Yesterday the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) approved the FY2013 Foreign Relations Authorization Act that it hopes will be the first authorizing bill to pass Congress in a decade. The bill aims to provide direction and guidance to appropriators and the administration as they fund and execute U.S. foreign affairs. But before you pop your confetti canisters and congratulate HFAC on a bipartisan job well done, check the fine print. The bill excludes foreign assistance—all of it.
CGD Policy Blogs
It’s not a stretch to say that United States-Pakistan relations are at a low point. Indeed, it seems just when Washington and Islamabad think bilateral relations cannot get any worse, they inevitably do. The latest fallout stems from the accidental NATO bombing in November 2011 of Pakistani military outposts, resulting in the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan immediately shut down critical NATO supply routes and the negotiations to re-open them have gone nowhere. To add insult to injury, Pakistan faces a slew of minor crises on its home front, relating to the economy, politics, and of course, security. In Washington, support for civilian assistance to Pakistan is rapidly waning. With this as background, the United States is also undergoing two major personnel transitions in Islamabad. U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter and USAID Mission Director Andrew Sisson have both announced their intention to step down this summer. This staff turnover, while a distraction in the short run, also provides an opportunity for the United States to re-brand its civilian assistance program in Pakistan. Our latest open letter to Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides urges the United States to support Pakistan’s “democratic machinery” with more USAID innovation, stronger Pakistani think tanks and research groups, and more independent media.
Last year my former colleagues Molly Kinder and Wren Elhai joined Nancy Birdsall for a listening tour in Pakistan that sought to gather input from a range of experts for CGD’s June 2011 report on the U.S. assistance program there. Last month, in support of CGD’s upcoming follow-up report on status of the program in 2012, I travelled to Pakistan for another round of discussions.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) board of directors suspended Malawi’s $350 million compact in March. Fast forward three months: Malawi has a new president—Joyce Banda—who is moving quickly to improve the country’s governance and economy. The MCC’s June board meeting was expected to be about terminating Malawi’s compact; instead, it will be about whether to lift the compact suspension. And Banda will be in Washington this weekend to make her case to the MCC and other parts of the U.S. government.