries in Pakistan with the help of NATO troops, officials here say.

From all of these stories — and from that single quotation — one may get the picture that the Taliban’s rank and file are being decapitated on the battlefield, Mullah Mohammad Omar is shivering in his boots, and that the United States are brokering a peace deal that could finally end the war after ten long years. Last week I warned that reports of NATO turning the page in the war should be viewed with the utmost caution. Indeed, the reports themselves are a bit inaccurate, in that most simplify a very complex situation.

For instance, both The New York Times and The Washington Post frequently label the Taliban-Karzai discussions as peace talks, which imply that both factions are hammering out details for what a postwar Afghanistan will look like. Throughout the history of warfare, the term “peace talks” is generally invoked when all major sides of the conflict have come to a mutual understanding that the continuation of the war is detrimental to everyone’s interests. In Vietnam, this meant a peace agreement between the United States, South Vietnam, and the North Vietnamese government — one that unfortunately collapsed within two years. In the Gulf War, the end of hostilities culminated in the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait in exchange for an end to coalition operations. In other words, peace talks lead to peace agreements, which end fighting and establish a postwar order that aims to ensure stability in the future.

The ongoing talks with the Taliban should not be considered in the same light. For one, there is no evidence that the Taliban leaders that are participating in the discussions represent the entire Quetta Shura organization. Mullah Omar, the top official in the Quetta Shura, continues to deny that his group is engaging with Hamid Karzai’s administration. The Haqqani network, perhaps the most dangerous segment of the insurgency in Afghanistan today, virtually remains irreconcilable. And the Pakistani intelligence service has yet to endorse Taliban talks with the Afghan government.

If anything, the discussions in Kabul should be seen more as efforts toward reconciliation, not a outreach to establish peace. Taliban fighters, at least in the mid to upper ranks of the organization, are clearly hedging their bets and trying to solidify their position once the United States get out of the country completely. The problem is that those Taliban who are talking may not be representing the entire organization. Rather, these Taliban “negotiators” may be trying to ensure that they personally gain some sort of powerful position once NATO soldiers depart. There is a huge difference between negotiating for personal survival and negotiating for an end to the war.

As long as Pakistani intelligence holds the reigns of the Quetta Shura and dictates what they can and cannot do, we should all question whether current exchange between Taliban and Afghan government officials is truly the beginning of a comprehensive US-NATO-Afghan-Taliban peace accord.

Clearly, any insurgent who wishes to switch sides and join the Afghan government is a welcoming development. And if the Times and Washington Post reports are to be believed, both low and high level Taliban commanders are exploring the option. But a few fighters that are willing to ditch the Quetta Shura cannot, and should not, be interpreted as a peace negotiation.

I’m sure General David Petraeus recognizes this crucial difference. But it certainly isn’t being portrayed that way in the media.

India Should Fight Military Aid to Pakistan

Just days before President Barack Obama begins his India visit, the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue is underway in Washington DC. The talks would focus on the “strategic” relationship between the two countries, a euphemism for more aid money to Pakistan to fight extremists within its borders and help out the United States in Afghanistan. Even with almost no results to show for the billions it has extorted from the United States so far, the Pakistani delegation knows that it will be returning to Islamabad with its pockets full.

The constant flow of foreign aid into Pakistan is a disturbing situation for India, which fears that most of the money is being used against it, particularly in Kashmir. In spite of repeated attempts (rather feeble attempts) to convince the world of how Pakistan spends the “aid” money, the flow has not reduced but rather increased. In 2009, Brahma Chellany wrote in the Deccan Chronicle:

Between 1952 and 2008, Islamabad received over $73bn as foreign aid, according to Pakistan’s Economic Survey. But in the period since the Mumbai strikes, the amount of aid pledged or delivered to Pakistan has totalled a staggering $23.3bn. This figure excludes China’s unpublicized contributions but includes the IMF’s $7.6bn bailout package, released after the Mumbai attacks.

