Pakistan’s government is now elected rather than a military dictatorship, but Obama, like Bush, may be indirectly funding Al Qa’ida and the Taliban by trying to buy Pakistan military support with increased military aid
While the Obama administration has not backed a military dictatorship in Pakistan so far (as the Bush and Clinton administrations did with Musharraf) it has followed the Bush administration’s method of trying to buy the Pakistan military’s support with increased military aid
In the Waziristan offensive the Pakistan military is allied with some Taliban groups against others. It’s allies in Pakistan still support the Afghan Taliban’s war against NATO and Karzai. This makes Obama’s doubling of military aid to Pakistan a risky action that could buy influence with Pakistan’s military but, given this and their history, may not stop them backing armed jihadist groups . Like the Bush administration’s military aid to Pakistan much of it may go to the Taliban and Al Qa’ida. Islamic extremism and backing for terrorist groups have been a means for Pakistan’s generals to keep an unfair share of their country’s money and power since independence, as well as being a result of their delusional belief that the “fighting spirit” of violent religious extremism will help them defeat India, despite repeated failures (e.g the war that created Bangladesh) (1) - (4).
Musharraf was no exception here, calling on the US to end air strikes on theTaliban before the Northern Alliance could force them out of government in October 2001 and almost triggering a nuclear war with India over Kashmir at Kargill in 1999 (5) - (6). Pakistan military training and support for Taliban forces operating between in Afghanistan, even involving giving covering artillery fire for Taliban retreating across the border,continued up to 2007. In the past the military has continued to back Islamic extremists even under elected governments (who live in constant fear of new western backed military coups). So there is no guarantee it’s ended now (7) .
Obama has made the tripling of civilian aid to Pakistan and a doubling of its military aid conditional on Pakistan’s military not appropriating any of the civilian aid for itself – and has said he won’t back any future military dictatorship in Pakistan – but US military aid to Pakistan at $2.8bn annually will still far exceed civilian aid at $1.5bn – and another of Obama’s conditions was that Pakistan’s military carry out offensives into North-West Pakistan, the theory being that NATO offensives on one side of the border and Pakistani ones on the other side will give the Taliban nowhere to retreat to (8) - (11). So far they’ve merely created millions of refugees, killed a large but unknown number of civilians and increased support for the Taliban among the surviving refugees (details and source in another post)
The long term solution is to strengthen civilian government and education, healthcare and similar aid in Pakistan in order to reduce military and Taliban influence while weakening the military, who always play a double game for their own ends.
(1) = Guardian 21 Oct 2009 ‘Strange bedfellows: Islamists and army join forces against insurgents’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/21/good-taliban-pakistan-army-attack
(2) = The Nation 01 Apr 2009 ‘US plans $ 2.8 bn military aid to Pakistan: report’, http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Politics/01-Apr-2009/US-plans--28-bn-military-aid-to-Pakistan-report
(3) =Haqqani, Husain (2005) , ‘Pakistan : Between Mosque and Military’ , Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C. , 2005, entire book but especially pages 71-3 , 78-80,190-191, 290, 298, 299-300
(4) = Siddiqa, Ayesha (2007). ‘MILITARY INC. : Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy’, Pluto Press, London, 2007, pages 96-97 of paperback edition
(5) = Haqqani, Husain (2005) , ‘Pakistan : Between Mosque and Military’ , Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C. , 2005, Chapter 6, pages 248-256 of paperback edition
(6) =New York Times 09 Oct 2001 , 'Pakistani Is Already Calling on U.S. to End Airstrikes Quickly', http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D01E3D9113CF93AA35753C1A9679C8B63
(7) = Haqqani, Husain (2005) , ‘Pakistan : Between Mosque and Military’ , Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C. , 2005
(8) = The Nation 01 Apr 2009 ‘US plans $ 2.8 bn military aid to Pakistan: report’, http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Politics/01-Apr-2009/US-plans--28-bn-military-aid-to-Pakistan-report
(9) = Sunday Times 27 Sep 2009 ‘US threatens airstrikes in Pakistan’,
(see 5th from last paragraph)
(10) = AP 05 May 2009 ‘Holbrooke: Pressure Pakistan to Fight Taliban’, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=7508866
(11) = guardian.co.uk 15 Oct 2009 ‘Obama signs $7.5bn Pakistan aid bill into law’,