Posts Tagged ‘american pakistan relations’

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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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Concessions & Collateral Damage : CIA Drones in Pakistan – Part 2

January 22, 2010

Reconciling CIA Drones in Pakistan

Reconciling CIA Drones in Pakistan

Click here to Read the First Part: Reconciling CIA Drones in Pakistan Part 1

Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with officials in Islamabad to reiterate the importance of drone attacks, despite escalating reservations of their use amongst Pakistani’s. It’s been a polarizing issue from the onset because while it’s convenient to fly unmanned CIA predator aircraft over potential terrorist havens, they result in significant civilian casualties, and displaced persons. So it’s no surprise that over a year later, reconciling their use in Pakistan is still on the agenda.

For this reason, Secretary Gates announced a possibility of America providingPakistan with 12 unarmed Shadow aircraft”. Meaning the planes would not have a capacity to strike, but offer enhanced “surveillance capabilities under U.S. supervision”. It’s a fair decision and something I’ve suggested previously.

Supplying drones to close allies who aid in our War Efforts absolves us of sole liability for collateral damage wreaked by these machines that are always controversial, and increasingly protested internationally.

Gates also stressed the importance of militarily addressing all extremist groups because:

“It’s dangerous to single out any one of these groups and say, ‘If we could beat that group that would solve the problem,’ because they are in effect a syndicate of terrorist operators”

And almost simultaneously, Secretary Clinton unveiled The Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy which sends an increase of 20-30% in civilian experts to both countries and “outlines plans to rebuild the Afghan farm sector, improve governance, and reintegrate extremists into society”. But this strategy of “reintegrating extremists” runs in contradiction to Secretary Gates’ aforementioned remarks.

Gates ruled out any possibility of reintegration calling for a consolidated attack on extremists suggesting that they work in “syndication”, while Cinton’s plan attempts to bring extremists back into the fold of moderate society.

It’s a stark inconsistency in our foreign policy. Because while I think Secretary Clinton’s idea notion of reintegration is more in tune with ground realities, and therefore viable, I figure Secretary Gates was being staunch in talks because finally relinguishing partial drone technology provided him with that margin of hawkishness. Either way though, one thing is certain, despite skepticism on both ends of the U.S. Pakistan relationship, cooperation is ever deepening.

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The Power of Restraint : American Neutrality in Pakistan

December 21, 2009

American Neutrality is Boston Globe’s recommendation for U.S. policymakers as political uncertainty looms over Pakistan with last weeks repeal of the National Reconciliation Ordinance, effectively revoking Amnesty from corruption charges on thousands of government officials. Although political transition appears imminent in 2010 and comes as President Obama commits to an Af-Pak troop surge, effectively stepping up our engagement with Islamabad, the Boston Globe’s call for neutrality is wise given the current pool of potential leaders to choose from:

  • Nawaaz Sharif:
    • Reason We Should Remain Neutral – Quite simply:After two terms as prime minister, he’s remembered for rampant corruption, nuclear proliferation, and his penchant for cozying up to Islamist militants
  • Pervez Musharraf or Asif Zardari:
    • Reason We Should Remain Neutral – Well: “at the behest of Washington, General Pervez Musharraf, who was president at the time, arranged the amnesty that allowed Zardari and his wife, Benazir Bhutto, to return from exile so she could lead her Pakistan Peoples Party in elections. Bhutto was assassinated, and her husband became prime minister. Not without reason, many Pakistanis who are angry about Zardari’s corruption and ineffectiveness hold the United States responsible for imposing him on their country”
  • Pakistan Military:
    • Reason We Should Remain Neutral – Perpetuating rampant blame that one too many American backed military dictators have prevented democracy from ever taking root in Pakistan can’t help growing weariness of cooperation with our government.
      • Noteworthy example – Backing General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980’s with his leadership key to training the Mujahideen (now known as Al Qaeda) to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan. Not coincidentally, Zia’s regime is remembered as the time Pakistan shifted from being a socially progressive, and moderate Islamic state, to imposing severe, fundamentalist religious policy reforms.
  • Chief Justice Iftekhar Chaudhry:
    • Reason We Should Remain Neutral: Under a sugar-coated banner of “democracy”, the Chief Justice is too blatantly partisan for us to support. His recent decision to repeal the National Reconciliation Ordinance, which set wheels in motion for regime change is widely understood as nothing short of a ploy for power and done in the politics of retribution.

