41 Killed, 61 wounded in Pakistan Bombing; US Aid Package Controversial in both Washington and Islamabad

A suicide bomber targeted a Pakistani military convoy in the town of Alpuri in Shangala district northeast of Peshawar on Monday, killing 41 persons and wounding 60.

The bombing may have come as revenge by the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban Movement) for the killing of their leader, Baitullah Mahsud.

Aljazeera English has video on the Shangala attack:

The attack comes as the Pakistani military prepares to launch a major operation in Waziristan, one of 13 Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border with Afghanistan, where Pakistani and Afghan Taliban hole up.

The military is using Pashtun tribal chieftains as go-betweens with the main militant leaders in Waziristan, including Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Sadiq Nur.

The Gul Bahadur group in particular infiltrates into Afghanistan to hit NATO forces. The group has also hit Pakistani forces, as late last July when it captured 10 soldiers of the Shawal Rifles, a unit of the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed to be behind the the attack Sunday on the Pakistani army HQ in Rawalpindi. The Pakistani military says that the attackers had intended to take senior officers hostage. If so, they were foiled by checkpoint guards who questioned their credentials to come on base despite stolen uniforms and phony paperwork, which actually speaks well of security at the gate. The Western press commentary on how this attack demonstrates weaknesses in Pakistani security does not reckon with what a disaster the attack turned into for the Taliban, who accomplished none of their goals and just wasted several trained men.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Quraishi is in Washington for consultations over the $7.5 bn. civlian military aid package, which is welcomed by Pakistanis in principle but some provisions of which have raised hackles since they appear to limit Pakistani sovereignty (such as the demand that the civilian government excerse effective control over the military).

The aid bill is also controversial in Washington, where a US AID official has complained about the plan to funnel it through Pakistani contractors rather than through American ones. The Agency for International Development official maintained that Pakistani organizations cannot be monitored effectively by the US, raising the possibility that the money will be embezzled. He also slammed special envoy Richard Holbrooke for micromanaging the grants, effectively over-ruling and second-guessing US AID staff on the ground in Pakistan who, he said, were more knowledgeable about and attuned to local conditions.

I understand the difficulty of auditing NGOs in dangerous places like the FATA tribal areas. But it seems to me that it must be possible to audit the Pakistani pass-through organizations elsewhere regularly, and that the shell game of Congress giving foreign aid to a country in a way that actually just benefits US corporations and contractors is counter-productive.

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4 Responses

  1. And what of the gulf Arab funding and Saudi Wahhabi fundamentalism? And is India so fearsome that Pakistani leaders sell their countrymen as retarded foot soldier of the empire for shinny pieces of military hardware? Pakistan does not need Taliban to have influence in Afghanistan. A few days before nine eleven two Arabs assassinate Ahmad Shah Massoud as favor to their host and the rest is history.

  2. In other words, the US has no idea what the most effective way to push/force American foreign policies in Pakistan.

  3. The AID comments have to be seen in context. As alluded to in the USAT article you link to, A month and a half ago the Pakistani Finance minister, Shaukat Tarin, claimed that 45% of all the money given to Pakistan never got to Pakistan because it was eaten up by "expenses" by the US agencies it was routed through. He made a high level plea that this time aid should be sent through Pakistani agencies so that it would have maximum impact on the ground. He won, and now AID is counterattacking. But what's most glaring about this counter-attack is what's missing: AID doesn't contest the figure that they wasted 45%. And if they concede that, all the rest is smoke in our eyes. It's hard to imagine that embezzlers could make away with more than US Agencies are already consuming. And since routing it through locals both strengthens the Pakistani state and civil society, it's obviously worth a try. The AID route obviously failed if it costs more to monitor against embezzlement than we'd expect to lose to it. And that charge about Holbrooke "micromanaging" just boils down to AID saying Holbrooke decided to give their contracts to the Pakistanis.

  4. "The Agency for International Development official maintained that Pakistani organizations cannot be monitored effectively by the US, raising the possibility that the money will be embezzled."

    After all the embezzlement by US contractors in Iraq he surely has to be joking

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