Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pakistan seeks energy, economic help in US talks

WASHINGTON — Top diplomats from the United States and Pakistan said Wednesday they want much broader ties between the two countries after years of cooperation limited mostly to the joint effort to hunt and contain terrorists.

Launching a two-day, high-level strategic dialogue here, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi vowed to improve ties by expanding the current security focus to include energy, development, education and agriculture. All must be addressed to combat extremists, they said.

A healthy U.S.-Pakistan relationship is considered essential to winning the war on terrorism, but the United States won't promise a deal for nuclear energy assistance to match one that it has signed with Pakistan's archrival India.

Dealings between Washington and Islamabad have been frayed by ups and downs for decades, but relations deteriorated noticeably after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as Pakistan came to believe America was bullying it on security matters, and Washington began to question Islamabad's commitment to defeating the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was a confidant of former U.S. President George W. Bush and was considered a strong ally against terrorism. But his close ties to the United States helped sink his political career at home. The number of Pakistanis who hold negative views of the United States are among the highest in the world, and suspicion about America's motives and its improving relationship with India run through every strata of Pakistani society.

Clinton acknowledged that "misperceptions and mistrust" have grown between the two countries, and said that overcoming the mutual suspicion requires sustained work across several areas of government.

"This is a new day," she said.

As they opened the discussions, neither Clinton nor Qureshi outlined specific programs. But Pakistan has put energy, including civilian nuclear power, at the top of its list of priorities.

Despite their pledges to help, U.S. officials have been noncommittal about how they will respond to Pakistan's desire to be recognized as a nuclear weapons power and forge an atomic energy deal.

U.S. officials have concerns about Pakistan's record in transferring nuclear technology to states such as Libya and North Korea. And neither Clinton nor special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke would offer any promises ahead of the talks.

Pakistan would like to have a civil nuclear cooperation pact with the United States similar to the one its nuclear rival India has. Such a deal likely would require at least tacit acknowledgment that Pakistan, which detonated its first nuclear bomb in 1998, is a legitimate nuclear armed power, something the United States has refused to do.

It also would require approval from Congress, which only reluctantly agreed to the civil nuclear deal with India despite far fewer proliferation concerns. But that has not dampened Pakistan's eagerness for an agreement, which it believes is critical to dealing with its energy shortages.

The Pentagon's top leaders credit Pakistan's ongoing military campaign against Taliban insurgents with helping to improve ties with the United States. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen praised Pakistan's determination in a campaign that some U.S. officials had worried would sputter.

The Pentagon leaders told Congress they think Pakistan now understands that the Taliban presents an acute threat to its own government.

The praise marks a change from last year, when top U.S. officials regularly complained that Pakistan could have done more to fight militants along its Afghan border.

Opening the wider talks with Clinton, Qureshi said Pakistan remains committed to fighting extremism as "a strategic and moral imperative." He noted that thousands of Pakistanis — civilians and soldiers — had been killed battling extremists and that Pakistan's concerns must be respected.

"You are fighting a war whose outcome is critical first and foremost, of course, for the people of Pakistan," Clinton told the foreign minister. "But it will also have regional and global repercussions, and so strengthening and advancing your security remains a key priority of our relationship."

At the same time, she stressed that that cooperation must be more than military assistance and must include methods to improve the lives of the Pakistani people so they will not be attracted to extremist ideologies. Among those are projects to ease Pakistan's crippling energy shortages, shore up its battered economy and improve development aid.

Clinton and Qureshi are heading their respective delegations, which also include top military, finance, agriculture and development officials.

Afghan Cops Aren't Ready to Serve
Mohammad Moqim watches in despair as his men struggle with their AK-47 automatic rifles, doing their best to hit man-size targets 50 meters away. A few of the police trainees lying prone in the mud are decent shots, but the rest shoot clumsily, and fumble as they try to reload their weapons. The Afghan National Police (ANP) captain sighs as he dismisses one group of trainees and orders 25 more to take their places on the firing line. "We are still at zero," says Captain Moqim, 35, an eight-year veteran of the force. "They don't listen, are undisciplined, and will never be real policemen."

