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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pakistan: Key Current Issues and Developments

K. Alan Kronstadt
Specialist in South Asian Affairs

A stable, democratic, prosperous Pakistan actively combating religious militancy is considered vital to U.S. interests. U.S. concerns regarding Pakistan include regional and global terrorism; efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan; nuclear weapons proliferation; the Kashmir problem and Pakistan-India tensions; democratization and human rights protection; and economic development. Pakistan is praised by U.S. leaders for its ongoing cooperation with U.S.-led counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts, although long-held doubts exist about Islamabad's commitment to some core U.S. interests. A mixed record on battling Islamist extremism includes ongoing apparent tolerance of Taliban elements operating from its territory, although some evidence from early 2010 suggests a possible shift here. 

The increase in Islamist extremism and militancy in Pakistan is a central U.S. foreign policy concern. The development hinders progress toward key U.S. goals, including the defeat of Al Qaeda and other anti-U.S. terrorist groups, Afghan stabilization, and resolution of the historic Pakistan-India rivalry that threatens the entire region's stability and that has a nuclear dimension. Long-standing worries that American citizens have been recruited and employed in Islamist terrorism by Pakistan-based elements have become more concrete in recent months, especially following a failed May 2010 bombing attempt in New York City. 

A bilateral Pakistan-India peace process was halted after a November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai was traced to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group. At the time of this writing, the process appears to be resuming, but serious mutual animosities persist. Pakistan is wary of India's presence in Afghanistan, where Islamabad seeks a friendly government and has had troubled relations with the Kabul government. A perceived Pakistan-India nuclear arms race has been the focus of U.S. nonproliferation efforts in South Asia. 

Pakistan's political setting remains fluid, with ongoing power struggles between the executive and judiciary which could lead to renewed military intervention in the political system, along with the April 2010 passage of an 18th Amendment to the Pakistani Constitution, which greatly reduces the powers of the presidency. Rampant inflation and unemployment, along with serious food and energy shortages, have elicited considerable economic anxiety in Pakistan. Such concerns weigh heavily on the already constrained civilian government. Pakistan's troubled economic conditions, uncertain political setting, perilous security circumstances, and history of troubled relations with its neighbors present serious challenges to U.S. decision makers. 

The Obama Administration continues to pursue close and mutually beneficial relations with Islamabad. As part of its strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan, the Administration's Pakistan policy includes a tripling of nonmilitary aid to improve the lives of the Pakistani people, as well as the conditioning of U.S. military aid to Islamabad on that government's progress in combating militancy and in further fostering democratic institutions. A Special Representative was appointed to coordinate U.S. government efforts with both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan is among the world's leading recipients of U.S. aid and will by the end of FY2010 have obtained more than $10.4 billion in overt assistance since 2001, including about $6 billion in development and humanitarian aid. Pakistan also has received more than $8 billion in military reimbursements for its support of and engagement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts. 

This report reviews key current issues and developments in Pakistan and in U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Date of Report: June 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 74
Order Number: R41307
Price: $29.95

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