Archive for the ‘US Pakistan relations’ Category

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Would Imran Khan call Ron Paul to Bat?

January 9, 2012
American Congressman Ron Paul

Ron Paul speaks during the Republican Leadership Conference: 2011

Is it just me, or are seemingly incessant GOP debates the past few months allowing President Obama’s lack of public exposure to seem more and more like solid leadership? The Republican lineups simplistic, square and reactionary focus on “Anti-Obama” rhetoric especially on foreign policy has highlighted a resoundingly hawkish stance on Iran with little attention to our current engagements in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And while it may be expedient amongst a certain political base to try and one-up each other in aggressive foreign policy talk, only Ron Paul challenges the party line on Americas role in the world.

When it comes to Pakistan, compared to Democrats Republicans have a consistent history of preferring to work closely with the military establishment in Islamabad. While there is a level of bipartisanship post 9/11, (case in point is Obama’s continuation of Bush era drone use with little debate), Republicans have through the Cold War and beyond preferred dealing with the military establishment rather than focusing on democratic, or liberal institution building. Which is not necessarily an entirely erroneous  policy; part of the rationale is that state building is expensive in blood, toil, time and treasure and rarely feasible. Further, there are an endless number of constraints and uncertainties that profoundly hinder institution, or democratic state building in a place like Pakistan, rendering Republican policies simply pragmatic.

Which brings us to current policy: the bipartisan endorsed “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act” (S. 1707)  enacted in 2009 has yet to bear tangible fruit. Granted the aforementioned that institution building is time exhaustive, the fact remains that Pakistan has deteriorated politically, in the realm of security and economically. And having watched everyone from Gov. Romney, Sen. Santorun, Gov. Perry, Rep. Bachmann and yes even the soft spoken Gov. Huntsman, reiterates hawkish foreign policy while refusing to acknowledge a need for meaningful improvement. In the Republican camp only Rep. Ron Paul’s extreme calls for an isolationist posture offer some semblance of change. And because his prescriptions have yet to be tried, the utility of his ideas have yet to be tested. And now may be a time to consider his stance since they call for exactly what the Pakistani public wants right now.

Referring to our policies to Pakistan as nothing short of “Bombs for Bribes” Ron Paul acknowledges the nobility, yet inherent futility in calling for democratic institutions in places of strategic engagement. He understands that we are already engaged in “130 countries” with “700 bases around the world” and in this speech against the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, he bluntly explains:

the way we treat our fellow countries around the world is we tell them what to do and if they do it, we give them money. If they don’t we bomb them. Under this condition we are doing both. We are currently dropping bombs in Pakistan and innocent people get killed. If you want to promote our good values and democratic processes, you can’t antagonize the people”

He goes on to suggest dialogue and trade as alternatives to current policy. And although his statement is simplistic and was made in 2009, it highlights Ron Paul’s isolationist, more economically focused prescriptions on foreign policy that seek to reduce our military footprint abroad based on pragmatic constraints, like military and fiscal overstretch. And these calls seem more reasonable than before, especially when it comes to Pakistan and the fact that our aid has yet to yield satisfactory results. So while the Obama administration continues engagement and GOP candidates refuse to acknowledge much concern over current policy to Pakistan, can Ron Paul really be the only alternative available?

Someone once considered completely out of left, excuse me, right field, could be the reminder we need to moderate our engagement with countries of interest. Because what is interesting is that current rhetoric in Pakistan is very much in line with Ron Paul’s ideas. Ron Paul isn’t touting conspiracy theories, nor does he echo far left foreign policy thinkers like Noam Chomsky. Rather, his past statements on our engagement in Pakistan as “inadvertently causing chaos” and “violating security and sovereignty” are exactly what the average Pakistani seems to feel and hears about in their mainstream TV, and print media. Takeaway for us means, it’s a perception the is realistic; perhaps more so than current policy reflects.

In fact, legendary cricket star turned politician Imran Khan’s recent surge in popularity is in large part due to his highly critical foreign policy rhetoric that vociferously calls for D.C. to adopt a more isolationist stance so Pakistan might reclaim lost autonomy. Imran Khan steadily built support for his party on the continued observation that America’s “War on Terror” has intensified insecurity and his subsequent promises to curtail American involvement is a first step in alleviating Pakistan’s problems.

He underscores Ron Paul’s sentiment that perceptions urgently matter in a climate where American intervention is increasingly received hostilely.  Both politicians insistence on winnings hearts and minds renders Ron Paul’s foreign policy prescriptions worthy of consideration. Imran Khan’s recent ascendency and Governor Paul’s gradually increasing support marks a convergence in shifting to a direction of a less militarized approach to Pakistan. Two men once considered out of the realm of politician viability now increasingly resonate in their respective publics; policymakers ought to take note.

 

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ THE FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION

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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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Fattening America

January 9, 2011
Yikes

Yikes

It’s not Americans fault for being fat.

I’m in my second quarter of classes and I get the funny feeling I spend more time between the kitchen and Yoga studio than anyone else here. Plainly put, I’m not fulfilling any stereotypes of American chicks in grad school.

