Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

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A Guide to Pakistan’s Election 2013

May 10, 2013
Pakistani Elections 2013

Each Candidate Brings a Unique Skill Set, Experience & Expertise

This marks the first time in Pakistan’s history a civilian government has completed its full term and will transition power to a new civilian government, Pakistani elections this Saturday are complete with hope, democratic fervor, and anticipation. Here is a guide to whose running, and what each party stands for.

The Businessman: Nawaz Sharif
Party: PML-N

Economic Philosophy: Industry Friendly, Economically Liberal: Nawaz Sharif is a consistent proponent of “rapid industrialization” and there is little doubt he will incorporate free market principles anywhere he can. “He liberalized foreign exchange regulations and denationalized several public sector industrial enterprises and financial institutions”, including electric utilities in hopes to curtail power shortages that have crippled businesses and left Pakistani’s reeling in hot summers from lack of electricity. Sharif vows to remove these shortages, known as “load shedding” in the coming years through increased use of natural gas extracted from Baluchistan. While Socialist policies have historically been more popular in Pakistan, Sharif intends to “cut government expenditure by 30 percent in order to secure international backing for the economy” and is likely to continue his legacy as a free market capitalist.
Foreign Policy: Flexible & Amendable: His record includes initiating peace processes with India in his first term as prime minister and is remembered for launching the Delhi Lahore Bus , with his Indian counterpart Atul Vajpayee in 1999. Sharif claims he will not be part of the War on Terror, but rarely shies from turning to the United States for assistance. During the 1998 Kargil conflict, former President Clinton writes in his autobiography that he was personally asked by Prime Minister Sharif to visit and discuss the conflict. He did however defy American calls to halt Pakistan’s nuclear program and the country faced crippling sanctions as a result. Sharif has since promised to “recalibrate Pakistan’s counterterrorism partnership with United States” , in hopes to quell widespread resentment of American handling of terrorism in Pakistan. He supports handing over Gwadar port to China and the singing of a gas supply project with Iran,citing Pakistan’s current foreign policy posture leaves them in “isolation” and such projects is a route to connecting with the world.
Social Policy: Very Conservative: A protégé of Pakistan’s most religious conservative leader General Zia ul Haq, Sharif initiated the ghastly 15th Constitutional Amendment bill known as the Shariat bill in 1998 during his term which empowered the “prime minister to enforce what he thought was right and to prohibit what he considered wrong in Islam irrespective of what the Constitution or any judgment of the courts”. Suffice to say religious conservatism will color his social policy.
Voter Base/Popularity: Very popular in the Punjab. Sharif has widespread support of the middle and lower class, urban population. He also commands support of the industrialist and business class, given his support of free market policies.
Leadership Style/Personality: With a feudal background, Sharif is considered a son of the soil in the Punjab, (even though he lives a rather lavish lifestyle; be brings white tigers to his campaign rallies). He is mild mannered, conservative and has a simple, unobtrusive, way about him which helps him connect with most Pakistanis.
Security Issues: He says drone attacks are against “national sovereignty” and will not tolerate them but does not offer specific alternatives to drone policy, or how to curtail them in the immediate future. Considered to be “soft” of militant groups, and lacking a significant record of standing up for minority groups, he has vowed to end America’s war on terror but “declines to say whether he would stop military operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda” and has floated ideas on engagement with militant groups as workable options as opposed to “guns and bullets” . My guess is his government will initiate added dialogue with militant groups on a need to basis. Sharif is a free markets leader, and will prioritize big business before putting security atop his agenda.
American Counterpart: Mitt Romney – Both free market businessman to their core, socially conservative and very wealthy, these men are rather similar. Sharif does not have Ivy League degrees, but seems more down to earth and connects with the general public with ease.

