Posts Tagged ‘US foreign policy’

h1

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

Advertisements
h1

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

h1

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

h1

Welcoming the War – Drones in Pakistan — Part 3

February 11, 2010
Are the Drones Worth the Cost of Compromising Cooperation ?

Are the Drones Worth the Cost of Cooperation ?

Read Part 1 – Reconciling CIA Drones In Pakistan

Read Part 2  – Concessions & Collateral Damage

The most provocative piece I’ve seen on drones in Pakistan was published last week. Not the most detailed, well researched article (the New Yorker takes the cake so far) but certainly the most confrontational. Farhat Taj writes in the Daily Times that International media, including American and Pakistani reports critical of drone use are totally unfounded. Vehemently, Taj writes:

The people of Waziristan are suffering a brutal kind of occupation under the Taliban and al Qaeda. It is in this context that they would welcome anyone, Americans, Israelis, Indians or even the devil, to rid them of the Taliban and al Qaeda”

It’s a grand, almost inconceivable statement given that Anti Americanism is on a rapid rise and India / Pakistan are widely considered notorious Arch Nemesis in international relations today.  Taj says inhabitants of Waziristan actually “welcome” drone attacks and dismisses all accusations of civilian casualties as Taliban propaganda. Basing this on the idea that almost no media are allowed in the area, she concludes there is no verifiable evidence, and therefore no reason for concern of civilian casualties. But mere logic would indicate otherwise. Although surgical, drones are not so precise to as to obliterate one individual at a time. When they strike, the range of damage inflicted by any drone is bound to cause peripheral damage, destroying more than just a singular terrorist.

Taj also too vehemently dismisses the concern that drones infringe on Pakistan’s sovereignty. She says greater Pakistan is oblivious to the more pressing priority of wiping out Taliban. And while I agree the Taliban is inflicting profound, perpetual and grave damage on Waziristan, greater Pakistan’s perceptions are important and not to be overlooked so easily.

Waziristan is but a fraction of Pakistan. If the majority of Pakistani’s see drones as an infringement of sovereignty, future cooperation with strategically poised Pakistan can become difficult. The alliance is already waning and one of politics’ golden rules is: perceptions matter. Whether or not there are exact numbers of civilian casualties, Pakistani’s are strongly against unmanned aircraft dropping bombs in their territory. Regardless of circumstances, the perception of an alliance with America, and our War on Terror is endangered by the drones. Hence arguments that drones are counter productive.

At what cost are we using drones to wipe out a few key leaders from militant and extremist groups? Might we accomplish the same success in hunting down terrorists by employing Pakistani forces to take these guys out themeslves using close cooperation with our counter terrorism, intelligence and military operations?

Some already argue that Islamabad tacitly works with the United States on drones in the north, however, the official and public stance of the Pakistani government is of staunch disapproval of drones. It’s a fair argument because without Islamabad’s approval, the United States would be in violation of international law, and protocol in using drones in Waziristan minus Pakistsan’s approval. So I buy the argument that Islamabad works closely in using drones in the north. But the fact that the government goes to the extent of constantly assuring its public that they disapprove of drones on record, is testimony to how offensive the use of unmanned aircrafts are in Pakistan.

So while our heightened use of drones might be effective in obliterating key leaders from the Taliban ranks for success in the immediate term, the consequences of drones entail potentially riling further anti Americanism which could compromise our interests in the future.

Cooperation is key, and I’m not convinced increased use of drones will help us engage Pakistan in the future.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

h1

The Hawk Some Didn’t See Coming : Obama’s Pakistan Policy

January 26, 2010

Bush & Obama : Identical Policies to Pakistan?

Bush & Obama : Identical Policies to Pakistan?

Similar to his ratings drop at home, abroad President Obama is being accused of not living up to expectations. In DAWN news this week there’s an article entitled: “Obama’s Changing Tone” suggesting our President is reverting to foreign policy reminiscent of the Bush administration on Pakistan, and to an extent, the greater Muslim World. The idea is that Obama’s planned troop surge in tandem with ever toughening rhetoric post the Fort Hood Massacre and the Christmas Bomber, reflects leadership that’s not much different than former President Bush’s.

But on the contrary, our escalating presence in Pakistan is exactly what Obama promised. During the campaign trail, he made clear that his main focus was Al Qaeda and  destroying terrorists in Pakistan (militants having spilled over from Afghanistan into Pakistan). The rhetoric was so hawkish, it actually became a sticking point before the primaries that Republicans and Democrats like Hillary criticized. Also, the media publicized his staunch rhetoric at length, so

Obama really has not changed tone on Pakistan: an intensified war matches his rhetoric from the start.

Plus is it fair to expect something radically different than the previous administration in the first place? Let’s not forget that it is often the political system and circumstances that drive leadership, and not vice versa. The fact is, America was already deeply engaged in two very problematic wars at the inception of Obama’s Presidency. He inherited an intensely worsening situation in Afghanistan that rapidly spilled across the border into Pakistan. President Obama anticipated this and is thus living up to campaign promises: a more hawkish foreign policy to Pakistan.

Which of course then raises the question: is hawkishness the right approach to Pakistan at this time? Pakistani’s certainly don’t think so.  CIA drones have the entire country in an uproar, while Islamabad isn’t taking well to DC’s tacit encouragement of rapidly increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan, and even billions in aid from America is frowned upon with unprecedented magnitude. And it’s not that the Obama administration isn’t aware of skepticism. Rather, toughening policies are a matter of practicality.