Poor marksmanship is the least of it. Worse, crooked Afghan cops supply much of the ammunition used by the Taliban, according to Saleh Mohammed, an insurgent commander in Helmand province. The bullets and rocket-propelled grenades sold by the cops are cheaper and of better quality than the ammo at local markets, he says. It's easy for local cops to concoct credible excuses for using so much ammunition, especially because their supervisors try to avoid areas where the Taliban are active. Mohammed says local police sometimes even stage fake firefights so that if higher-ups question their outsize orders for ammo, villagers will say they've heard fighting.

America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits—but the program has been a disaster. More than $322 million worth of invoices for police training were approved even though the funds were poorly accounted for, according to a government audit, and fewer than 12 percent of the country's police units are capable of operating on their own. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the State Department's top representative in the region, has publicly called the Afghan police "an inadequate organization, riddled with corruption." During the Obama administration's review of Afghanistan policy last year, "this issue received more attention than any other except for the question of U.S. troop levels," Holbrooke later told NEWSWEEK. "We drilled down deep into this."

The worst of it is that the police are central to Washington's plans for getting out of Afghanistan. The U.S.-backed government in Kabul will never have popular support if it can't keep people safe in their own homes and streets. Yet in a United Nations poll last fall, more than half the Afghan respondents said the police are corrupt. Police commanders have been implicated in drug trafficking, and when U.S. Marines moved into the town of Aynak last summer, villagers accused the local police force of extortion, assault, and rape.

The public's distrust of the cops is palpable in the former insurgent stronghold of Marja. Village elders welcomed the U.S. Marines who recently drove out the Taliban, but told the Americans flatly they don't want the ANP to return. "The people of Marja will tell you that one of their greatest fears was the police coming back," says Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who took over in November as chief of the U.S. program to expand and improve Afghanistan's security forces. "You constantly hear these stories about who was worse: the Afghan police that were there or the Taliban." The success of America's counterinsurgency strategy depends on the cops, who have greater contact with local communities than the Army does. "This is not about seizing land or holding terrain; it's about the people," says Caldwell. "You have to have a police force that the people accept, believe in, and trust."

More than a year after Barack Obama took office, the president is still discovering how bad things are. At a March 12 briefing on Afghanistan with his senior advisers, he asked whether the police will be ready when America's scheduled drawdown begins in July 2011, according to a senior official who was in the room. "It's inconceivable, but in fact for eight years we weren't training the police," replied Caldwell, taking part in the meeting via video link from Afghanistan. "We just never trained them before. All we did was give them a uniform." The president looked stunned. "Eight years," he said. "And we didn't train police? It's mind-boggling." The room was silent.

Efforts to build a post-Taliban police force have been plagued from the start by unrealistic goals, poor oversight, and slapdash hiring. Patrolmen were recruited locally, issued weapons, and placed on the beat with little or no formal training. Most of their techniques have been picked up on the job—including plenty of ugly habits. Even now, Caldwell says, barely a quarter of the 98,000-member force has received any formal instruction. The people who oversaw much of the training that did take place were contractors—many of them former American cops or sheriffs. They themselves had little proper direction, and the government officials overseeing their activities did not bother to examine most expenses under $3,000, leaving room for abuse. Amazingly, no single agency or individual ever had control of the training program for long, so lines of accountability were blurred.

Coalition efforts to build an Afghan police force were painfully slow at first. By 2003 the U.S. State Department decided to speed things up by deploying the Virginia-based defense contractor DynCorp International, which had held previous contracts to train police officers in Kosovo and Haiti. The company began setting up a string of training centers across the country. After the Defense Department took a role in overseeing that work in 2005, it squabbled constantly with State over whether the training should emphasize police work or counterinsurgency.

Neither the State Department nor DynCorp was prepared for the job they faced. Most of the recruits are rural villagers who have never been inside a classroom. Roughly 15 percent test positive for drugs, primarily hashish. Few know how to use a toothbrush or drive, and nearly 90 percent are illiterate. In 2005 DynCorp opened a new police academy on the outskirts of Jalalabad, and within a few months the academy's drains backed up. Maintenance workers discovered that the septic tanks were full of smooth stones—a toilet-paper substitute used by many rural Afghans. DynCorp had to bring in backhoes to repair the problem, and the company had to add two days of classes in basic hygiene.

The ANP still takes just about anyone who applies. "Our recruits are unemployed youth with no education and no prospects," says Police Col. Mohammad Hashim Babakarkhil, deputy commander of Kabul's central police-training center. Since January 2007, upwards of 2,000 police have been killed in action—more than twice the figure for Afghan Army soldiers. U.S. officers say as many as half the police casualties were a result of firearms accidents and traffic collisions.