The Deal Maker: Asif Ali Zardari
Party: PPP

Economic Philosophy: Centrist with Socialist Tendencies: The party has socialist roots but since the death of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his debacle of nationalizing major industries in the 70’s, the PPP has taken a centrist shift. Benazir Bhutto as prime minister favored socio-economic development through fiscal and monetary expansionist policies, and under her husband Asif Zardari’s leadership, the party will continue along this route. The PPP implemented welfare projects, including income support schemes which handed cash out to rural areas, especially in Sindh. Prime Minister Zardari has repeatedly called for consensus in Pakistan on economic issues and turned a nose to repeated US calls to steer clear of Iran’s gas pipeline. The pipeline deal with Tehran is Prime Minister’s Zardari’s answer to “chronic energy shortages in the country”
Foreign Policy: Accommodating: The party most diametrically opposed to the military in Pakistan, the PPP seeks to forge closer ties with the United States. The military having brutally executed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s most populous leader in the 1970’s, and house arresting his daughter Benazir (who would later go on to be Prime Minister) the Zardari government is responsible for appointing Hussain Haqqani as Ambassador in D.C. Recall Hussain Haqqani’s rather embarrassing Memo Gate controversy in which the Ambassador sent a memorandum to Admiral Mike Mullen seeking the Obama Administrations assistance in an American takeover of Pakistan’s military apparatus”. THe Prime Minister has also spent much time cultivating business ties with China, including announcing their takeover of the Gwadar port as part of a “drive to secure energy and maritime routes”. And despite seeking closer ties with the United States, Zardari has gone against US requests and met with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to finalize the Iran Pakistan gas pipeline.
Social Policy: Liberal Leaning: Historically they have been very protective of minority rights, but the PPP has not been able to prevent a current upsurge in violence against Shias, Ahmedi’s and Christians. Social policy has been rooted in helping the poor through inflationary schemes; Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s exceedingly popular and iconic promise of “roti kapra makaan” (bread, clothing, shelter) is still a sentiment held by the PPP. Prime Minister Zardari’s government can also boast passing a “raft of women’s empowerment resolutions through the previous parliament, including laws against domestic violence and sexual harassment”, testimony to the PPP’s liberal leaning posture. And even though many party stalwarts have been sidelined by the Zardari government in the past few years, they remain mostly committed to PPP causes.
Voter Base/Popularity: The PPP’s stronghold has always been in Sindh,. The party commands support of the rural, lower, and middle class. They also have support in the southern part of Punjab. Not enough to win the election this year, but his party consistently wins a significant number of seats.
Leadership Style/Personality: Asif Ali Zardari is a savvy business dealer and deft negotiator. Coming from a relatively modest feudal background, Zardari grew up with a chip on his shoulder, and has been in business for himself since his teens. Beginning with selling tickets to his father’s cinema, to trading cars, selling assets, negotiating land deals, he has always created opportunities, and found success for himself. May not be as well liked as Nawaaz Sharif in Pakistan, but he is renowned to be the most loyal of friends to those who know him.
Security Issues: Prime Minister Zardari and his party have always sought widespread civil society support before opting for military solutions. Last year, he referred to drones as counterproductive, yet on the whole, drones have increased during his regime . On terrorism, Prime Minister Zardari has worked with the military establishment on some operations, (such as negotiating peace in SWAT with the Taliban) but insists Pakistan needs the support of civil society to launch operations against militants, while simultaneously censuring the media, judiciary and other right wing parties for not being supportive enough.
American Counterpart: Rod Blagojevich: Two left leaning party leaders jailed for corruption, they also share strikingly characteristic smiles and have suffered the brunt of many a political cartoon. Asif Zardari and Rod Blagojevich also both elicit a love hate response from people, there’s no middle ground; one either likes, or really dislikes them.

The Captain: Imran Khan
Party: PTI

zainab jeewanjee and imran khan smallest

zainab jeewanjee and imran khan

Economic Philosophy: Welfare Policies: Imran Khan says he will “end corruption in 19 days” and plans to sideline the bureaucracy to do so. All economic plans that follow are rooted in this idea. He will declare an energy emergency and claims to end load shedding in 2 years through an oversight board for energy distributers in attempt to make it an apolitical body while privatizing energy companies. He also plans to increase use of coal from Pakistan, and has made calls for an Islamic Welfare State. No word yet as to what the Islamic Welfare State would mean and how to go about implementing it, but it makes for wonderful campaigning with the people.
Foreign Policy: Assertive: “America is destroying Pakistan”, suffice to say Imran Khan is the candidate most opposed to current US policy to Pakistan, while clarifying he is not “anti-west” . He vociferously opposes all post 9/11 Pakistani regimes from General Musharraf to Prime Minister Zardari, for cooperating in what was once known as the “war on terror”. He finds current relations, involving drone attacks in exchange for American aid more than just transactional, but a failure. Referring to it as an “American war on Pakistani soil” , Khan insists on Pakistan’s sovereignty first, and a rejection of American aid if current policies persist . And in regards to India, as a world renowned former cricketer, India may be warm to an Imran Khan regime and such popularity in the Subcontinent could be an opportunity for diplomatic headway in bilateral relations with Delhi.
Social Policy: Conservative Reformist: Khan’s vision of an Islamic Society looks like Scandinavia; “a humane society, where there is rule of law, a society that looks after its weak, its handicapped.” Where to begin creating institutions to do this, has yet to be fleshed out. As with his energy policy, he vows to declare an emergency on education to tackle the country’s illiteracy problem, commissioning international scholar Dr. Azeem Ibrahim to come up with the plan. On minority issues, he has condemned Lashkar e Jhangvi’s killing of Shia’s yet. Overall, one may expect someone who was known for a high flying, partying lifestyle as a fashionable celebrity cricketer to be more on the liberal side of the social spectrum, but his policies for Pakistan are astonishingly conservative.
Voter Base/Popularity: Young, rural, urban, elite, upper middle class, and educated Pakistani’s are supporting Imran Khan in this election. He also commands a significant supporting from overseas Pakistani’s, especially in the United States, where he has raised millions for this election campaign, in his cancer hospital in previous years. They say if the youth turn out to vote, the election will swing his way.
Leadership Style/Personality: He’s the man who brought the Cricket world cup to Pakistan and will always be known as a hero who led a nation to victory. Men admire him and women love him; he’s compelling, handsome and speaking from personal experience, has a rather impressive presence. Leading PTI gradually, but steadily over the years with a straight shooting manner, he is criticized for being soft on substance. An unwavering posture against highly unpopular American policies and promise of sweeping change however, is where he finds tremendous support.

