Unlocking the Mission: Washington’s Wishlist for its Pakistan Envoy


The US mission in Pakistan has been mandated with specific mission objectives… it includes focuses on ensuring that Pakistan’s military capabilities do not pose a threat to the United States or its allies and partners

What’s the new mandate set for Donald Armin Blome, the US Ambassador to Pakistan since 11 April 2022? His input has helped the States Department to determine a new set of priorities and objectives to be delivered on Pakistan.

On March 16, 2023, the United States unveiled its revised integrated country strategy for Pakistan, which has redefined the role and responsibilities of the US Chief of Mission in this relationship. The strategic blueprint, ratified on the one-year completion of Donald Blome’s tenure in March 2023, underscores the multifaceted nature of US-Pakistan relations and determines a set of crucial priorities.

Ambassador David Blome, a seasoned diplomat with a career spanning nearly three decades, holds the potential to redefine Pakistan’s role in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region along with Afghanistan, while subtly disengaging the country from its traditional South Asian affiliations. His experience could also contribute in carving out a role of Pakistan in the protracted Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Pakistan’s historical regional affiliations, primarily as a South Asian nation, have been deeply ingrained in its foreign policy. However, the appointment of Ambassador Blome marks a shift in focus, one that aims to integrate Pakistan more closely into the MENA and Afghanistan region. The MENA region is inherently interconnected, and developments in one country often ripple across neighboring states. Blome’s previous postings in Tunisia and Libya provide a regional perspective, making him understand the complexities and intricacies of this region.

Furthermore, his experience as the Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem directly places him in the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a longstanding regional issue. This experience offers a unique perspective on the broader dynamics of the MENA region, which is crucial for Pakistan to position itself as an influential player in the region. By leveraging this expertise, Ambassador Blome can facilitate Pakistan’s engagement with regional actors in the MENA and Afghanistan, and subtly push Pakistan and Israel relationship at some level.

While seeking to integrate Pakistan into the MENA-Afghanistan and Pakistan (MENAAP) region, Ambassador Blome’s role also implies a nuanced disengagement from the traditional South Asian framework. This shift does not entail complete isolation from South Asia but reflects a reorientation of priorities, recognizing the interdependence of regional dynamics and conflicts.

The influence of Pakistan’s interests and its role in South Asia has frequently been shaped by its interactions with neighboring India. This aspect is an integral element of the updated US Integrated Country Strategy for Pakistan, aimed at fostering a region devoid of nuclear conflicts. The promotion of amicable relations between the two nuclear-armed South Asian nations, can empower India to focus its resources on addressing challenges posed by China, rather than being preoccupied with Pakistan.

The Changing Priorities for US Ambassador Set by the State Department.

CategoryOriginal Document (29 March 2022)New Document (16 March 2023)
Key National Security Interests– Counterterrorism, regional peace, nuclear non-proliferation– Climate change, global health, energy, economic stability, and trade
Priorities– Combat terrorism and violent extremism – Advance regional stability and security – Foster economic growth & development – Strengthen civilian democratic institutions and protect human rights– Economic growth and trade – Climate-friendly energy policy – Strengthening democratic institutions and human rights – Counterterrorism & violent extremism
Counterterrorism and Violent Extremism– Mitigate the threat from terrorism – Encourage Pakistan to take action against militant and terrorist groups– Focus on the shared responsibility for action against militant and terrorist groups – Encourage Pakistan to enhance counterterrorism cooperation
Nuclear Security– Promote strategic stability and deter destabilizing capabilities and policies. – Encourage diplomacy with India.– Maintain nuclear security, promote strategic stability, and encourage diplomatic engagement with India.
Strengthening Civilian Democratic Institutions– Address underrepresentation of women, minorities, and disadvantaged groups. – Strengthen democratic practices and institutions.– Support efforts to strengthen civil and human rights of various groups in Pakistan, including women and minorities.
Security and Human Rights– Strengthen security while protecting human rights. – Counter violent extremism and improve counterterrorism capabilities.– Emphasize security concerns and the importance of improving counterterrorism capabilities. – Highlight the shared responsibility to bring terrorists to justice.
Economic Growth– Encourage economic growth, private sector development, trade, and investment. – Focus on economic reforms.– Promote inclusive economic growth and a trade relationship based on fairness, transparency, and sustainability. – Encourage economic reforms for private investment.
Climate-Friendly Energy Policy– Not mentioned in the original document.– Focus on building a climate-friendly energy policy that powers economic growth and addresses climate challenges.
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights– Strengthen democratic institutions and political participation – Address underrepresentation of women and minorities– Continue supporting democratic institutions, human rights, and freedom of the press. – Promote an active civil society.
Management Objectives– Safe and secure facilities – Workforce diversity and inclusion – Program implementation without host government harassment– Safe and secure facilities – Diverse, inclusive workforce
Overall ApproachThe original document primarily focuses on security, counterterrorism, and governance, with some emphasis on economic growth.The new document expands the scope to include a wider range of global challenges and opportunities, with strong emphasis on economic growth and climate issues.