My friends have been going out to dinner the past couple nights and the mere thought of more than abundant portions of overly salted foods cooked in processed ingredients is less than appetizing. But, it’s my first week back and spending time with friends is important, and its far more convenient to eat out than cook given our schedules. Plus I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can dine mostly anywhere and at the sake of mildly annoying waiters & waitresses and getting puzzled onlookers, I can specifically order a Red-tip, Arugla, Butterleaf, Spinach, Swiss chard or Romaine lettuce salad, with dressing on the side, and request to hold the hormone laced tomatoes. Except at most South Asian restaurants, where “salad” more often than not means you’re getting a bread plate of sliced tomatoes, onions on a bed of …**shudder** Iceberg Lettuce, (the Snookie of all lettuces, if you will. I’m not one to hate, but Iceberg lettuce is to lettuce, what Snookie is to brunettes).

So, that’s what i did on Thursday night when I went out. I ordered a Wasabi, Seared Ahi Tuna salad, which although salty, was quite delicious. Downside: it wasn’t originally a salad! The Tuna was supposed to be covered in creamy potatoes until i said, please hold the mash and give me extra veggies. Bigger downside: I ended up paying as much as the guy next to me who ordered a 3 course dinner. Then on Friday night we went out, and I was exceptionally hungry so, I passed on the salad and ordered a saffron broth based stew of boiled calamari, artichokes, crab leg, mussels, and whitefish (request to hold the pasta). But it happened to be the priciest entree on the menu.

What’s wrong with this picture? First, the fact that eating healthy in America is far more expensive than eating junk (you’ll find the same phenomenon if you visit any grocery store). Which brings us to the second, larger problem of defining the concept of “eating healthy”.

In the 1980’s we were bombarded with advertisements for “low fat” diets that had Americans consuming highly processed packaged foods and condiments that were loaded with added sugar and starch to compensate in taste for the lacking fat. Then in the 1990’s as people realized the increased sugar intake was making them fatter, Atkins and other high protein diets re-emerged with everyone touting Dr. Atkins 1972 proclamation “The High Calorie way to Stay Thin Forever!“. Sure, until most found it’s disgusting to live on a staple diet of meat and eggs minus any grains. Not to mention such diets are almost diametrically opposed to the FDA’s Food pyramid, which is just as ridiculous as the Atkins diet (even the recently modified one).

Are you Kidding me? The FDA wants us to eat more pasta & cereal rather than fresh produce?

And in this past decade as Americans break their backs in a perpetual professional rat race and hit the gym far more than our European counterparts (who mind you work less and are far thinner than us), studies confirm Americans continue to grow fatter.

Suffice to say, most everything recommended thus far has  been counter productive. And amidst this continual trial and error, (which has apparently been a long series of errors), Americans ought to finally catch on.

There’s an article this week in the Irish Times about Michael Pollan’s book In Defence of Food, where a solution is put quite elegantly: “EAT FOOD. Not too much. Mostly Plants”.

Beautiful. It’s streamlined, sensible and hard to refute. Yes, it turns the entire western diet upside down on its head, but that’s exactly what’s needed as Americans are plagued by heart disease, and obesity. Pollan suggests the western diet” that arose with the industrialization of food in the 20th century is characterized by lots of processed food, meats and refined grains, lots of added sugar and fat, but few vegetables, fruits and whole grains

In fact, go to any grocery store and try to follow the FDA pyramid of loading up on “grains” and even the well informed, yet time pressed American will fall for the sham that are breads, pastas, crackers and cereal laced with additives including fructose (sometimes the infamous high fructose corn syrup), starches (namely enriched corn starch) and even sodium.

We Might as well have Cake for Breakfast

We might as well just have Cake for Breakfast

Prime case in point – Added salt and sugar in cereal clearly manufactured to appeal to children. I mean that is just diabolical.

So, I’ve come to accept the general rule of thumb that buying anything in a package at an American grocery store (including places like Whole Foods and Trade Joes) will most often come processed sugar, and salty “preservatives”. Which leaves us with an option to purchase raw foods that one prepares themselves, bringing me back to my concern with being the odd man, er, woman out here in grad school.

But at the expense of being that girl who does a lot of cooking and Yoga, I’ve found what Pollan says is true. He advises we eat fresh foods that are not processed or enriched with additives. He refers to this as “what our grandmothers would recognize as food”. That sounds about right.

In addition to the problem with highly processed foods, Pollan provides a critical look at the “Reductionist” nutrition ideology in America that has convinced us of Three myths:

  1. Food is only a carrier of nutrients, and it’s the nutrients that matter, not the food
  2. We need experts to tell us what to eat because nutrients are invisible and mysterious to everyone but scientists
  3. Entire purpose of eating is to promote a narrow concept of physical health

I think he’s right and these myths are key in why Americans keep getting fatter. Let’s go back to the Federal Food and Drug Administration that recommends we get a ridiculous amount of bread, cereal, crackers and pasta in our diet, and advises we make sure at least 3 servings are “whole grain”. Take a box of Cheerios, the seemingly most healthy Cheerios: the ones in the yellow box titled “Toasted whole Grain Oat Cereal” which at the top proclaims “Whole Gain guaranteed!” and toward the bottom declares “Big G Cereals are America’s #1 Source of Whole Grain at breakfast”. It has such a wholesome image of red heart shaped bowl filled with the product and at the bottom reminds us that “3 grams of soluable fiber daily from whole grain oat foods, like Cgerrios cereal, in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease”.Looks great, until you actually read the nutritional label and ingredients list.

