7904cf4b7e088210VgnVCM100000e56411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q2A tale of two presidents and the fate of a region6904cf4b7e088210VgnVCM100000e56411ac____A tale of two presidents and the fate of a regionWithin a span of 24 hours last month, the people of Pakistan heard addresses by two presidents. The first, by the President of the United States Barack Obama, in a bold confident tone without fumbling for words, spelt out a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.<p>Within a span of 24 hours last month, the people of Pakistan heard addresses by two presidents. The first, by the President of United States, Barack Obama, in a bold confident tone without fumbling for words, spelt out a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. While some of his assumptions regarding Pakistan may not have pleased some of our analysts, his strategy was indeed as he promised, one that drew a clear line between dealing with "the enemy" and the rest of the people of the region. His key words were: "Investing in Pakistan today, is investing in the US's future."</p>
<p>While many a Pakistani analyst considers Obama's new strategy a sugar-coated continuance of the policies of the Bush administration, I cannot agree. He has identified the need to address issues of social and human development and I can fully sympathise with his desire to set benchmarks for further aid. The Pakistani political leadership has a questionable past and it is essential to monitor the utilisation of all monies provided to them. While I too find that distrust can be insulting, I must acknowledge that our leadership has put in considerable effort to earn that distrust.</p>
<p>But I have my own concerns. The first has nothing to do with the contents of Obama's speech, but is on account of his assertion that Osama bin Laden and al Qa'eda now have found safe havens in Pakistan's tribal areas, which may or may not be accurate. The sentiments stemmed from a favourite "rogue ISI" theme that appears from time to time in western analyses of the region. The real reason for this theme is that the US military leadership, despite Admiral Mullen's bold admission of failure before the US Congress, is unable to accept the fact - just as they refused to do so in Vietnam - that the US military is being defeated in Afghanistan.</p>
<p>The argument goes that since the enormous military might of the US just cannot be defeated by the ragtag Taliban, therefore, the only possible reason for their lack of success has to be the support their enemies are receiving on the other side of the border.
Since the ISI is recognised as an efficient intelligence organisation, therefore, it is impossible that this infiltration into Afghanistan would occur if the ISI chose to prevent it. Ergo, the ISI is complicit and has rogue elements within it. That reasoning and conclusion worry me.</p>
<p>My second concern is that while Obama has spelt out a genuinely workable strategy, its success hinges on the tactics of its implementation. If those providing assistance in the social sector development of the tribal areas of both Afghanistan and Pakistan are governed by conventional wisdom and ignore the psycho-cultural apprehensions of the local populations, their efforts, however well-intentioned, are doomed to fail.</p>