This leaves neutrality as not only our most wise option, but also perhaps our most ethical route. Restraint in supporting any particular regime could mean history points one less finger in our direction should anything go less than perfect as we deepen involvement in Af-Pak. Simultaneously, neutrality assures Pakistani masses who are increasingly skeptical of cooperation with the United States that they have 100% autonomy in political processes.

Well publicized neutrality on a looming regime change could be a valuable opportunity to demonstrate a genuine interest in Pakistan as they transform politically and we require their support in the War on Terror.

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If We Leave Now ….

December 14, 2009

Friday morning a CNN headline informed us that the stock market is inching forward, but America is “still in the red”, simply reminding us that we’re spending more than we’re making.

Ouch. With an expanding war and expanding government (Af-Pak war and healthcare reform respectively), expenses seem excessive. But, thinking about the Af-Pak quagmire within this perspective made me realize the costly necessity of our engagement. Because even though it may seem cost effective and immediately convenient to bring troops home , our absence in the Af-Pak region entails risks that are perhaps higher than the costs of Obama’s troop surge, even in our downward economy.

Let’s run a counterfactual to demonstrate. If we begin troop withdrawal, ultimately winding down NATO forces as well, in the absence of a U.S. presence, Af-Pak becomes fully accessible to regional powers, including China, Russia, and India to step in. Security and development will be led by other foreign powers who emerge with powerful influence in this strategic area. Because in addition to our foremost interest in obliterating Al Qaeda, Afghanistan is strategically poised to access Central Asian energy interests as is Pakistan. Pakistan is not landlocked so the Karachi port becomes key to transporting Central Asian energy to international markets. In our absence, Russia or China emerges as forerunners in supporting Af-Pak in their route to development meaning major energy projects that we stand to benefit from, such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan pipeline might take a backseat to projects led by Russia. Similarly, energy projects like the Iran-Pakistan-India Pipeline which the Heritage Organization has already called “unacceptable” for U.S. interests make further headway in our absence with the support China. So withdrawing troops runs the risk of our losing access to potential energy resources and could further threaten Europe by allowing the former USSR to gain a “stranglehold over European energy security”.

Similarly, there are critical security risks that come along with our withdrawal. In our absence, regional powers that are historically not geopolitically neutral in the can create a climate of further conflict.

– Current Afghanistan-India alliance (rapidly increasing)

– Historic Pakistan – Afghanistan alliance (rapidly decreasing)

– Russia-Pakistan enmity (as per India Russia alliance)

– Russia-Afghanistan enmity (Soviet Afghan War)

– India-Russia alliance (An expanding, long term alliance began during the Cold War)

– India-China enmity (Sino Indian War)

– Pakistan-China alliance (Long term alliance began during the Sino Indian War)

– India-Pakistan enmity (Deep mistrust dating back to Partition in 1947 with 3 wars fought since)

This complex mix of regional relations in tandem with competing interests for Afghanistan and Pakistan creates weighty risks that are too big to take. For instance, there’s a widespread notion that Pakistan sought to wield control over Afghanistan to use it as a buffer against India and currently, the Pakistani government says the same is true for India as relations warm between Delhi and Kabul. By removing the United States from the picture, the risk of leaving two nuclear armed, historic adversaries vying for geopolitically strategic and energy rich Afghanistan becomes a weighty concern.