It's practically impossible to produce competent police officers in a program of only eight weeks, says a former senior DynCorp executive, requesting anonymity because he continues to work in the industry. But that was the time frame State and Defense set for the course. "They were not going to be trained police officers. We knew that. They knew that," the former executive says. "It was a numbers game." In fact, the course has now been cut from eight weeks to six in order to squeeze in more trainees. ("We believe the training is appropriate under the circumstances," says Assistant Secretary of State David Johnson. DynCorp spokesman Douglas Ebner says the basic-training course is part of a more extensive 40-week program, and is supported by further "field monitoring, mentoring, and advising." Training hours have been extended to make up for the lost weeks, he says. DynCorp does "not make the policies, recruit the police candidates, or design the program," he adds, saying the company has "fully met" its objective of providing highly qualified police trainers.)

Whether or not recruits have mastered their subjects, almost everyone graduates. Even if they fail the firearms test, they're issued a weapon and put on the street. Only the Interior Ministry can flunk a candidate, and that rarely happens. "There were a lot of Afghans who seemed to have some patriotism and wanted to make their country better," recalls Tracy Jeansonne, a former deputy sheriff from Louisiana who worked for DynCorp from May 2006 to June 2008. "But a lot of the police officers wanted to be able to extort money from locals. If we caught them, we'd suggest they be removed. But we couldn't fire anybody. We could only make suggestions."

A former midlevel DynCorp official calls the program "dysfunctional." Requesting anonymity because he doesn't want problems with his former employer, he displays dozens of weekly reports sent to State and military officials; almost all include some mention of an Afghan police officer or commander as "corrupt." Yet of the 170,000 or so Afghans trained under the program since its inception, only about 30,000 remain on the force, according to State and Defense officials. "In terms of retention and attrition, we can say there's a problem," says Steve Kraft, who oversees the program for the State Department. The cops' base salary and hazardous-duty pay were recently raised to match Afghan Army levels, but no one knows if those changes are really helping. "Once they leave the training center, we currently don't know whether they stay with the force or quit," Kraft says. "The bottom line is, we just don't know."

And what has become of all the billions of dollars this program has cost America? Government investigators aren't entirely sure. Fundamental questions are raised in an audit of the Afghan police-training program released in February by the State and Defense departments' inspectors general. When State finally sent an "invoice-reconciliation team" to review expense receipts submitted under one particular contract, it discovered that $322 million in invoices had been "approved even though they were not allowable, allocable, or reasonable." What's more, the auditors said, half those invoices included errors.

The lapses don't stop there. The audit says State Department officials "did not conduct adequate surveillance for two task orders in excess of $1 billion." According to the auditors, State's contract supervisors didn't adequately oversee the use of government-owned property, failed to maintain contract files properly, and sometimes neglected to "match goods to receiving reports"—meaning, evidently, that they didn't verify that the U.S. government had actually received the goods it had paid for. (DynCorp's Ebner responds: "We are fully engaged with the Department of State to ensure complete and thorough reconciliation of all invoices, and recognize and welcome the emphasis on sufficient oversight personnel to complete this process.")

Those failures should have been no surprise. The audit also found that State routinely short-staffed its contract-monitoring office in Afghanistan. At one point, only three contract officers were on the ground overseeing DynCorp's $1.7 billion training contract. A former DynCorp official who worked in Afghanistan, asking not to be named because he remains in the government contracting business, says he asked the State Department repeatedly for concrete goals for the police contract but never got firm answers. "I'd ask them: 'Please explain to me what a successful training program was. What are the standards you want us to apply?' There was no vision for the future." (Assistant Secretary Johnson says, "From the start, our training program was based on a clear, professionally developed curriculum ... A simple head count of the number of individuals on the ground ignores the substantial back-office support our contract oversight personnel had from Washington.")

A new set of difficulties arose last summer. Caldwell's predecessor, Gen. Richard Formica, decided that Defense should take direct control of the training contract. To avoid a lengthy bidding competition, he suggested folding the police-training mission into an existing anti-drug and counterterrorism program overseen by the U.S. Army's Space and Missile Defense Command. Bids were limited to companies already under contract to the missile command, effectively shutting out DynCorp. In the end, only two firms wound up bidding: Northrop Grumman and Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater.

