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US Policy Options Toward Pakistan: A Principled and Realistic Approach

Owen Bennett-Jones
Policy Analysis Brief
February 2008

The United States is providing massive quantities of aid to Pakistan—as much as $20 billion since 9/11. This has enabled Pakistan to go through a period of lavish military spending, but there have nonetheless been serious reverses both in the military battle against the radical Islamists and in the transition to democracy. It is tempting for US policymakers to react to these developments by switching support from the army to civilian politicians. The United States, however, should not forget that whatever form of government exists in Pakistan, the army, for good or ill, will continue to be a major force in Pakistani society for many years to come. Given the widespread agreement that the war on terror is going to last at least 20 years, the United States should think about longer-term policies. With that perspective in mind, the goal of persuading Pakistanis to turn their backs on radical Islam, alongside democracy promotion, can best be achieved by spending the bulk of the US aid on education and promotion of the rule of law.

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