So two weeks ago when Fareed Zakaria questioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on whether or not India believes Pakistan is doing it all it can to uproot terrorism, and Mr. Singh gently responded that America has given him all the assurance he needs, one realizes the magnanimity of our mitigating tensions in the region. Leaving the Af-Pak region now runs great potential for further insecurity and could run directly counter to our energy interests. Let’s hope our policies in uprooting terror are accompanied by development strategies for long term stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan so that our presence is not perpetually required.

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Identifying Demons in Pakistan

December 9, 2009

NYTIMES does a good job of publishing weekly articles on the Af-Pak situation. And a recent piece had a very enticing title: “The Demons that Haunt Pakistan” . It conjured deep curiosity and I delved into it anticipating the “demons” referred to how terrorists have paralyzed the country since 9/11.

Instead, the writer interviews one oddball Psychiatrist who says the “Gucci suit” wearing Americans are the real terrorists and Blackwater is luring his hired help to engage in a grand U.S. conspiracy to destroy Pakistan. Based on this sole, very erratic viewpoint, she presumes that like a “teenager” Pakistan is “self-conscious, emotional, quick to blame others for its troubles” and is where conspiracy theories are “pervasive”. But the presumption that Anti-Americanism supersedes resentment of actual terrorists who have is not well founded. In fact, only at the end of the article does she acknowledge the moderate Pakistani viewpoint:

“Islam treats foreigners according to their wishes,” It’s not what these people (terrorists) say — killing them or asking others to terrorize them,” he said contemptuously of the militants. “We must treat everybody equally. Christians, Jews, Muslims”

The author refers to this as the “unlikely exception”, but on the contrary, this perspective is more likely to be found in Pakistan. The gentleman expressing this view is working class and the masses are working class. They’re not doctors or professionals whom the author erroneously cites as the norm. Further, it’s the working classes who struggle most with terrorism, not the sliver of Pakistan’s elite population who maintain comforts despite political upheaval. So the  implication that demon-esque Anti Americanism is rooted in spectacular conspiracy theories is unlikely:

The majority masses are far more skeptical of Pakistani policymakers and domestic corruption than of Blackwater and the American, or Indian government for that matter.

More accurately on India, the author cites counter productive policies in Pakistan that maintained, rather than obliterated the feudal system and attributes the profound struggles of Partition to subsequent skepticism that has been harbored by both countries for one another since. Plus, having fought three wars in just 62 years, she explains it’s “natural that Pakistan’s security concerns focus more on its eastern border with India” and “not irrational” for Pakistan to resent American calls for change in this strategy.

The piece goes on to explain resentment of American policymaking viewed  as “U.S. single-mindedly pursues it’s own interests as it did in the 80’s when it was confronting the Soviets”. And therein lies skepticism for the United States in Pakistan: it’s rooted in abandoning ship post the Soviet-Afghan war. Leaving Pakistan with one of the worlds largest refugee problems well ISI/CIA trained extremist Islamist militants in a developing country hasn’t boded well 20 years later. As a partial result, Pakistan hasn’t developed, it’s deteriorated. Cooperation in our Afghan operation in the 80’s isn’t perceived as productive. Thus,

Current skepticism of U.S. expansion in the Af-Pak war is not a matter of irrational, conspiracy theories or bitterness for all things American, it comes after prolonged, and now daily struggle against extremist Islam, and terrorists who massacre Pakistanis almost daily since 9/11.

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Where’s the Improved Af-Pak Strategy?

December 3, 2009

President Obama stayed true to his word. During the presidential campaign last year, he vowed to hunt down Al Qaeda in Pakistan and after months of deliberation with Congress, his focus on deepening military involvement in the region has come to fruition. 30,000 more troops are promised to the Af-Pak war and in his speech yesterday, Obama focused squarely on the “inextricable” link Afghanistan and Pakistani security share. He insisted the “NWFP” is where terrorist leadership including 9/11 masterminds Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zwahiri find  “safe haven” and reiterated an urgency to pass the Kerry Lugar bill. But overall,

No new strategy was laid out. We’re sending more troops without any information that an improved plan is in place. With an increased focus on Pakistan knowing it has deteriorated since the War on Terror began, it is critical to see details of a more effective Af-Pak strategy.