There’s modified corn starch, sugar and worst of all, sodium added to each box. And at 160 grams per serving of sodium and just 1 gram of Sugar, Cherrios are actually among the most healthy of American cereals.

This is despite the fact that The American Heart Association specifically warns against the increased risk of hypertension, subsequently heart disease and stroke that comes with added sodium in ones diet. The association ultimately recommends exactly what Pollen does: eat Fresh.

I mean, why can’t I just get a box of unsalted oats. I like oats. What’s wrong with plain oats? If i want them salty, I’ll add salt myself. Or I could opt for foods with significant amounts of naturally occurring sodium content, like beets, or chickpeas, or spinach. And if I want sugar, I can have any number of fruits. Modify Corn starch? Why, so we can mass produce thicker jelly that preserves Twinkies for years on end? Pollan is right: the western diet is so far removed from natural foods that humans have simply not been able to adapt to it. And the American food industries have rendered it too convenient to be unhealthy, bombarding us with aisle after aisle of grocery store processed excuses for fresh food. I’d really love to see some long term studies that collect data to weigh the costs of producing these foods vs the increasing obesity and heart disease rates, including the cost of prevention and treatment.

So I suppose even if cooking takes up a chunk of my time between studying, socializing and Yoga, eating fresh has helped me maintain a BMI under 20 and capacity to jog a couple miles in the Denver altitude. And the peripheral benefits of wellness are something one cannot put a price on.

DISCLAIMER
I periodically indulge in a ridiculous amount of double stuffed Oreos, Cupcakes, Full Fat Milk and South Asian “mithai”.

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Aisam Qureshi’s Country

September 12, 2010

It’s my first week in Denver where I’ll be attending graduate school for the next two years and I’m soaking in how kind this city is. It is the most laid back, genuine U.S. City I’ve experienced. The sincerity with which people prod “No, where are you really from?” when I initially respond “California”, is priceless. I feel like a novelty here. At an Eid Celebration last night, even a local of Pakistani descent pointed out “Wow, the guys are going to flip over you. There are no ethnic girls in Denver”.

Ethnic”? I’ll take it; I realize I’m getting a pass for being a Californian female. Because in light of increasingly disheartening news from Pakistan, be it about floods, match fixing in cricket, and mostly terrorism plaguing the country since 9/11, Pakistani’s have captured the American state of mind in a less than appealing way. Once indecipherable on a world map for most Americans, Pakistan emerged as our stalwart ally in victory after 40+ years of Cold War. Yet as we turn to Islamabad again to fight a War on Terror, we possess a deep skepticism of Pakistani intentions.

Pakistan is rampantly associated with concepts of Terrorism, Extremism, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Corruption and disaster as D.C. and Islamabad are ever more understood as reluctant partners. Plus post thwarting the Faisal Shahzad situation , expert indications that homegrown terrorism poses the biggest threat to the United States, stabbing of a cab driver of Pakistani descent and Amnesty International’s recent report that hate crimes against Muslims is on an alarming rise, being Pakistani seems like an uphill battle in America. So on an individual level, Pakistani’s and Americans may be feeling the same skepticism that governments harbor for one another in bilateral relations. But this week the world was abuzz when Pakistani tennis player Asiam-ul-Haq Qureshi with irresistible sincerity exclaimed:

Since September 11, every time I come to the States or western countries I feel people have the wrong impression about Pakistan as a terrorist nation. I just wanted to declare that we are very friendly, loving and caring people, and we want peace in this world as much as Americans and the rest of the world wants.

There are extremists in every religion, but just because of them you cannot judge the whole country as a terrorist nation. I just wanted to get this message across as a Pakistani

In plain terms Qureshi clarified that his country is a mostly moderate nation where people expect the same peace and security desired by all people. He reminded us of Pakistan’s humanity, directly countering the “transactional” ties that progressively complicate our understanding of Pakistan. Fareed Zakaria might agree. In a recent piece, he eloquently concurred:

Across the Muslim world, militant Islam’s appeal has plunged. In the half of the Muslim world that holds elections, parties that are in any way associated with Islamic jihad tend to fare miserably, even in Pakistan.

In his article “We’re Safer Than We Think” Zakaria points out that Muslims in Pakistan and beyond are if anything, less safe from terrorism than we are as they suffer the brunt of radical Islam’s consequences.

Over the last few years, imams and Muslim leaders across the world have been denouncing suicide bombings, terrorism, and Al Qaeda with regularity….The fatal problem with these kinds of attacks is that they kill ordinary civilians—not U.S. soldiers or diplomats—and turn the local population against Islamic radicals.

With more thorough detail, Zakaria’s is saying exactly what Qureshi did; Pakistan is not a country of terrorists. So next time I get asked where I am “really” from, I might just say “I’m from Asiam Qureshi.’s country”.

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.

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