DynCorp fought back. In December the company filed a formal protest to block the Defense Department from seizing control of the contract. Last week the Government Accountability Office upheld DynCorp's complaint and suggested that the competition be open to all comers, including DynCorp as well as Xe and Northrop. DynCorp's CEO, William Ballhaus, recently told investors that the company's contract had been extended until July in any case; now it seems the new bidding process will take much longer.

At Kabul's police training center, a team of 35 Italian carabinieri recently arrived to supplement DynCorp's efforts. Before the Italians showed up at the end of January for a one-year tour, the recruits were posting miserable scores on the firing range. But the Italians soon discovered that poor marksmanship wasn't the only reason: the sights of the AK-47 and M-16 rifles the recruits were using were badly out of line. "We zeroed all their weapons," says Lt. Rolando Tommasini. "It's a very important thing, but no one had done this in the past. I don't know why."

The Italians also had a different way of teaching the recruits to shoot. DynCorp's instructors started their firearms training with 20-round clips at 50 meters; the recruits couldn't be sure at first if they were even hitting the target. Instead the carabinieri started them off with just three bullets each and a target only seven meters away. The recruits would shoot, check the target, and be issued three more rounds. When they began gaining confidence, the distance was gradually increased to 15, then 30, and then 50 meters. On a recent day on the firing range only one of 73 recruits failed the shooting test. The Italians say that's a huge improvement. (DynCorp says its civilian police advisers are "highly qualified"; the average trainer has more than a decade of law-enforcement experience.)

Caldwell also says it's just easier to work with paramilitary police units, such as the Italians and the French gendarmerie, than with contractors. Active-duty police units have a coherent and disciplined chain of command, Caldwell says. "When I bring in a contractor unit I'm getting a different group of folks," he says. "It may be someone who was a state patrolman, a local sheriff, or a policeman from New York City, each operating under different standards and with different backgrounds." Everything has to be negotiated. "If I say to my contractor that I want to make a change, he may say, 'Well, I'm not sure if that's really the best way,' " says Caldwell. "But if I can bring in a gendarmerie force, they're ready to go ... and take instructions well."

By the end of October, Caldwell hopes to build the force to 109,000 members, including an "elite unit" that so far has roughly 4,900 members. That outfit is called the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP). It'll be used for particularly sensitive assignments like Marja. ANCOP members get 16 weeks of training, and they're required to have at least a third-grade proficiency in reading and writing. So far, reviews from Marja are mixed. "The new police are more organized, committed, responsible, and helpful than the previous police, who were more like a criminal gang," Assadullah, a school principal, tells Newsweek. (Like many Afghans, he uses only one name.) Local shopkeeper Hajji Noruddin Khan disagrees. "We are as disappointed with the new police as we were with the old police," he complains.

Quality matters. "In the rush to increase the number of trained police officers, we must remember that the end goal is a civilian police force capable of promoting good government, not a paramilitary adjunct for the counterinsurgency fight," warns Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the top U.S. Marine commander in southern Afghanistan, puts it more succinctly: "I'd rather have one well-trained cop than 10 untrained." Besides, the fact is that no one is quite sure how many Afghan police there really are. The Americans are only now in the process of trying to create a database that will positively identify and track recruits. Without such data, it's more than difficult to catch "ghost" troops who exist only as names on the payroll, not to mention possible Taliban infiltrators.

But the buildup continues, and so does the training. On the firing range just outside Kabul, one of the few decent marksmen is Khair Mohammad, an illiterate 24-year-old from northern Afghanistan. "I've already had a lot of practice shooting at the Taliban," he says. He's been a cop for two years, serving one year in Kandahar and another on checkpoints just outside Marja. "I lost a lot of friends in the fighting," he says. Now he's getting his first taste of formal training, and hoping to join ANCOP. He figures he'd earn about double the $180 a month (including combat pay) he's been getting. His trainers are doing their best to make him worth the extra salary. "One thing the police don't know is good relations with the people," says Carabinieri Lt. Col. Massimo Deiana. "We're trying to train them to respect and relate to people." If such a skill is teachable at all, it could be far more important in the long run than knowing how to shoot straight.