Security Issues: If elected, Imran Khan says he will simply shoot down American drones . He will negotiate with the Taliban, explaining actual militants comprise only a small sector of Pakistani society and plans to reconstitute tribal Jirga’s to maintain peace. He want to withdraw all Pakistani troops from FATA tribal areas and applauded Prime Minister Zardari’s and the military brokered peace deal with the Taliban in SWAT 2009, which was promptly violated by the Taliban almost immediately. His plan for securing the nation from increased sectarian violence, political bombings and terrorist militancy are rooted in ending American drones and “Rambo style” mercenaries who he explains increase, rather than decrease violence.

American Counterpart: Ron Paul: Both call for limited foreign interferences and engagements as a silver bullet to their country’s problems. They are straight shooters, unabashedly opinionated and while they don’t always have an exhaustive, full proof plans on how to pursue their relatively radical policies they both command increased followers each election cycle!

 Altaf Husssain : The Organizer

Party: MQM

Economic Philosophy: Small Scale, Private Enterprises: A party founded to establish a corruption free society, uproot the feudal system and establish a meritocracy in Pakistan’s Indian immigrants, and other minorities have a fair shot at social mobility, the party is a strong proponent of free market capitalism. They have executed several large scale development work in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi.
Foreign Policy: Progressive: MQM is the part that stands up most forcefully against the Taliban, historically and in this election. Sadly, they have been viciously targeted and attacked for this stance in the past weeks through bomb blasts in and around their party offices. They do not support American drones, but do support military operations against terrorist militants as needed. They call for “close, and honorable ties” with India along with a newly “independent foreign policy” .
Social Policy: Liberal : MQM is historically secular and has always stood up strongly in support of minority rights. They have vociferously condemned every attack against minorities in Pakistan.
Voter Base/Popularity: Altaf Hussain and MQM’s stronghold is in Karachi, among the urban, Urdu Speaking, educated middle classes. Urdu speakers are Paksitani’s who trace their roots back to India; their families migrated to Pakistan during partition, and they are disapprovingly referred to as “mohajirs” (migrants).
Leadership Style/Personality: Altaf Hussain is a cult like figure, the single and supreme ruler of the party, he has a thunderous speaking style. With the security of knowing his party does not command enough support to rival PML-N, PPP, or PTI and other parties throughout the years, he leads loudly, and forcefully.
Security Issues: Unwaveringly opposed to militancy and MQM supports grassroots movements to counter it. They have a stronghold in Karachi and a loyal party base in this large city couple this with Hussain’s powerful leadership (even though he lives in England) the MQM can mobilize attacks against the Taliban on a local scale.
American Counterpart: Jimmy Hoffa. They’re both charismatic leaders who catapulted their organization to protect a minority population to the forefront of the political scene. It helps that they happen to look alike also.

May the best candidate win.

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America the Resilient

May 2, 2011
President Obama & CIA Director Leon Panetta
President Obama & CIA Director Leon Panetta

9/11 changed the face of US hegemony and after 10 years of what began as a sweeping War on Terror, that face changes again tonight as America prevails proud, resilient and rejuvenated. President Obama’s address confirms Osama bin Laden has been killed and his body is in U.S. custody.

Special forces brought bin Laden to justice and our President thanked those who served us in the military, in counterterrorism and intelligence officials who had been watching the compound and gathering actionable intelligence that ultimately took out enemy number one in a firefight.

It’s a proud day for America, but questions already abound regarding relations with Pakistan: “Osama bin Laden was not in a cave, he was in a city in Pakistan” as one analyst on ABC news reported which had Christian Amanpour then raise the question “whose been protecting him?”

But before entirely implicating Pakistan for harboring the worlds most wanted man, it’s important to recall Obama’s increased intelligence operations in Pakistan since he took office. As the war shifted to Pakistan, so did ISI CIA collaborative operations. With closer collaboration came butting of heads where U.S. intelligence speculated if Pakistani intelligence was doing enough and such rifts peaked last week when Admiral Mike Mullen voiced harsh criticism of the ISI.

