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The history of U.S. assistance to Pakistan follows a predictable script: aid is tied to security imperatives that come and go, while the country’s political and economic well-being is effectively ignored. By failing to commit to the long-term health of the Pakistani state, successive generations of U.S. policymakers have convinced many in Pakistan, both in and out of government, that we are a demanding power with little interest in their own security, rather than a genuine partner. Increasing political and economic instability and the failure of a military-centric approach to check growing violence demonstrate that the Pakistani people need more than military assistance to improve stability in their country.
Instead of focusing so heavily on military aid to Pakistan, the United States should dedicate more of its funding to enhancing security and earning the support of the Pakistani people through increased economic and development assistance. By working with a new civilian government to address Pakistan’s basic needs—improving literacy rates, boosting energy and agricultural production, providing more access to health care, and more—the United States can strengthen Pakistani society and institutions against militant subversion. In doing so we also clearly demonstrate a respect for Pakistan’s own needs, moving the partnership beyond short-term cyclical engagement that neglects the underlying causes of the country’s instability.
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