It is worth pausing to dwell on what happened in the White House on Tuesday: President Obama, just over a year into a tumultuous presidency in which he was sometimes wrong-footed and often adrift, signed the most momentous social legislation in many years.
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Editorial Series

* Health Care Reform

The health care reform law is an overdue and vital step in the construction of a social safety net, which began after the Great Depression and slowly moved forward — often in a bipartisan manner — until it was interrupted by the Republican Party’s radical antigovernment fervor in the late 20th century.

It was a triumph for Mr. Obama and for the Democratic leadership in Congress. If Mr. Obama draws no other lesson, it is that his early and forceful personal engagement on big issues is indispensable. He waited a perilously long time to exercise his leadership on health care, but when he did, it paid off.

It is important to keep that in mind because Mr. Obama’s victory celebration had barely ended before people were asking, “Now what?” There was speculation, in some quarters, that the energy had been drained out of Mr. Obama and his Congressional allies by the struggle against a Republican Party whose only objective seemed to be to thwart the president, no matter his objective.

But there is important business ahead — lots of it. And while Mr. Obama deserves a break, he must build on this success, not rest on it.

First and foremost is the economy, specifically the creation of jobs. Mr. Obama offered a budget plan in February that called for cuts in discretionary spending and should have brought major Congressional action on jobs in return. After the Easter break, Congress will likely extend unemployment insurance and offer some fiscal relief to states. That may be enough for the economy to squeak through 2010, but persistently high joblessness is a plague that Congress may not confront in a comprehensive way unless Mr. Obama forces the issue.

He will also have to take the lead in improving the financial regulatory bills moving through Congress. Neither chamber’s version is adequate to fix the problems that led to the financial meltdown, and the banking lobby is working hard to render them even less effective.

Beyond jobs and financial reform — near-term issues that will bulk large in the midterm elections — there are longer-term issues. President Obama has promised to reform the country’s education system, and to address climate change and oil dependency by transforming the way Americans produce and use energy. In his campaign, he talked about immigration reform and restoring the rule of law to terrorist detention policies.

These are lofty objectives, and Mr. Obama may not reach them all. But the health care victory shows that big goals can be achieved — with Mr. Obama’s personal intervention and sustained leadership.

With rare exceptions, the Republicans are not going to help. Anyone who thinks otherwise should consider what Senator John McCain of Arizona said on Monday: “There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year.”

As shocking as that is from a man who more than once presented himself as a candidate for president, it sums up the political reality that Mr. Obama faces. Still, he should be able to sell the public at the very least on creating jobs and restraining a rapacious financial industry. The nation’s well-being depends on it.

Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality

New York Times

For all the political and economic uncertainties about health reform, at least one thing seems clear: The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.

Over most of that period, government policy and market forces have been moving in the same direction, both increasing inequality. The pretax incomes of the wealthy have soared since the late 1970s, while their tax rates have fallen more than rates for the middle class and poor.

Nearly every major aspect of the health bill pushes in the other direction. This fact helps explain why Mr. Obama was willing to spend so much political capital on the issue, even though it did not appear to be his top priority as a presidential candidate. Beyond the health reform’s effect on the medical system, it is the centerpiece of his deliberate effort to end what historians have called the age of Reagan.

Speaking to an ebullient audience of Democratic legislators and White House aides at the bill-signing ceremony on Tuesday, Mr. Obama claimed that health reform would “mark a new season in America.” He added, “We have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.”

The bill is the most sweeping piece of federal legislation since Medicare was passed in 1965. It aims to smooth out one of the roughest edges in American society — the inability of many people to afford medical care after they lose a job or get sick. And it would do so in large measure by taxing the rich.

A big chunk of the money to pay for the bill comes from lifting payroll taxes on households making more than $250,000. On average, the annual tax bill for households making more than $1 million a year will rise by $46,000 in 2013, according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group. Another major piece of financing would cut Medicare subsidies for private insurers, ultimately affecting their executives and shareholders.

The benefits, meanwhile, flow mostly to households making less than four times the poverty level — $88,200 for a family of four people. Those without insurance in this group will become eligible to receive subsidies or to join Medicaid. (Many of the poor are already covered by Medicaid.) Insurance costs are also likely to drop for higher-income workers at small companies.

Finally, the bill will also reduce a different kind of inequality. In the broadest sense, insurance is meant to spread the costs of an individual’s misfortune — illness, death, fire, flood — across society. Since the late 1970s, though, the share of Americans with health insurance has shrunk. As a result, the gap between the economic well-being of the sick and the healthy has been growing, at virtually every level of the income distribution.

