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As lawmakers debate boosting aid to Pakistan amid renewed fighting in the country's Swat Valley, President Barack Obama is preparing to meet with the region's leaders to discuss security concerns and counterinsurgency measures. Margaret Warner reports.
Margaret Warner reports on U.S. efforts to strengthen Pakistan in its fight with the Taliban.
In Pakistan's Swat Valley, villagers fled renewed fighting today between government forces and Taliban militants who've taken over there. Officials fear that as many as 500,000 people could flee the area close to the capital, Islamabad.
The deteriorating security picture has sharpened Washington's attention on the grinding poverty in Pakistan, collapsing schools, hungry children, and a government seen as not delivering for its people.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan. The civilian government there right now is very fragile and don't seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services, schools, health care, you know, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of people.
And so, as a consequence, it is very difficult for them to gain the support and the loyalty of their people. So we need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis.
So the White House is pushing on two tracks. It wants Congress to boost U.S. military aid for Pakistan, and it's also asking Congress to launch a hefty civilian aid program, $1.5 billion a year for five years, to build up infrastructure, education, and health for ordinary Pakistanis.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, U.S. Envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan: We cannot do anything other than try to help stabilize Pakistan in the face of the mess of challenges it faces.
Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is the president's point-man for Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Foreign assistance is critical in that process, both for what it can do to help Pakistan overcome the brutal efforts of the Taliban and al-Qaida and other extremist groups, and for the good it will do for the region itself.
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, agrees his country urgently needs more civilian aid.
HUSAIN HAQQANI, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States: Forty-eight percent of Pakistani school-going-age children do not go to school. So in an environment like that, it's easier for extremists to recruit based on the fact that people do not have anything to live for in terms of hope.
And so a civilian aid package, a multi-year civilian aid package, is meant to assure the people of Pakistan that the United States is their friend, is interested in giving them education, health care, and a future for their children.
But other voices in Washington are questioning whether the money will be spent as intended or be siphoned off by corruption and graft.
CHRISTINE FAIR, Rand Corporation:
I have a lot of doubts about whether, at the end of it, it's going to be effective.
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