Pakistan in danger of failing as people flee Taliban | Connect Asia

Pakistan in danger of failing as people flee Taliban

Pakistan in danger of failing as people flee Taliban

Posted 8 May 2009, 12:55 AEST

The International Committee of the Red Cross is warning of a worsening humanitarian crisis in Northwest Pakistan.

Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing the fighting between Taliban militants and government troops. Relief workers say they are struggling to cope. The crisis formed the backdrop to talks between US President Barak Obama and the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the White House. President Obama says he gained fresh committments from Presidents Karzai and Zadari to more aggressively fight al Qaeda and its allies in their countries.

Presenter: Karon Snowdon

Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani journalist and author of the book, "Descent into Chaos - the United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia".

SNOWDON: The civilian toll from recent efforts on both sides of the border is mounting. US air strikes have been blamed in recent days for the deaths of dozens of civilians in an Afghan village in the Farah province. While fighting near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, where the Taliban has been gaining strength, has seen locals fleeing the military's decision to engage them forcibly. The Red Cross says it can no longer reach people affected by the fighting because of the dangerous situation. Local authorities say they might soon be dealing with a million displaced people. Journalist Ahmed Rashid says Pakistan is on the brink of chaos and Washington needs to provide assistance immediately.

RASHID: It's not on the brink of collapse, certainly, but it is on the brink of increasing anarchy, it is a failing state right now, but it is not a failed state and people are anxiously waiting for the government, the army to come through with a proper counter insurgency strategy and also to see whether the international community is going to come through on aid.

KARON SNOWDON: While the talks in Washington were significant, have they come too late?

RASHID: No, they haven't come too late. I mean if there's an immediate disbursement of what the Americans are offering, is $400 million in emergency aid to the civil government and about $400 million to the military, if this disbursement is made very, very soon I think it will be a great boost of morale to the country, show American commitment in a country where there's rampant anti-Americanism and also then of course there's a larger aid package that is still being debated in Congress and the Senate for $1.5 billion a year over the next five years. I think what the US really needs to show is some kind of commitment because so far there has been no money forthcoming from the Obama administration and in fact even during the last nine months of the Bush administration.

SNOWDON: And is there a military solution to the current immediate crisis?

RASHID: A solution is a proper counter insurgency strategy, which involves not just the military beating back the Taliban, but also follow up by the civilian government looking after the refugees. We now have something like a million refugees living in the north-west frontier province. There's a crisis about the inability of the government to look after them, there's also the issue of development projects in that region and backing a more comprehensive political and economic strategy in that region. So, you know, we need a full range of counterinsurgency planning, which so far really has not been forthcoming.

SNOWDON: What are conditions like for those refugees, up to a million of them pouring out of the north?

RASHID: Well, very miserable, especially for the recent influx from Swat and Buner, where the present fighting is going on. It's been a very, very desperate situation.

SNOWDON: Well the Government is virtually bankrupt, how can it look after these people?

SNOWDON: Well precisely. The government really doesn't have the kind of resources that are needed to look after these refugees.

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