Recent fighting between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban is creating major humanitarian, economic, and security challenges. Crisis relief operations to bring aid and shelter to the massive population of refugees displaced by fighting in Swat and other areas are not a substitute for longer-term investments. But relief for internally displaced persons offers an immediate opportunity for the United States and other donor countries to demonstrate their commitment to the people of Pakistan. The quick response to the devastating 2005 earthquake in Pakistan helped the United States improve its standing with the Pakistani people and marginalize militant groups. The growing IDP crisis provides another moment when the United States can stand with the Pakistani people and address their basic needs.
As of late May, over 2.4 million registered refugees have fled the Swat region; coupled with internally displaced persons from previous operations in Bajaur Agency and other parts of the FATA, almost 3 million people have been displaced from their homes. A $543 million flash appeal from the U.N. High Commission on Refugees for greater humanitarian aid must be met with a stepped-up response from the international community. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s May 19, 2009 announcement of $110 million in initial American aid for relief represents a strong start, and Congress should augment this further with supplemental funding language as the situation warrants. Private relief fund efforts also offer American nongovernmental and civil society groups the opportunity to build people-to-people relations by showing a commitment to helping Pakistan’s distressed communities.
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