But the President’s comments and ongoing reporting indicates that today’s victory that comes after 10 long years of war, struggle and sacrifice, was a joint operation with Pakistan on the ground. GEO News in Pakistan confirms most of the information we’re hearing here, save some reporting that 1 American helicopter was shot down. Nonetheless, Peter Bergen on CNN says Elite Black Ops and Paramilitary CIA who were the likely heroes, operated with cooperation of the Pakistani government. Yet this success does not negate or allow us to ignore the concern of who, or at worst, what elements of the Pakistani government knew of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Today prompts us to reassess and revamp relations with Pakistan, who once again has proven itself as an effective ally at wartime. This victory is an opportunity to foster a fresh relationship that can be something more than transactional and more transparent. Skepticism of one another in both states is beyond a misalignment of interests, it’s a misalignment ofconceptions of one another. Perceptions matter and it is no secret that anti Americanism can be formidable fuel to our enemies abroad. U.S. Intelligence amidst constant rhetoric of “Blowback” is redeemed today; the Intelligence agencies are heroes to Americans everywhere, and in this instance, even for Pakistani’s who suffered tremendously since 9/11. With an ever crippling economy, and a seemingly endless barrage of violent onslaughts from Al Qaeda suicide bombers in the past 10 years, Pakistani’s along with American’s should rejoice at today’s victory while policymakers in both countries take time to capitalize on this game changer and move forward anew.

Step 1, halt the drones.

ORIGINALLY POSTED @ THE FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION

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Gadaffi Makes Ahmadinejad Look Reasonable & Osama Bin Laden Seem Rational

February 24, 2011
How Can you Not Chuckle at This? - Libya's Dictator M. Gaddafi

How Can you Not Chuckle at This? - Libya's Dictator M. Gaddafi

It’s week 8 of a 10-week quarter in graduate school and suffice to say in such a system one is inevitably swamped from the onset. Despite my itching to write about Imran Khan’s talks since Davos on counterterrorism and the Cricket World Cup , I simply haven’t had the time or energy.

However, a friend came over this evening and we watched CNN coverage of Libya (more like CNN spotlight on “Crazy Gadaffi”) and I just couldn’t help but jot down some thoughts. At one point Wolf Blitzer had the former House Intelligence Committee Chair in the Situation Room and commented:

Is Gadaffi on drugs, there’s always been something off with him. He must be on drugs”.

The Congressman responded You know, two out of three times I met him, he was rational and completely in his senses. That third time though you could tell something was off. (this is paraphrased)

Hilarious. Hilarious  because this comedy was not the least bit intentional, it was prime time news. CNN went hours today with repeated images of Gadaffi in overwhelmingly monotone attire: this dreadful toasted camel tone, from head to toe and on that head was his 1984 curly mullet. It was too much. My friend and I laughed at the video clips and talked about a recent article in Vanity Fair entitled “Dictator Chic” depicting what was clearly portrayed as catastrophic fashion choices over the years. We laughed at a notion of giving Gaddafi a makeover as an effective means of American Intervention, but as students of International Relations/Security Studies that was all the segue required to transform our down time into a serious debate on shady men in international politics who manage to command the worlds attention for decades on end.

My friend (who is sure to be an expert on Iran who we’ll see on CNN one day) commented

It’s funny there are similar protests in Iran right now with crackdown on protestors but Ahmadinejad still publically calls for other dictators to hear peoples requests”.

I said, “Dude, Gadaffi makes Ahmadinejad look reasonable”.

Wow

Wow

We laughed in agreement, but got quiet for a second afterwards in serious thought.

She asked So…..Gadaffi, or bin Laden….whose more irrational?

I didn’t pause to reflect and immediately reacted “Bin Laden. He calls for establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Bin Laden is operating from a premise of ideology rather than rationality”

We looked at each other for a half a second, before I realized two things: One rationality and ideology need not be mutually exclusive in all situations, and secondly: if rationality in International Relations is understood (in a super simplistic nutshell) as a cost benefit analysis determinate of behavior, then my initial thought is incorrect.

I realized this and retracted, “Wait. Bin Laden has very real political objectives. He wants U.S. troops withdrawn from Saudi Arabia and an overthrow of the current Saudi regime. And whether we find that objective absurd or not, they are, according to his calculations attainable political objectives that he thinks are worth the costs he invests in terrorism”.

She was of my initial mindset and countered “No. I think he initially started off that way but has since called for overthrow of all Arab regimes and is so angry at what the west has done in the Muslim World that he would not have Al Qaeda stop targeting America for all that its done over the years

I responded “So the four biggest grievances Bin Laden has regarding the West in the Muslim World are troops in Saudi and Afghanistan being the top two. Next on his list is our military presence in Palestine and Iraq. Let’s assume all four of these, which he finds are legitimate grievances, are miraculously altered in his favor, I don’t think he would then continue to attack American targets

She smiled, and said “Solving those four eh? Now that’s hopeful!

We laughed and I continued, Because if we can agree that Bin Laden sincerely believes both that these objectives are legitimate grievances and his tactics can be effective, then he’s acting rationally. And if those grievances get solved, why would he bear the costs of investing in terrorism afterwards? It requires, money, organization and is very high risk. He would have to begin from scratch in rallying a support base with new objectives. Because he would no longer have reason to wage what he thinks is “jihad” if there were nothing to gain from it”.