Just last week, Islamabad secured some $5.2bn in new aid at a donors conference — the first of its kind for Pakistan. At that conference, host Japan and America pledged $1bn each, while the EU promised $640 million, Saudi Arabia $700 million, and Iran and the UAE $300 million each.

And none of the recent events, including reports of David Headley’s admission of the ISI’s hand in the Mumbai attacks in 2008, nor a NATO official’s allegation of Osama bin Laden living comfortably in Pakistan can be expected to make any difference to what Pakistan gets. The Times of India in fact reported that the Obama Administration is lining up about $2 billion in new military aid to Pakistan. It is almost as if the country is being rewarded for being a nuisance. At the same time efforts are on to persuade India to purchase billions of dollars worth of military goods from the United States. Another round of the United States’ game of providing arms to both sides in a conflict.

But neither Pakistan nor the United States can be really blamed for looking out for their own interests. Playing the victim and savior, and asking for money for being both at the same time, is what Pakistan does best. Its political and military institutions should be commended for efficiently training consecutive generations to fool the world with the same spiel! Other countries could learn a thing or two from Pakistan about consistent foreign policy.

The real loser in this game is India. It does not know how to play the victim (to Pakistani terror or Western neglect) convincingly, nor does it have the guts to stand up and dictate its terms. India makes a few noises every time Pakistan receives aid, a lot gets written about, but nothing every comes off it. The status quo has continued for decades, and unless there is a serious change in attitude in India, there is little to claim that things might change any time in the near future.

During President Obama’s visit this November, India should make all efforts to persuade his administration to introduce strict accountability with any aid, humanitarian or otherwise, to Pakistan. The India lobby and the Indian American community in the United States need to play a larger role in convincing and bringing about a change in American policy toward Pakistan in terms of aid.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his part should stop being docile, and demand (politely, if that makes it easy for him) that America change its aid policy toward Pakistan. If India thinks that a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council could help it control Pakistan, it should lobby for that seat harder than ever before. A nod from the United States for its candidature can go really far. Of course, Pakistan would make bigger noises and attack a few places, but if India believes a UN route can make things change their way, some collateral damage has to be taken in stride.

India is undoubtedly the superior power in terms of economic and military standing but its negotiation skills leave a lot to be desired. In a diplomatic game, anything less than a master negotiator is useless. And if India can’t negotiate, it should fight. It is the time to fight.

This story first appeared on Foreign Policy Blogs Network, September 22, 2010.

Drones are America’s Default Option

For the past six years, counterterrorism officials have considered Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as a top priority in the fight against Islamic extremism. For the United States specifically, FATA has frequently been cited as the main hub of Taliban and Al Qaeda activity. Indeed, there appears to be a stack of evidence on their behalf; most of the attacks against coalition troops in eastern Afghanistan have originated across the border in Pakistan. The fact that western Muslims are traveling to Pakistan in droves to join the jihad draws another dimension to the FATA problem.

The hard part for American and NATO officials has always been how to diminish the threat of terrorism in the FATA badlands. What techniques should be used? Relying on the Pakistani military to clear the area of militants has been an option, but recent operations by Islamabad have only worked in specific circumstances. Pakistani officials have repeatedly argued that the Swat Valley and South Waziristan have been totally cleared of belligerents, yet bombings against Pakistani policemen continue unabated. And North Waziristan, an agency that houses numerous Al Qaeda factions, has been virtually untouched by the Pakistanis.

The introduction of American troops into Pakistan would at first appear to be another effective strategy. But Islamabad is not willing to permit American boots on Pakistani soil.

Therein lies the importance of American-operated drone strikes in the battle against extremism in Pakistan. Since the program was initiated in 2004, the stealthy unnamed planes have killed hundreds of low level militants and perhaps dozens of senior terrorist commanders. Countless plots have been disrupted or scrapped due to the relentless pressure of the drones on terrorist hideouts, particularly in North Waziristan. Al Qaeda has been forced to replace its third most powerful leader multiple times over the past two years alone, and all of this has been made possible without a single American casualty.