However, Blome’s focus on the MENA and Afghanistan region implies a more diversified foreign policy approach. This diversification can reduce the overreliance on the South Asian context and enable Pakistan to independently shape its relations and policies in alignment with its national interests. A balanced foreign policy, with engagements in multiple regional contexts, strengthens Pakistan’s diplomatic prowess and strategic influence. Continuation of the policy framework set by his predecessor, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

One of the critical regional issues in the Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ambassador Blome’s direct experience in Jerusalem equips him with the insights and understanding necessary to contribute to the peace process. His diplomatic skills and the relationships he has built over the years can be leveraged to advance Pakistan’s stance on the Israel-Palestine issue. His engagement could not only strengthen Pakistan’s role in the Middle East diplomacy but also potentially pave the way for a more inclusive and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This requires Pakistan’s relations to be evolved with Israel on the diplomatic stage, so Pakistan is part of the region as well. With Saudi Arabia transitioning into a more liberal governance mechanism, the leadership for the Muslim world in terms of safeguarding the traditional values of faith requires a new custodian in the region as well. The only two candidates for this evolving vacuum can be filled by either Turkey or Pakistan.

Turkey’s ability to assume the role of Muslim leadership is constrained by a range of factors. Firstly, Turkey’s strong tradition of secularism, established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, has historically kept its political and legal systems separated from traditional Islamic leadership. Moreover, its unique geopolitical location, economic interests, and ties with Western nations make it challenging to exclusively lead the Muslim world. The sheer diversity of the Muslim world, both culturally and politically, further complicates its leadership prospects. Competition and rivalries with nations like Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as domestic challenges and controversial foreign policies, present additional obstacles. The changing dynamics of global politics and alliances also play a role in limiting Turkey’s ability to maintain a consistent leadership position within the diverse Muslim community.

Pakistan has the potential to fulfill this leadership role in the Muslim world through a multifaceted approach. First and foremost, it can actively engage in diplomacy and conflict resolution, extending its mediation efforts beyond the Afghan peace talks. By fostering peace and reconciliation in the Muslim world, Pakistan can position itself as a peacemaker and a force for stability. This might result in Pakistan being led by leaders with faith-based inclinations and aspirations at all levels.

Ambassador Blome’s tenure holds the potential to be a transformative period for Pakistan’s foreign policy and diplomatic relations.

The new updated integrated country strategy for Pakistan has assigned a new set of deliverables and mandates for the US Ambassador in Pakistan. The strategy has the following new priority areas now:

1.     Economic Growth: Fostering Prosperity and Inclusion

At the heart of the US-Pakistan relationship is the commitment to fostering economic growth. The mission is clear: to promote an economic growth trajectory that is inclusive, equitable, and built on principles of fairness, transparency, and sustainability. The US Chief of Mission is entrusted with the task of advocating for legal and regulatory reforms that facilitate private investments and safeguard intellectual property rights. This mission also calls for nurturing a healthier, well-educated, inclusive, and highly skilled workforce, ensuring that economic growth benefits all Pakistanis.