She stopped for a moment, then thought about it aloud “So, then Osama Bin Laden does act rationally

It was a disturbing sort of conclusion we both very hesitantly came to. Because it’s immediately easier to assume our enemy is an irrational mad man, (a la the images of Gadaffi on CNN) than understand, recognize and deal with the root causes of their actions. Which has led me to expand focus from solely military forms counterterrorism in my studies. When the crux of the issue is one of grievances over U.S. troop presence in the so-called “Muslim World”, an amplified U.S. presence in response is increasingly seen as counter productive. It’s among the main reasons our initial target of obliterating the Taliban in Afghanistan at the onset of Operation Enduring Freedom has shifted instead to finding ways of negotiating with the group.

Although the United States policy of non negotiation with terrorists on the grounds that concessions reinforce and empower terrorist activity is reasonable, an over reliance on military means simply has not been sufficiently effective into our 10th year of engagement in Afghanistan, and as a dire result, now in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a prime example of how negotiations in tandem with diplomacy supported by military coercion is key to combating terrorism today. Spillover of Al Qaeda and radical militarization of Taliban among other terrorist groups has proliferated in direct correlation with our military operation in Afghanistan since 2001. Bridget Nacos of Columbia University in her work “Counterterrorism Strategies: Do We need Bombs over Bridges” describes a main reason for this:

As the Iraq war demonstrated, massive military force can result in a recruiting bonanza for terrorists. And as ground and air operations against Al Qaeda and Taliban figures in Pakistan’s tribal region showed, such strikes can trigger further waves of Terrorist attacks

Where does that leave us? The aforementioned point of negotiations with the Taliban is a fair starting point. No matter how unpalatable and in stark counter to international norms on human rights the Taliban seem, they were not engaging directly in terrorist activity prior to Bush’s “War on Terror”. The Taliban’s objectives were intrastate, domestic ideological goals of imposing their radical, warped brand of Islam on Afghani’s. In fact, Fawaz Gerges, scholar and author of “The Far Enemy: Why Jihad went Global”  explains while allowing Al Qaeda to operate in Afghanistan, the Taliban was actually at odds with them over their ambitions to wage attacks against American targets, or the “far enemy” if you will.

So, negotiation with groups by attempting to understand their grievances rather than ideology is key. Negotiations attack the support base of terrorist groups, whereas military means have shown to radicalize them in recent years. Groups whose ideologies, and constructed identities are repellent to us, may still be brought back into the fold of non-violence and retreat back into not targeting the United States. This is important because these very groups have aligned with terrorist organizations and made the past few years for our troops the deadliest ever and with General Patreus predicting an even worse situation for 2011, new strategies are essential.

Understanding that terrorism carried out by Al Qaeda is not entirely irrational, but rather calculated, orchestrated and heavily invested in to achieve what they feel are legitimate political grievances is critical in counterterrorism, especially efforts aimed at the spillover and expansion of attackers. An accurate assessment of not only the enemy but also potential sympathizers and supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan requires immediate and preventative measures. Nacos suggests robust diplomacy through traditional channels, and engaging media and general public. It’s a fair argument, and given the deteriorating situation, her recommendations are very worthy of consideration.

Republished @ The Foreign Policy Association

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Obama’s Wars – Not Planning to Fail, but Failing to Plan

September 28, 2010
Obama's Wars - Shifting Focus to Pakistan

Obama's Wars - Shifting Focus to Pakistan

“Obama’s Wars” released today already has the attentive public abuzz with tidbits of explosive revelations disclosing divergences at the top levels of government; nothing short of that we’ve come to expect from a Bob Woodward work. While McChrystal’s abrupt departure earlier this year had already exposed wrangling between our executive branch and military personnel, Woodward’s book is set to make public the reality of Obama’s campaign promise in setting Pakistan squarely at center stage in our War on Terror.

“we need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan”

The book will illustrate Obama’s aim to wind down the war; elucidating his always meticulous refrain from using “Victory” in reference to Afghanistan.  Woodward reports however, that he is determined that no success can come without targeting Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan.

According to the Washington Post, the book recounts a top secret meeting with Obama’s then Director of national Intelligence, Mike McConnell who specifically warned that Pakistan is not be trusted as a partner in our Afghanistan engagement.

It’s thus no wonder “quagmire” is used to describe the task at hand. Because regardless of how much the President wants to cut back in Afghanistan, the very strong reluctance stems from potentially risking American interests and leaving the aforementioned “cancer” in Pakistan. So deepening, or as the President might prefer, “shifting” the focus requires a new, more Pakistan focused agenda.