Politicians, pundits, scholars, journalists and even bloggers like myself have called for increased intelligence sharing and military training from our end to Pakistani forces to uproot terrorists. And President Obama briefly, but finally acknowledged this would take place. However, it was said almost in passing relative to 9/11 rhetoric reminding us that we must stand in solidarity with our allies and expand our efforts in the war on terror. Which is important, however, after 8 long years of conflict and heavy taxpayer dollars allocated to this war in a downward economy, I expected at least some details of a revamped approach. Otherwise there’s a fear that more of the same will lead to more of the same: an escalation of our engagement and simultaneous worsening in the region.

There’s a very good piece in the Los Angeles Times explaining this troop surge is a replay of our approach in Iraq. The idea is that a temporary troop surge with predetermined date of withdrawal allows domestic security forces time to develop so that when our troops leave, they manage security to a large extent on their own. However, experts in the article point out that Afghanistan is vastly different from Iraq and a troop surge might not yield similar success in this case. Also, there’s little mention of Pakistan because a

troop surge would not apply to Pakistan where established military and paramilitary security forces already exist. Thus Obama’s square focus on Pakistan in tandem with a troop surge is incomplete without additional details on a revamped strategy.

And the Kerry Lugar bill is not sufficient. The fact that President Obama at the beginning of his speech still urges us to support the legislation despite widespread skepticism at home and in Pakistan, is testimony to how much a new plan is needed. Let’s hope we hear one soon.

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On Jinnah, Democracy, Leadership & Current Affairs in Pakistan

November 1, 2009

Zainab Interviews the Honorary Sharifuddin Pirzada



Q & A BREAKDOWN

PAST LEADERS: Jinnah

  1. 2:39 – 3:17 – Former BJP Parliamentarian Jaswant Singh authored a book on Jinnah that is receiving a lot of controversy, having actually worked with Jinnah, can you share your thoughts on the book ?
  2. 3:20 – 4:42 –  In recent interviews, Singh has said Muslims in India are “robbed of their psychological security” and basically downtrodden. He says what Jinnah should have done is left some advice for Indian Muslims who stayed back and didn’t migrate to Pakistan after partition, what do you think Jinnah might have said?
  3. 4:44-6:01 – He also refers to Jinnah as a “nationalist” not at all Anti-Indian, please expand
  4. 6:01-7:34 – Referring to politics, when Jinnah split from the Congress party eventually formulating a two state idea later in his career, were there any politics referring to Nehru or Gandhi that had an impact on decision making? Jaswant Singh makes a mention to some, what does your experience tell us?
  5. 7:35: – 8:15 –  You’ve mentioned previously that Jinnah was a self made man, more details?
  6. 8:15 –  8:55 : Tell us about your experience with Jinnah, its a rare treat for us to have your insight
  7. 8: 55 – 9:22 – Further details, conclusion on Jinnah.

“Jinnah had the Charm of Churchill, Dignity of de Gaulle, Magnetism of Mandela, and Objectivity of Obama”