2.     Climate Change: A Green Alliance for the Future

Climate change knows no borders and requires global cooperation. Recognizing this, the new strategy places a high priority on developing a sustainable, environmentally responsible energy policy for Pakistan. This policy is not just about environmental protection; it is also about driving Pakistan’s economic advancement while ensuring its economic sovereignty. The recently introduced U.S.-Pakistan “Green Alliance” framework exemplifies the shared commitment to address climate challenges collaboratively, ensuring that both nations are prepared to thrive in an evolving, greener future.

3.     Democracy and Human Rights: Strengthening the Foundations

The Chief of Mission is entrusted with endorsing initiatives that strengthen Pakistan’s democratic institutions and safeguard human rights. This includes supporting programs aimed at enhancing the civil and human rights of women, minority groups, and other marginalized communities. Additionally, the United States commits to supporting press freedom and nurturing an engaged civil society, critical components for ensuring Pakistan’s stability and development.

4.     Security: Countering Extremism and Promoting Peace

Security concerns, particularly counterterrorism collaboration, are a top priority in the new strategy. The mission emphasizes the importance of Pakistan taking resolute and permanent measures against militant and terrorist groups. This approach involves enhancing the capacity of the civilian government, the military, and civil society to combat violent extremism, and it is instrumental in countering militancy, radical propaganda, and acts of terrorism effectively.

5.     Nuclear Security and Regional Stability: Diplomacy Over Discord

Maintaining nuclear security and regional stability is one of the most significant challenges in South Asia. The Chief of Mission is mandated to collaborate with Pakistan to advance strategic stability and discourage actions that could lead to destabilization. This includes promoting diplomatic engagement between Pakistan and India, emphasizing that enduring peace through diplomacy and regional integration is in Pakistan’s best interest. Preventing nuclear weapons and materials from falling into the hands of terrorists is a shared priority, vital for both Pakistan and the United States.

6.     Transnational Crime and Terrorism: Aligning with Global Standards

The Chief of Mission is tasked with assisting Pakistan in aligning with international standards set by the Financial Action Task Force. This alignment aims to establish a proficient, transparent, and equitable criminal justice system while enhancing law enforcement capabilities. This approach reinforces security while safeguarding human rights, upholds the rule of law, and fosters stability in Pakistan and the broader region.

7.     Inclusive, Engaged, and Empowered Electorate and Civil Society

Lastly, the strategy underscores the importance of working with Pakistan to support an inclusive, engaged, and empowered electorate and civil society. Improved governance, driven by citizen engagement, reduces the drivers of instability and violent extremism, making Pakistan a stable and prosperous nation.

The new strategy for Pakistan is more than a policy document; it is a comprehensive plan to reshape and elevate the US-Pakistan partnership. It recognizes the importance of addressing economic growth, climate change, democracy and human rights, security, nuclear stability, transnational crime, and the development of an inclusive civil society. These priorities, orchestrated by the Chief of Mission in Pakistan, are instrumental in advancing the shared interests of both nations and herald a new era of cooperation and progress.

The Mission’s Strategic Framework aims to counter terrorism and reduce violent extremism in Pakistan. To achieve this goal, two key mission objectives have been identified. The first objective, 1.1, aims to bolster Pakistan’s capability and resolve to combat terrorist groups, prevent violent extremism, and put an end to cross-border proxy terrorist attacks. The second objective, 1.2, focuses on strengthening Pakistan’s rule of law, enhancing its law enforcement capacity, and promoting gender inclusivity within the justice sector and law enforcement agencies.

Objective 1.1 is based on the United States’ interest in enhancing Pakistan’s ability to address domestic threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism. The US Mission plans to carry out several activities to achieve this objective, including strengthening the government’s capacity to provide basic services, diminishing radical messaging, improving law enforcement capabilities, and continuing military-to-military engagements and security cooperation programs.

Objective 1.2 aims to address the numerous challenges faced by Pakistan’s criminal justice sector that undermine the rule of law and enable transnational terrorism. The US assistance aims to support the development of more professional and transparent justice sector institutions, enhance the protection of human rights, combat corruption, illicit narcotics, terrorism, and terrorist financing, promote security and stability, secure borders, reduce the threat of transnational crime, and promote gender equality.