Looking at his National Security Strategy laid out in May 2010, we do find Pakistan as a top concern. Amidst steadfast commitment to liberalist principles calling to defeat terrorism with multilateralism, in adherence with international law and a sensitive awareness to growing interdependence in an increasingly globalized system, the document reads our security objective as such:

“to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qa’ida and its affiliates through a comprehensive strategy that denies them safe haven, strengthens front-line partners, secures our homeland, pursues justice through durable legal approaches, and counters a bankrupt agenda of extremist and murder with an agenda of hope and opportunity. The frontline of this fight is Afghanistan and Pakistan”

Naming Pakistan alongside Afghanistan underscores the President’s shifting focus. The policy refers to Pakistan as the “epicenter of violent extremism” and warns “danger from this region will only grow if it’s security slides backward”.

Throughout the document, we see such warnings used interchangeably for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perhaps an indication of how policymakers and journalists use sweeping generalizations such as “Af-Pak” for two countries still far from understood. However the National Security Policy makes no mistake in interchanging recommendations. Clearly spelling out that “denying Al Qa-da the Ability to Threaten the American People, our Allies, Our partners and our Interests Overseas” is our main objective, it specifically spells out how to achieve this in Afghanistan through:

–       Continued work with the United Nations and Afghan Government

–       Improving accountable and affective governance

–       Assistance on supporting the President of Afghanistan

–       Supporting ministries, governors and local leaders who have demonstrated measured progress in combating corruption

–       Targeting our aid to Agriculture and human rights

–       Military and International Security Assistance Forces partnering with Afghanistan to target the insurgency

–       Timetable laid out: transition to Afghan responsibility. July 2011 reducing troops

This describes the first two parts of the three pronged approach spelled out in the National Security Strategy. The third prong refers to Pakistan and is relatively vague. It restates the objective of “strengthening Pakistan’s capacity to target violent extremists with continued assistance in those efforts” without laying out how this can occur, or what this entails. With Afghanistan, there is reference to the United Nations, specific levels of government and ISAF forces collaborating as a means to acheiving the objective to combat and provide security from violent extremists. No such specificities are spelled out in reference to Pakistan. Rather, the document vaguely describes an approach that is meant to

“strengthen Pakistan’s democracy…provide “assistance responsive to the needs of the Pakistani people and sustain a long term partnership committed to…deepening cooperation in a broad range of areas …in the years to come”

That is not a strategy. There is not a linking of means to an end. There is no specific timetable or reference to benchmarks for the end objective, nor quantifiable measurements for success. Further, Pakistan has not been able to cement it’s democracy let alone sufficiently respond to the needs of its population in 60+ years, making our intentions to do so implausible. In regards to “long term, deepening cooperation” amidst the staunch multilateral rhetoric, the document does not once refer to Pakistan among the “partners” it seeks to engage in reaching our objectives. It references “fostering a relationship” but partnership is nowhere to be seen.

So, if the President has his way, we will wind down Afghanistan and likely shift focus to Pakistan. I hope by then there exists a more clearly laid out and practical approach to achieving our objectives and securing our interests there. Otherwise, without sufficient planning, the quagmire just deepens.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ THE FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION

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The Cleanup

July 29, 2010
Zainab Jeewanjee with Ambassador Hussain Haqqani

Zainab Jeewanjee with Ambassador Hussain Haqqani

“30 years of this whole business that started with the jihad against the Soviet Union is what we are trying to deal with the aftermath of. Its 30 years of these groups, supporting them, funding them, the opening of radical madrassahs in various parts of the country. Now I think we’ve done a decent job in the last two years of beginning the cleanup”

Pakistan is serious about cleaning up terrorism, but the mess runs deep. And If you want to share in an insightful discussion on the Wikileaks reports, I recommend watching Charlie Rose from last night. Because Pakistan pulled out the big guns in responding to the reports that suggested their Interservices Intelligence Agency is “aiding” the enemies in Afghanistan. Ambassador Hussain Haqqani was Rose’s guest and spoke directly to American anxieties that Pakistan is not entirely interested in ousting terrorists from the region. Specifically responding to the question of ISI links to the Taliban, Haqqani said:

It goes back to the soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The CIA and ISI both worked with the Mujahedeen who morphed into Taliban. But now the Pakistani military and ISI are conducting successful military operations in SWAT and South Waziristan.

He elaborated:

We’ve Taken out extremists and 74 ISI personnel have been killed in the past two years. With as many as 233 injured. That alone should be sufficient to convince people that was then and now is now and Pakistan is standing firmly on the side of those who want to eliminate the Taliban and extremists”

The statistics were particularly hard hitting. They brought a human element to our somewhat sterilized discussion about Pakistan here in the states. Being geographically removed, and with a vastly distinct culture, we are mostly informed of how the government in Islamabad deals with our administration in D.C., resorting to diplomatic sound bites and news for our information. But Haqqanis statistics provoke us to realize that just as we have struggled in Afghanistan, Pakistan too has sacrificed greatly as an ally in our war and continues to be deeply invested in combating terror.

Haqqani reminds us that the Wikileaks story is just that; a whistleblower. Without subtracting from the value of revealing what governments might otherwise keep classified, the Ambassador offered facts that quell sensationalized reception of the reports.