The health reform bill will reverse that trend. By 2019, 95 percent of people are projected to be covered, up from 85 percent today (and about 90 percent in the late 1970s). Even affluent families ineligible for subsidies will benefit if they lose their insurance, by being able to buy a plan that can no longer charge more for pre-existing conditions. In effect, healthy families will be picking up most of the bill — and their insurance will be somewhat more expensive than it otherwise would have been.

Much about health reform remains unknown. Maybe it will deliver Congress to the Republicans this fall, or maybe it will help the Democrats keep power. Maybe the bill’s attempts to hold down the recent growth of medical costs will prove a big success, or maybe the results will be modest and inadequate. But the ways in which the bill attacks the inequality of the Reagan era — whether you love them or hate them — will probably be around for a long time.

“Legislative majorities come and go,” David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, lamented on Sunday. “This health care bill is forever.”

Since Mr. Obama began his presidential campaign in 2007, he has had a complicated relationship with the Reagan legacy. He has been more willing than many other Democrats to praise President Reagan. “Reagan’s central insight — that the liberal welfare state had grown complacent and overly bureaucratic,” Mr. Obama wrote in his second book, “contained a good deal of truth.” Most notably, he praised Mr. Reagan as a president who “changed the trajectory of America.”

But Mr. Obama also argued that the Reagan administration had gone too far, and that if elected, he would try to put the country on a new trajectory. “The project of the next president,” he said in an interview during the campaign, “is figuring out how you create bottom-up economic growth, as opposed to the trickle-down economic growth.”

Since 1980, median real household income has risen less than 15 percent. The only period of strong middle-class income growth during this time came in the mid- and late 1990s, which by coincidence was also the one time when taxes on the affluent were rising.

For most of the last three decades, tax rates for the wealthy have been falling, while their pretax pay has been rising rapidly. Real incomes at the 99.99th percentile have jumped more than 300 percent since 1980. At the 99th percentile — about $300,000 today — real pay has roughly doubled.

The laissez-faire revolution that Mr. Reagan started did not cause these trends. But its policies — tax cuts, light regulation, a patchwork safety net — have contributed to them.

Health reform hardly solves all of the American economy’s problems. Economic growth over the last decade was slower than in any decade since World War II. The tax cuts of the last 30 years, the two current wars, the Great Recession, the stimulus program and the looming retirement of the baby boomers have created huge deficits. Educational gains have slowed, and the planet is getting hotter.

Above all, the central question that both the Reagan and Obama administrations have tried to answer — what is the proper balance between the market and the government? — remains unresolved. But the bill signed on Tuesday certainly shifts our place on that spectrum.

Before he became Mr. Obama’s top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers told me a story about helping his daughter study for her Advanced Placement exam in American history. While doing so, Mr. Summers realized that the federal government had not passed major social legislation in decades. There was the frenzy of the New Deal, followed by the G.I. Bill, the Interstate Highway System, civil rights and Medicare — and then nothing worth its own section in the history books.

Now there is.

US cooperating, not dictating Islamabad: Holbrooke

WASHINGTON : Pakistan’s anti-militancy actions have improved its image in the United States and the Obama administration is pursuing a cooperative relationship with the regional ally and not dictating Islamabad, US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke said Tuesday.

“We are out of the business of telling your country what you should do. Now we are listening to Pakistan,” Holbrooke remarked. He said the US-Pakistan relationship is getting “stronger and stronger.”

At a joint press briefing with Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, the American envoy said “Pakistan’s (anti-militant) actions last year have had a deep effect on American public opinion. I think, you will see it Mr Secretary if you talk to ordinary Americans, you go to the (Capitol) Hill today, I think you will see much more appreciation for Pakistan than in previous trips.”

Holbrooke cited several examples of how the Obama Administration has been receptive to Islamabad’s ideas and has accordingly changed the policies it inherited.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir on the occasion said both Pakistan and the United States are working hard towards a stronger relationship.

“We want to establish long-term full-spectrum relationship with the United States.”

The top Pakistani career diplomat said Pakistan-US engagement is very important but “it is not about numbers” in terms of economic assistance.

“It is the relationship which is important.”

At the same time, he said, “there is the reality of interdependence” between Pakistan and the United States.

“It is not a donor-recipient relationship we are looking for, but a long long-term engagement.”