Failure to address these challenges would risk further loss of citizens confidence in Pakistani criminal justice and law enforcement institutions, leading to increased instability and providing more space for extremist and criminal elements to operate, especially in the border region. By pursuing these mission objectives, the U.S. Mission aims to contribute to counterterrorism efforts, foster a more secure and inclusive justice system, and advance regional stability in Pakistan.

The second task for the U.S. Mission in Pakistan set as a goal is to “Advance Regional Stability, Integration, and Security” within the Mission Strategic Framework. This goal has two specific mission objectives:

Enhancing the capacity of civilian institutions at the expense of military capability can be a dangerous trend that may lead to mistrust and instability. This is because a strong military is essential for maintaining regional security and stability, which is crucial for the United States and its allies. However, it is also important to promote democracy, prosperity, and stability in the broader region.

The U.S. Mission in Pakistan has defined two specific mission objectives to achieve this goal. Objective 2.1 focuses on ensuring that Pakistan’s military capabilities do not pose a threat to the United States or its allies and partners. This objective emphasizes the importance of maintaining a regional security environment that does not undermine the security interests of the U.S. and its allies.

To achieve this objective, the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and the National Police Bureau have been working together on initiatives and projects concerning Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). Some of the initiatives undertaken jointly include Madaris Reforms, The Revised National Action Plan (NAP) 2022, NAP Monitoring, Proscribed Persons, Safe Charities Initiatives, and Counter Financing of Terrorism. The US Assistance has also resulted in building the capacity of NACTA by providing support to enhance the functioning of its Monitoring Evaluation and Data (ME&D) branch, which is responsible for designing and developing a framework for effective implementation of National CT, CE & CFT laws, policies, and strategies.

Objective 2.2 pertains to Pakistan’s regional relationships and aims to encourage these relationships to contribute to the promotion of democracy, prosperity, and stability in the broader region. By pursuing these objectives, the U.S. Mission seeks to bolster regional security and stability while encouraging Pakistan to play a constructive role in promoting democratic values and economic well-being in the region. This approach aligns with broader U.S. foreign policy objectives aimed at ensuring a stable and secure environment in South Asia.

Risks associated with not achieving this objective include Pakistan’s continued economic underperformance, low levels of regional economic integration, connectivity, and trade, and persisting bilateral tensions between Pakistan and India. To achieve this objective, the Mission intends to encourage Pakistan to engage diplomatically with India and separately support initiatives promoting human rights and stability in Afghanistan. The Mission will also encourage and insist Pakistan to continue to host Afghan refugees and ensure voluntary refugee returns only when conditions in Afghanistan support sustainable repatriation.

Economic linkages are seen as essential for bolstering connectivity and trade, serving the U.S. national interest. This objective has systematically created space for Pakistan to be part of the new emerging region of West Asia, or currently known as the Middle East North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (MENA-AP) region. This particular strategy is also part of India’s approach to isolate Pakistan from the South Asia region. This is also evident from the various initiatives undertaken by India such as BRICS, The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) also known as the QUAD, Act East Policy, BIMSTEC: Bay of Bengal Initiative, PM GatiShakti National Masterplan. While India pursues these initiatives, it deliberately sabotages the working of the South Asia Association Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

The updated mandate for the Ambassador at the U.S. Mission in Pakistan has been recalibrated and redefined with the three mission objectives, and the third objective being “Counter Terrorism and Reduce Violent Extremism.”

The third objective assigned to the US Ambassador is to “Address Terrorism and Counter Violent Extremism”. This objective outlines the primary mission of the US presence in Pakistan, emphasizing collaboration with the Pakistani government and its people to confront the urgent challenges of violent extremism and terrorism. The significance of this goal is underscored by its alignment with a fundamental US priority: the safety and security of American citizens, both domestically and internationally.

To accomplish this objective, the US Mission has devised the new strategic plan:

I.                    First and foremost, it will extend support to Pakistan in its ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, bolstering the nation’s capacity to address this significant security threat.