Rose asked weighty questions in trademark straightforwardness allowing us a chance to get answers to that the Wikileaks story leaves us lingering with. For instance, “what keeps Pakistan from doing more”; a question even those with ample knowledge and understanding of history and ground realities who can put the Wikileaks story into context sometimes wonder. Rose speculated it was a concern with India, and a fear of U.S. withdrawal. The Ambassador responded:

“There is a concern that India is not yet reconciled to our nationhood and statehood. Those are concerns reflected in public opinion and government has to deal with view that the US has not been a consistent friend of Pakistan and if we do too much at the behest of US they could leave us in the lurch and walk away again. The Biggest concern is the US can actually leave projects incomplete it has happened in the past US assistance and economic aid suspended arbitrarily and at short notice. Things have been left incomplete. They have had a very difficult relationship in the past 6 decades. We are trying tot address the totality of these issues”

It is no secret that India Pakistan relations are a primary driver of action in South Asian politics so the real nugget in the Ambassador’s above response is the talk of Pakistani Public opinion.

One of the first rules we learn in politics is that perceptions matter and what our pundits and political speechwriters have left out of the conversation is how Pakistani opinions factor into Islamabad’s policymaking.

The Obama administration made clear by way of allocating funding in the Kerry Lugar bill that America would no longer support military regimes at the expense of democracy in Pakistan, yet we still tend to leave consideration of Pakistani public opinion out of our own expectations. Apprehensions of U.S. foreign policy are increasingly common as Pakistan deteriorated economically, politically in overall security post 9/11.

Ambassador Haqqani did an eloquent job of explaining this tremendous sensitivity with which Islamabad must balance its interest in continuing bilateral cooperation with D.C. while alleviating a rampant fear amongst Pakistani citizens that the United States might not be trustworthy, or as the Ambassador put it “ungrateful” for all their country does.

And although Ambassador Haqqani concluded on a positive note , citing increased military cooperation in fighting terrorism and tripartite agreements on trade, he gave viewers a clear view of the “totality” and complexity of issues from the Pakistan side.

To tally Islamabad’s task list thus far: in addition to 30 years of deep cleaning, speedy recovery from loss of life, toil, treasure and time, one must add mending 60 years of mistrust with the worlds superpower to Pakistan’s list of things everyone wants done yesterday.

So let’s think twice, maybe even thrice before sponging the Wikileaks reports without an understanding of context and implicating Pakistan for not doing enough.  Prime Minister Cameron, that’ means you.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ the Foreign Policy Association

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Floundering Pakistan

July 27, 2010
Pakistan implicated in todays Wikileaks Reports

Pakistan implicated in todays Wikileaks Reports

Pakistan is in desperate need of a plumber to fix the leak on the front page of the New York Times this morning. The article has one of strongest suggestions yet that the Inter Services Intelligence Agency aids the enemy in Afghanistan and is rooted in reports made available by the whistler blower organization, Wikileaks. The reports entitled the “Afghan War Diaries” purport that the Pakistani ISI provides haven, if not supports Al Qaeda comes from “unverified” sources most likely “aligned with Afghan” intelligence and “paid informants”. The New York Times piece provides examples of how a suggestion of Pakistani aiding insurgents could be accurate, and leaves only a brief disclaimer that nothing is yet certain. Rather, the story more strongly asserts:

Senior lawmakers say they have no doubt that Pakistan is aiding insurgent groups. “The burden of proof is on the government of Pakistan and the ISI to show they don’t have ongoing contacts,” said Senator Jack Reed

“No doubt” is an alarming allegation against a critical ally in this war and a bit sensational in the absence of a closer reading of Pakistan’s realities and motivations.

What seems more likely than “no doubt”, is something I’ve stated previously. Both Ideology and what Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson said are “ground realities” run directly counter to the suggestion that the ISI rampantly supports insurgent groups against American interests.

Quite simply, insurgent groups including Al Qaeda are deeply comprised of remnants from the Soviet Afghan war, meaning former fighters we engaged the ISI to train, maintained links to “freedom fighters” who ultimately became extremist groups we combatted post 9/11. That engagement created a decade long window in which there was little instruction or immediate opportunity and to some extent, interest for Pakistan to eradicate insurgents in its neighboring country. Couple this with the fact that Pakistan shares a nebulous border with Afghanistan as it became haven to one of the worlds largest refugee problems with Afghans fleeing Soviet atrocities, and you’ve got a battle hardened, impoverished, and an armed influx of an outside population who call major cities like Karachi, home.

So when we hear about the “Af-Pak Quagmire”, one should really be thinking in terms of the pickle Pakistan got into when millions of refugees made Pakistan’s underdeveloped, politically volatile and vastly feudal state home as the Cold War ended.

