Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Bin Laden Dead: What Does This Mean for U.S. Aid In Pakistan?

It has taken ten years of U.S. military persistence to track down Osama bin Laden. This effort, as stated by President Obama, has made the world a safer "and a better place." But what does this mean for the future of U.S. Aid and Development Programs in Pakistan? Locating bin Laden in the army town of Abbattabad has fueled suspicion of Pakistan's leaders. Many are now asking, why America should continue to give aid to a country that won't give us anything in return?

This question completely misses the point of foreign aid investment and development assistance. Neither of which are meant to be a tool used to reward governments that cooperate and punish those that don't. At the same time, aid is also not a charity. Aid is invested in a country, like Pakistan, because the internal instability threatens long term security and prosperity within the United States. Pakistan is about to be the fourth most populous country in the world, is armed with nuclear weapons and is home to a young, frustrated population, making it extremely susceptible to radicalization.

Aid in Pakistan annually only amounts to $1.5 billion, which is equal to about five days of military spending in Afghanistan. This small amount of assistance is crucial to Pakistan. It allows Pakistan as a nation to be slightly more stable and on a more prosperous path. It could also possibly avoid the billions in military costs that would accrue in the future if instability was left unaddressed.

Walking away and leaving Pakistan without foreign aid would only worsen and cement the United States' already bad reputation in the Middle East and Pakistan. The pledges by United States officials to stay and assist Pakistan would be completely undermined along with the already fragile democratic system of government that is established there. The democratic system is Pakistan's best hope for success. At this point it would be much more beneficial for the U.S. to stick to its word and stay in Pakistan, focused on economic cooperation, democratic governance and military cooperation. If the U.S. abandons ship now, there may be serious repercussions later on.

--Gabrielle Gurian