Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Rains Came

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Rains Came

Article excerpt

Pakistan's "biblical floods," as my friend Arnaud de Borchgrave aptly calls them, are having a potent effect on the twisted geopolitics of the region.

According to the U.N., the vast floodwaters have affected 20 million Pakistanis. Over 1,500 people have died, 800,000 homes have been destroyed. Pakistan's government reports that 10 percent of this nation of 180 million is now destitute and 20 percent of Pakistan's land is submerged by the filthy, contaminated floodwaters. Two more waves of monsoon flooding are on the way.

Biblical indeed. And now come mounting reports of cholera caused by ingesting contaminated water.

Washington, increasingly concerned by Pakistan's stability and loyalty, is accelerating delivery of $1.5 billion in aid, of which only $260 million is for flood relief. Other nations have also promised some aid, so far totaling around $230 million.

That's a drop in the bucket for Pakistan, one of the poorest places anywhere and the world's sixth most populous nation. By contrast, quake-ravaged Haiti got over $1 billion in aid. Israel gets over $3.2 billion annually from the U.S. Congress. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is costing at least $17 billion monthly.

Pakistan was already teetering on the edge of bankruptcy before the floods. Islamabad was kept barely solvent by steady injections of cash from Washington and from U.S.-controlled financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The military, Pakistan's shadow government, has been more or less rented by the U.S. by $1.5 billion per annum payments and all sorts of secret stipends from the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Without Washington's aid, debt-laden Pakistan would probably collapse in short order.

Making matters worse, Islamabad's major cash-earner, cotton, has been severely damaged by the floods. Important food crops have been destroyed, meaning Pakistan will require emergency food aid in the coming 12 months.

The monsoon floods ravaging Pakistan could not have come at a worse time for Washington. The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is at best stalemated as Taliban and its allies gain strength.

In one of the Pentagon's worst nightmares, a ragtag force of lightly-armed Pashtun farmers and part-time fighters has managed to tie down 105,000 heavily armed, lavishly equipped U.S. and NATO troops and has even has put the Western armies on the defensive.

There are even whispers in the bazaar that the Western powers may face defeat in Afghanistan. As a result, Russia, the last invader, is giving increasing military and logistical help to the Western powers in Afghanistan.

The U.S. and NATO could not continue their occupation of that nation without the use of Pakistan's ports, supply depots, air bases, roads, intelligence agencies, and 140,000 Pakistani troops.

In 2001, the U.S. threatened all-out war against Pakistan, according to its former strongman, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, unless it joined the fight against Taliban and accepted a high degree of U.S. control. The sweetener: up to $15 billion in aid. …

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