Biden Heading to Pakistan

By Dschabner

Jan 8, 2011 1:25pm

ABC News' Nick Schifrin reports:

As first reported in Pakistani newspapers and the Washington Post, Vice President Biden will visit Pakistan next week for major meetings with government and military leaders.

He comes here offering carrots and brandishing sticks, according to Pakistani and U.S. officials, and comes asking the military what it wants in return for cooperation in Afghanistan.

Among the main offers will be speeding up civilian assistance to the government, according to the officials. The U.S. administration reacted with alarm when it saw people celebrate Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s murder — reinforcing the belief that Pakistan needs long-term education and development assistance in order to fight widespread extremism.

Biden is also expected to offer some concessions related to Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, including beefing up checkpoints on the Afghan side to stop cross-border movement into Pakistan.

And Biden is expected to promise to speed up military assistance to Pakistan’s army, which often complains that shipments of equipment and reimbursements of funds come too slowly.

In return, Biden is expected to ask for what the U.S. continues to be desperate for: going after Afghan militants based in Pakistan, according to both Pakistani and U.S. officials. That means the Haqqani network in North Waziristan and, separately, the Taliban who attack in Kandahar and Helmand, commonly called the Quetta Shura but believed to be spread today between Quetta and Karachi. Biden is expected to push the military to specify exactly what it wants in return for a decision to eliminate its support for Haqqani and Quetta militants.

The officials also say Biden is expected to ask for more political courage to fix Pakistan’s struggling economy. The PPP-led government regained its majority yesterday by cancelling taxes designed to improve its perilous economic state. Those taxes were actually required by the IMF, which has given Pakistan some $11 billion to avoid defaulting. It’s not clear whether the U.S. will be able to convince the IMF to continue lending money to Pakistan if the government fails to institute economic reforms.

– Nick Schifrin

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