CURRENT LEADERS : Musharraf

  1. 9:23 – 10:47 – Shifting to current leaders now, lets talk about Musharraf. You’ve got great experience, tell us about your work with the former General and Leader of Pakistan.
  2. 10:48 – 11:55 – How did your work with Musharraf expand during his tenure?
  3. 12:56 – 13:45 – You served on the national security council &  as senior advisor to Gen. Musharraf, tell us howthe context of national security in Pakistan changed after 9/11. Specifically what came on the agenda, what were the immediate concerns and interests and what drove the decision to behave the way Pakistan did at the time?
  4. 13:45 – 15:48 – Recent polls indicate a majority of pakistanis think Musharraf should be punished for treason as per laws under article 6 of the Constitution, how do you feel about that?
  5. 15:48 – 14:55 – Do you think it’s a valid case that Musharraf be tried for treason?
  6. 14:54 – 15:38 – Regarding an increasingly free media in Pakistan, please offer further insight
  7. 15:38 – 16:16 – There’s a contention that the currently free media be attributed to Benazir Bhutto’s regime wherein sateilite technology allowing expanded media was put in place, while others assign credit to Musharraf. Can you clarify this?
  8. 16:16 – 18:39 –   Do you think it was the state of emergency and sacking of the judiciary that caused Musharraf to lose elections?
  9. 18:42 – 19:35 – Final question on Musharraf, what do you think his legacy would be?

“The Media is very free in Pakistan, and Musharraf is to be given a great deal of credit for that”

CURRENT LEADERS : Zardari

  1. 19:48 – 20:55 – Recent military achievements in SWAT and international trade deals penned by Zardari paint a somewhat rosy picture for the future, what are your thoughts on him so far?

US – PAKISTAN RELATIONS:

  1. 20:57 – 23:14 – There’s a US special envoy in the region, drone attacks continue, the west is pushing for rapid democratization and are heavily investing in counterterrorism through cooperation with Pakistan while Islamabad hopes to secure itself and expand economically in this engagement. But there’s a long history of cooperation but still a lot of skepticism on both sides, do you think current engagement with a new administration who promises more diplomacy will yield different results than we’ve seen in this alliance?
  2. 23:14 – 24:52 – What advice might you offer President Obama or the State department in terms of engaging Pakistan?

“Pakistan was member of SEATO and CENTO but certain conditions were not fulfilled and there is a strong section of Pakistan who has reservations with a cordial relationship with the United States”

PAKISTAN & THE MUSLIM WORLD

  1. 24:55 – 25:11 – Your position at the Organization of Islamic Conference?
  2. 25:13 – 25:57 – On the Israeli Palestinian issue, how do you assess the current two state solution that Obama has put forward? How viable is it?
  3. 25:57 – 26:25 – What is Pakistan’s diplomatic/official stance on the Israeli Palestinian Issue?e Islamic Conference
  4. 12:25 – 26:35 – What are the main priorities of the Organization of the Islamic Conference?

“The Palestinian Issue followed by Kashmir are of top priority to the Organization of Islamic Conference”

PAKISTAN BORDER RELATIONS : INDIA & AFGHANISTAN:

  1. 26:35 – 27:42 – Manmohan Singh & Prime Minister Gilani at the NAAM summit this summer agreed to bracket issues of Terrorism and move forward on peace talks and trade issues. Such rhetoric is not new, and might not reach fruition, so do you see anything being resolved in Kashmir anytime soon, without the help of the US?
  2. 27:44 – 28:44 – Elections in Afghanistan are being contested between Abdullah Abdullah and incumbent Karzai. Pakistan doesn’t seem keen on either because both signal a warming of relations between Kabul & New Delhi which is believed to come at a direct expense to Islamabad. How do you feel about that?

America can facilitate peace talks between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, but on the whole, people of Kashmir are still suffering and struggling.  The approach of prime ministers has been positive, but an extremist element in India exists which doesn’t want this. To stop suffering in Kashmir, a solution must be reached.

PAKISTAN’S INTERNATIONAL FUTURE:

  1. 28:44 – How do you see geopolitics playing out in the next decade for Pakistan, given amplified US presence, including super embassies being constructed in Pakistan/Afghanistan, perpetually stalled relations with India, a very likely nuclear neighbor in Iran, and increasingly influential China and polarized Russia, what does Pakistan look like ten years from now?

“Pakistan in the next ten years must concentrate on democratic set up, economic development & maintaining cordial relatoins with Islamic countries. There are two great friends of Pakistan: Saudi Arabia, the other is China. That’s a good starting point”

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