Yet despite all of the benefits associated with drone strikes, civil liberty activists and an increasing amount of think-tank researchers have questioned the sustainability of the program. Many of these individuals are particularly disturbed that the UAV attacks are allegedly operated by the CIA, which obscures the transparency and accountability which international law requires of all United Nations member states. Indeed, the criteria that is used to place a terrorist operative on the “kill list” is hidden from the public domain.

Philip Alston, the UN official in charge of extrajudicial killings, is especially worried about these implications. In June, Alston submitted a scathing critique (PDF) of the drone program to the organization’s Human Rights Council, claiming that Washington is essentially executing drone operations on an “ill-defined license to kill.”

Just this past Friday, Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations expanded upon this critique by offering a strategic rationale to the anti-UAV position. In addition to the innocent human lives that are often lost as a result of drone operations, Zenko argues that the entire program reinforces a “quick fix” mindset among officials responsible for counterterrorism policy:

Under pressure to act in response to a threat and seduced by the allure and responsiveness of limited force, presidents elevate military options above other instruments of statecraft. Once the bombs have been dropped…and the politically necessary “do something” box has been ticked, complex, robust secondary measures rarely come to fruition.

But what is the alternative? A fully resourced and expensive nonmilitary campaign? The rebuilding of infrastructure that would cost the American taxpayer billions of dollars? Economic development and institutional formation? Actually, this is precisely what Zenko recommends. Unfortunately, Americans’ and Europeans’ patience is running thin. Nobody wants to embark upon another nation building exercise, particularly when infrastructure is crumbling at home and military resources are tied down in neighboring Afghanistan. A Western counterinsurgency campaign in Pakistan is unfeasible.

Given the lack of options that are both politically plausible and financially acceptable, targeting terrorist hideouts in Pakistan’s ungoverned tribal areas will likely remain the default choice. The Obama Administration certainly believes that covert attacks are worth continuing: last September saw the highest amount of drone strikes in western Pakistan since the program began.

All of this, of course, assumes that terrorist networks based in Pakistan don’t successfully launch a major attack on American and European targets in the near future. If such an incident does occur, expect the United States to quickly forget about the limitations of Pakistani sovereignty.

Obama Should Take His Eyes Off Kashmir

A recurring theme in the Obama Administration’s attitude toward exiting Afghanistan seems to be mollifying Pakistan by pushing India to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported that the administration had urged India to resolve its disputes with neighboring Pakistan in order to advance “American goals in the region.” The Times of India confirmed this week that President Barack Obama plans to ask India to resolve the Kashmir issue as a priority in return for American support for its bid to permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council.

Most disturbing about this attitude is that the White House appears to imply that resolution of the Kashmir and related border issues has somehow been thwarted by India. This would ignore the numerous unilateral gestures of peace made by India; the regular ceasefire violations perpetrated by Pakistan along the line of control and the ongoing efforts of the Pakistani intelligence services to wage a proxy war against India by supporting Taliban insurgents and mujahideen along the border with Afghanistan. Read more “Obama Should Take His Eyes Off Kashmir”

Where’s the Love for Pakistan?

When natural disasters strike at the heart of a society, the world tends to unite to ease the human suffering. In fact, throughout history, governments and private organizations often work in tandem by donating money, personnel, and resources to mitigate the damage. The 2004 tsunami that resulted in the deaths of some 250,000 people rallied a world traditionally fractured by religious, ethnic and political differences, all for the sake of compassion. Arabs, Jews, Iranians, Americans, Brazilians, Turks, Chinese, and Indians poured in hundreds of millions of dollars for lifesaving operations. Food, makeshift tents and help were all given to those whose lives were damaged indirectly, as well as to those who lost their businesses, homes, livelihoods, and entire families. Celebrities and musicians put on performances and benefits for the victims, and national governments actually found themselves competing with one another for the title of “top donor.”