This climate allows us to put the Wikileaks reports into perspective. Firstly, reports linking ISI aid to insurgents could likely be referring to former Pakistan intelligence officials who maintained ties to insurgents as Afghans became part of the fabric of Pakistani society. Secondly, although these groups made Pakistan their home, the arms and influx of drugs via Afghanistan, never ceased. An infamous Klashinkov culture pervades Karachi amongst other places, including the now well-known FATA areas.  So with such imbedded presence in Pakistan, obliterating Afghani insurgents becomes a highly sensitive task.

I rarely point to ideology as a driver of action when it comes to government behavior, but as Afghan’s made their home in Pakistan, they came sharing religion and some aspects of culture which intensifies the complexity of hunting down terrorists because it leaves Pakistan open to the possibility of a civilian uprising. Certainly Afghans would have preferred we “negotiate” rather than wage full scale war post 9/11 to settle differences. And I will not argue whether or not that would have been wise, however, the point is that the

ISI may be dealing with insurgents in vastly different ways, wheeling and dealing as opposed to obliterating them with the force we might use because of a profound risk involved in alienating an enormous, and internal Afghan presence within Pakistan’s border.

Since 9/11 Pakistan has descended into civlian chaos at certain intervals with extremists growing polarized, gravitating toward insurgents as we intensified our offensive in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So our expecations must take these realities into account and the Wikileaks reports understood within that context.

Ultimately, a lesson we might learn from the Wikileaks story is that negotiating with extremist groups for Pakistan is inevitable. General McChrystal’s Counterinsurgency strategy was moving in that direction as it called for U.S. engagement for the long haul requiring additional years in time, toil, troops, and treasure; which is an increasingly unpopular idea. So will the Wikileaks reports be the “game changer” or this wars equivalent to the “Pentagon Papers” for it’s suggestions that our engagement of Pakistan in providing billions in aid has been not only counter productive but comes in addition to our own mishandlings of the war thus far?

Perhaps. But either way, Pakistan is in desperate need of one skilled plumber to fix this leak.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

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Joe Biden’s Biggest “Concern”

February 13, 2010
Joe Biden Says Pakistan is a BIgger Concern than Afghanistan

Joe Biden Says Pakistan is a BIgger Concern than Afghanistan

Vice President Biden was on Larry King this week slating Pakistan as America’s larger concern than Afghanistan. He explained “Pakistan is a big country…has nuclear weapons that are able to be deployed and has a real significant minority of radicalized population and a not complete functional democracy in the sense we think about it” . Which sounds tremendously pressing and makes for catchy prime time television, but let’s delve into his rationale one by one, and assess his concerns.

Pakistan is certainly “a big country” with a “real significant minority of radicalized population” and the Vice President is dead on with this issue. Among the top ten largest countries in the world, Pakistan is still developing in a relatively underdeveloped region, and houses one of the largest refugee problems on earth. So even a minority of radicalized militants is enough to wreck havok on Pakistan, as it has been. And likewise, that minority population single handedly deters our fight in fighting the war on Terror.

And this truly defines the Pakistan quagmire: dealing with extremist militants in an underdeveloped, politically volatile war zone.

Biden also said Pakistan “is not a completely functional democracy in the sense we think about it”, which is a statement of fact. However it’s a misplaced concern because it’s not necessarily a hindrance to our interests at this time. In our alliance with Pakistan Democrats have historically sided with civilian governments, while Republicans have preferred to deal with military regimes in Islamabad. So Biden’s issue with Pakistan’s brand democracy is an inherent tension that has existed in this alliance for decades.

It’s a cause of tension over the years because we’ve effectively dealt with Military regimes in the past, and other international players such as China, and India have also found it effective to deal with military led Pakistan. So Democrats like Vice President Biden insisting on American style democracy is not always necessary.

In a perfect world, our allies would have fully functioning democracies akin to ours, but the reality is our brand of governance is not easily applied in places like Pakistan.

Plus there’s a perceived arrogance that comes along with our leaders being critical of governments that function differently than ours. I think the Vice Presidents suggestion makes for a nice talking point on democracy for tv viewers, but offers no practical insight let alone a solution to Pakistan as our foremost concern.

Finally, the Vice President cited “vulnerabilities” regarding the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Nuclear non proliferation is a bipartisan, and to a large extent, global cause of anxiety that few will argue against. But how realistic is a notion of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal being vulnerable to non military or non state actors? It’s a nightmarish scenario that catapults Pakistan atop our immediate Foreign Policy agenda because the mere sliver of possibility proliferation could happen entails catastrophically high risks that no one is willing to take. But such alarming rhetoric doesn’t inform us of the likelihood of this happening. It just frieghtens us, deters diplomacy and ultimately undermines the U.S. Pakistani alliance. Such rhetoric, minus substantial evidence should be shared amongst policymakers and government officials pertinent to the situation. Otherwise, the rhetoric can be counter-productive in engaging allies like Pakistan.

Overall, the Vice President’s comments were consistent with the Obama Administration’s promises of an increasingly narrow focus on our Foreign Policy to Pakistan.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

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