Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

Pakistan and questions over foreign aid

Bernd Debusmann
May 13, 2011 14:38 UTC

In the flurry of statements on the killing of Osama bin Laden, a remark from Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, spoke volumes about how U.S. foreign aid tends to be perceived by its recipients. It’s not enough.

“The United States spent much more money in Iraq than it did in Afghanistan,” Haqqani said in a television interview. “And then it spent much more in Afghanistan than it did in Pakistan. So were there cracks through which things fell through? Absolutely.”

That twisted logic suggests that if only Washington had given Pakistan a few billion more than the $20.7 billion it provided over the past decade, bin Laden, a man with a $27 million bounty on his head, would not have “fallen through the cracks.” Those cracks were wide enough to swallow bin Laden’s one-acre walled compound with a three-storey building in a garrison town near the Pakistani capital.

The mass murderer’s six-year stay in Abbottabad has prompted some members of Congress to demand the immediate suspension of aid to Pakistan, others to look for reductions. Deep cuts, however, are unlikely. The 140,000 U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan rely on supplies landed at the Pakistani port of Karachi and trucked through the Khyber Pass to bases in Afghanistan.

As Michael Scheuer, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency’s bin Laden unit, puts it: “They (the Pakistanis) know we need them more than they need us. They also know that the Saudis and the Chinese would step in with money and aid if we backed out.”

Egypt, America and a blow to al Qaeda

Bernd Debusmann
Feb 14, 2011 14:38 UTC

These must be difficult times for Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The uprising that swept away Hosni Mubarak after 18 days of huge demonstrations, none in the name of Islam, does not fit their ideology. In the war of ideas, al Qaeda suffered a major defeat.

Its leaders preach that the way to remove “apostate” rulers — and Mubarak was high on the list — is through violence. Al Qaeda’s ideology does not embrace the kind of people power that brought down the Berlin wall, forced Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines into exile, and filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square with tens of thousands of peaceful protesters day after day.

They waved the red-white-and-black flags of Egypt, not the green banners of Islam, in peaceful demonstrations that amounted to “a huge defeat in a country of central importance to its image,” in the words of Noman Benotman, the former leader of a Libyan group often aligned with al Qaeda. “We are witnessing Osama bin Laden’s nightmare,” wrote Shibley Telhami, an Arab scholar at the University of Maryland.

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