Can U.S. Aid Win the War in Pakistan?

It is those futures that critics of U.S. policy in Pakistan accuse the United States of failing to provide when it gave then president and Army Chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf billions of dollars to spend, largely at his discretion.

For lack of any other visible presence these days, most Pakistanis associate a single policy with the United States: CIA-sponsored drone attacks along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Those attacks have killed at least 10 of a continuously refilled list of 20 senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, U.S. officials say. But they have also caused civilian casualties and are like kryptonite for Pakistan's democratic government, pushing the story line that Pakistan is fighting the Taliban because it's the United States' war rather than its own.

As Qudratullah Khan, a farmer in the Kurram tribal agency, recently told a visiting cameraman during an anti-U.S. protest: "This is not against the Taliban," he said of the drone strikes. "They are killing our innocent children."

Where USAID Has Succeeded in Winning Hearts and Minds

In Mansera, the people benefiting directly from U.S. assistance sing a very different song when it comes to the United States.

The Government Centennial Model High School in Dadar, one of the largest schools in the Mansera district, was mostly destroyed by the earthquake. Pictures from the day after the quake show a crumbled building, its roof fallen in on itself. One student was killed and more than a dozen injured, according to Mohammad Irfan, who was the school's principal during the earthquake.

Today, the school is full of shiny new buildings, one of which displays a large USAID plaque. Irfan said he is proud to have received U.S. help.

"We were destroyed; we were ruined at that time," he said of the days immediately after the earthquake. "Now, we feel very, very happy with America. We now feel long live America, long live USA, long live Pakistan."

U.S. officials point out that education is particularly important here, in Pakistan's volatile Northwest Frontier Province, where the majority of attacks against the security forces take place. The literacy rate in the Northwest has been estimated at about 50 percent, although that number is closer to 20 percent among women, according to the Ministry of Education.

One of the other priorities here has been health. Down the road from the high school, the Basic Health Unit at Koti Bali sees dozens of patients a day. It, too, was largely destroyed in the earthquake, and the adjacent building where some of the staff used to sleep still hasn't been fixed.

The United States helped invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in the facility, which is the only location to offer preventative care in an area of 25,000 people. The head doctor trains nurses to help educate a community where diarrhea can be a major killer and fewer than half of all children are immunized. During a recent visit, of the six people who walked through the front door, all were women, and five had recently given birth. They received free vaccines for their babies.

"The government does not have the capacity to give all the things required over here," said Dr. Javeria Swati, the health services technical advisor for Pride, the non-governmental organization that spends USAID's money on health in this area. "They are doing what they can to their extent, but they need support in that."

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