US footprint in Pakistan hits a speed bump

By Branko Brkic 7 October 2009

American plans to greatly boost aid to Pakistan, increase the size of its embassy and upgrade the role of private security contractors are collectively aggravating the volatile anti-American mood just as the US pushes for more Pakistani efforts against the Taliban. A $1.5 billion-a-year aid package for the next five years passed the US Congress, but it also asked Pakistan to stop supporting terrorist groups and keep the military out of politics. Many Pakistanis, especially in its military, object, and see these provisions as foreign interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, so sensing sinister plots and plans in the funding. American officials say the embassy and its security presence must be expanded to monitor how this new money is spent. They also have real security concerns, illustrated by the recent suicide bombing at the UN offices in Islamabad. But this planned expansion comes just as there is debate in the Obama administration about whether to widen American operations and aid to Pakistan as an alternative to deeper American involvement in Afghanistan.