II.                 Additionally, the Mission will actively encourage the Pakistani government to take decisive actions to eliminate terrorist safe havens within its borders, exerting pressure for a more assertive stance against such entities.

Furthermore, the US Mission acknowledges the importance of countering the ideological roots that fuel violent extremism. To this end, it supports programs and initiatives aimed at curtailing the spread of these perilous ideologies within Pakistan. By doing so, it seeks to create an environment where extremist ideas find fewer adherents and less fertile ground. The approach involves cooperation with the Pakistani government, empowering them to take proactive measures against terrorists and their ideologies, thereby contributing to the broader objective of safeguarding American interests and people, both at home and abroad.

The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is an agency that reports to the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights within the Department of State. The primary beneficiaries of this effort include institutions such as the Ministry of Interior, National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FIA), National Police Bureau (NPB), Intelligence Bureau (IB), and the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA).

The launch of UNODC’s Third Phase Country Programme for Pakistan (2022-2025) holds potential to significantly enhance anti-terrorism cooperation between the United States and Pakistan. Focusing on integrated, scalable, and sustainable responses to various forms of crime, including terrorism, this program aligns with the shared goal of countering violent extremism and enhancing regional security. It provides a platform for strengthening Pakistan’s capabilities in combating terrorist activities and addressing the multifaceted threats from illicit drug trafficking, organized crime, and terrorism. UNODC’s commitment to international collaboration and partnerships will further facilitate cooperation between the US and Pakistan in addressing these critical security challenges.

The United States has also initiated projects to enhance the capacity of civilian institutions with the aim of diversifying the influence of law enforcement agencies apart from the military establishment in the realms of security, risk management, and counter-terrorism. Some of these initiatives include:

  • Pakistan Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which has ironically, equipped the US authorities with the entire national fingerprint identification database.
  • The National Public Safety Commission, overseeing the functioning of various law enforcement agencies.
  • Gender Responsive Policing Project, with strategic assistance and support from the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

The US Institute of Peace (USIP) supports programs and research that contribute to promoting US policy objectives in South Asia, particularly in the areas of anti-terrorism, counter-terrorism, and stability and peace initiatives. The USIP offers funding opportunities in three categories; the Peace Innovation Fund, the Peacebuilding Practitioners’ Fund, and the Peace and Conflict Research Fund. These initiatives allow the US government to engage, infiltrate and collaborate with the non-state actors in the domains of anti-terrorism and anti-extremism.

One noteworthy aspect of these initiatives is their consistent focus on issues within the China-Pakistan relationship that could potentially impact and influence US national interests. Some of the blogs associated with these initiatives appear to target opportunities related to anti-terrorism while simultaneously scrutinizing China and its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The legal and diplomatic frameworks underpinning anti-terrorism cooperation between the US and Pakistan involve bilateral relations, military-intelligence partnerships, international legal regimes, and the promotion of human rights. While the US and Pakistan have cooperated in the war on terrorism, challenges have arisen due to divergent strategic objectives and historical inconsistencies in Washington’s support for groups that undermine global and regional security interests.

The role and responsibilities of the US Ambassador to Pakistan in safeguarding US interests in this strategically significant nation are paramount. As the highest-ranking US diplomat in Pakistan, Ambassador Donald Blome serves as a crucial link between the two countries, playing a pivotal role in advancing American priorities and ensuring the safety and security of American citizens both domestically and internationally. To fulfill this role, the Ambassador has been asked to forge strong partnerships, engage in diplomatic dialogue, and foster cooperation with the Pakistani government and its people. The Ambassador acts as a steward of US interests, promoting stability and regional security while enhancing the relationship between these two nations.

However, a word of caution for the Pakistani establishment includes the need to safeguard the crucial role of the military in protecting the interests of Pakistan and its allies. While the military plays a vital role in ensuring national security and stability, it’s essential to maintain a balance between military strength and democratic governance.  

Amir Jahangir
Amir Jahangirhttp://narratives.com.pk
The writer is a global competitiveness, risk, and development expert. He leads Mishal Pakistan, the country partner institute of the Centre for the New Economy and Society Platform at the World Economic Forum.

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