When all was said and done, the humanitarian response in its entirely was nothing short of remarkable. 1.2 million children were vaccinated to prevent disease, UNICEF helped rebuild 107 schools, 59 health clinics, and trained a total of 56,000 health specialists. A tremendous response, given the millions who were left homeless or stranded.

This is only one example of the world casting aside its differences and uniting under the banner of humanity. Just six months ago, countries from every corner of the globe were quick to respond to the earthquakes that devastated Haiti’s already poor infrastructure. American citizens donated approximately $31 million simply through their Blackberrys and iPhones. International institutions like the United Nations and the World Bank donated millions more, giving Haitians a sign of hope in an otherwise terrible situation. Again, the world heeded the call of compassion.

So why, after three weeks of the worst flooding in Pakistani history, is the world so silent on this latest natural catastrophe?

The United Nations has estimated that over four million Pakistanis have been displaced, another eight million are in need of emergency assistance (food, clothing, shelter, drinking water), and a total of twenty million have been affected in one way or the other. Close to one third of Pakistan’s land mass has been flooded or destroyed; 1.6 million acres of cropland ruined; and key infrastructure like bridges and roads are inaccessible. The Pakistani population in the hardest hit areas is getting impatient, wondering why they are not seeing aid and trying to figure out why their own government is slow in delivering supplies.

To make matters worse, the Taliban and other Islamic extremists in Pakistan have been quite willing to exploit the situation to their advantage. In some cases, Islamic charities are beating nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to the punch, dishing out meals in a quicker and more efficient manner. The situation is getting so out of hand, says Senator John Kerry, that Pakistan is inching ever closer to full on violence if the United States and its allies do not pick up the pace.

Indeed, the world is starting to get the message. Saudi Arabia recently announced that it would be donating $107 million to various humanitarian organizations on the ground inside Pakistan’s tribal areas. After a visit to the frontline, Senator Kerry announced that Washington would be increasing its own contributions by another $150 million. But even with this good news, emerging powers like Brazil, Russia, India, and China (informally known as the BRIC) have not fulfilled their “rising power” status. China has had double digit economic growth for the past three decades, yet the Chinese leadership has given a frugal $2 million to relief organizations.

Which again brings us to the crucial question that’s on everyone’s mind: Why are people not stepping up and donating to Pakistan, as millions of people worldwide did to Sri Lanka and Haiti a few years ago?

Some have suggested that perhaps the world is biased toward Muslims, so therefore relief donations are at a minimum. Others have claimed that Western countries are simply sick and tired of giving money to overseas ventures when their own economies are still losing jobs and struggling to maintain growth rates (although this is hard to belief. Western economies were in pretty bad shape a few months ago but that didn’t hamper aid to Haiti in any significant way). Many analysts cite America’s skepticism of the corrupt Pakistani government as a reason. On this very channel, Mosharraf Zaidi, a Pakistani journalist and a former political economy advisor to the UN, seems to think that negative stereotypes from Western media may have something to do with it as well.

Yet all of these reasons are still unacceptable, because each justification seems to indicate that the world is punishing innocent Pakistani civilians for the actions of its government. This form of punishment is all the more disturbing when considering the general hostility that ordinary Pakistanis already possess toward their own civilian leaders. Making people suffer for the crimes and ineptitudes of their politicians isn’t exactly kosher, nor should it be a rationale for withholding aid that could serve millions of people.

The United States have vastly outstripped other donors so far. But America could be doing a lot more by lobbying allies and making Washington’s demands clear. Stabilizing Pakistan after a natural or man made disaster is an urgent national security priority for the United States. Peace and stability in Pakistan is in many ways a precedent for peace and security for the entire world community.

As a leader of that world community, President Barack Obama must work the phones and solicit all of the contributions he can get. Anything short of this effort would be cataclysmic for America’s battle against an unforgiving jihadist ideology, and a terrible crime to the entire nation of Pakistan.