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Obama to boost aid to Pakistan civilians
Wednesday, 25 March 2009 00:52
WASHINGTON—The Obama administration plans a dramatic increase in civilian aid to Pakistan as part of a new strategy for Afghanistan and the surrounding region, hoping the overture will help the Pakistani military shut down insurgent sanctuaries, according to US officials.
A three-fold increase in civilian aid would come on top of more than $10 billion in mostly military assistance since 2001. In addition to the aid, President Obama will seek similar contributions from other nations, the officials said, describing conclusions of a strategy review on condition of anonymity.
The administration is expected to unveil the new strategy this week for Afghanistan, where commanders have said that 70,000 US and Nato troops are unable to prevent Taliban fighters and other extremists from expanding their influence.
Top administration aides have briefed European counterparts on the new strategy, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is flying to an international conference on the war next week in the Netherlands. Obama, who will meet later in March with Nato allies, has sketched a new approach that lowers US objectives and fixes an exit strategy.
The focus on Pakistan in the administration’s new strategy reflects both frustration over years of cross-border attacks against US and allied forces in Afghanistan and the view that extremism, violence and instability have roots across the region.
It also underscores concerns among US and allied officials about the stability of the government in Islamabad. Clinton and other US officials brokered a compromise this month to head off a political standoff over the country’s judiciary but remain fearful that the country remains deeply unstable.
Under the plan, the administration would boost civilian aid to $1.5 billion a year or more, a move first proposed by Vice President Joe Biden when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In addition, the Obama administration will seek major increases from China, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states in the Persian Gulf, according to one administration official.