My guess is that the President is thinking: we’re already in Afghanistan, the war is deteriorating into Pakistan, what’s the best way to mitigate the situation, secure the region just enough to exit in the next couple years while leaving behind more cooperative players in the region so as to ensure our energy and geopolitical interests in South/Central Asia.

Phew. Now there’s a dilemma. And when looked at from his possible perspective, the Pakistan quagmire is revealed as tremendously complex. It’s such a multifaceted, sweeping, consequential and changing situation that involves so many players who work within the confines of political systems that only history should be the best judge of whether Obama’s stance on Pakistan is constructive or progressive. And that itself is relative. So let’s not be surprised at his hawkishness. It was naive of anyone to expect otherwise in the case of Pakistan.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

h1

Who “Meddles” in Pakistan ?

December 28, 2009

“Before we begin to upbraid the world for “meddling in our internal affairs,” it is vital for us to put our own house in order.”

Says a writer for Dawn News (Pakistan’s premier Newspaper). It’s an increasingly heard argument as cooperation between the United States and Pakistan deepens. In fact, it seems many Pakistani’s either fall into the category of calling for less meddling if not suggesting a total end to the alliance.

But shouldn’t we clarify what exactly “meddling” is? Does the author mean to encompass everything from drones, the Kerry Lugar Bill, Obama’s Troop Surge, and Secretary Clinton’s Pakistani media rounds / policy recommendations are equivalent to meddling?

Because the inherent problem with referring to any of those issues as “meddling” is that they all require the compliance of Pakistans government. Without the concession of Pakistani politicians, American interventions, assistance or policies could not be implemented.

Of course one might suggest realist theories on international relations wherein leaders, and ultimately states are subject to an international system actually dictate policymaking. In the case of current U.S. Pakistani relations some say cooperation, at any cost, is inevitable given American hegemony. It’s an argument echoing former President Musharraff’s description of why Pakistan didn’t remain neutral post 9/11:

‘Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age’,” is the threat Musharraf said Pakistan received if it didn’t cooperate in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001’s invasion of Afghanistan.

So why wasn’t neutrality an option? One might look back in history and cite an unremitting reliance on international assistance as the main cause of why Pakistani politics might seem inevitably subject to foreign interference.

During the Cold War, while countries like India declared themselves Non Aligned, Pakistan bandwagoned with the United States forming an alliance in desire to expand militarily. I won’t argue whether that military expansion was necessary or not, because there are fair arguments on either side. But military cooperation during the Cold War, and then the Soviet Afghan War set the stage for inevitable cooperation in today’s War on Terror.

Never forming viable democratic social and political infrastructure from the ground up may have fated Pakistan to rely on foreign assistance, or what some consider “meddling” for the sake of basic security and development.

The author is then correct to some extent: before whining about foreign interferences, Pakistan might consider constructing it’s own security first.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

h1

Transactional Ties: U.S. Foreign Policy to Pakistan

December 22, 2009
U.S. Pakistan Cooperation

U.S. Pakistan Cooperation

One difference between valuable information and balderdash is that the balderdash is sometimes louder than the valuable information. Case in point are two articles criticizing our dealings with Pakistan. The first article offers valuable insight on why it’s imperative we revamp foreign policy to the country since it’s likely becoming the “most dangerous place in the world”. The article outlines offers 5 well- founded reasons for this and is authored by Dr. Larry Goodson of the U.S. Army World college and published by the Strategic Studies Institute. The other article is written in the online magazine Slate.com by Chris Hitchens author of God is not Great: how Religion Poisons Everything. His piece entitled “Why does Pakistan hate the United States” like Dr. Goodman’s, criticizes our foreign policy but inaccurately attributes Anti-Americanism to a sliver of Pakistani elites who irrationally and diametrically oppose the United States. Let’s compare both assessments:

Hitchens says the:

“Pakistani elite hates the United States because “it is dependent on it and is still being bought by it. It is a dislike that is also a form of self-hatred of the sort that often develops between client states and their paymasters. (You can often sense the same resentment in the Egyptian establishment, and sometimes among Israeli right-wingers, as well.) By way of overcompensation for their abject status as recipients of the American dole, such groups often make a big deal of flourishing their few remaining rags of pride. The safest outlet for this in the Pakistani case is an official culture that makes pious noises about Islamic solidarity while keeping the other hand extended for the next subsidy.This is, and always was, a sick relationship, and it is now becoming dangerously diseased. It’s not possible to found a working, trusting, fighting alliance”

Conversely, Dr. Goodson explains:

“The United States is Pakistan’s far away, fair weather friend, locked in a decades long transactional relationship that satisfied neither partners desires. Pakistan is the dark side of the moon to the average American who cannot tell you one salient fact about the country, its people, their customs or history. So we use Pakistan as a bulwark against whatever goes boo in the night in that part of the world, paying their price of the moment and then walking away when the crisis is resolved”

Both authors describe what former Pakistan to United States Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi called a “transactional” relationship between the countries, but differ in their assessment of that situation. Hitchens concludes U.S. Foreign Policy is doomed for failure, ultimately insisting a complete severing of cooperation is imperative. It’s a wild recommendation that assumes various security, and economic interests can just be overlooked. His suggestions are simplistic and recommendations reckless. Severing ties with a long-standing, highly strategic ally like Pakistan is absurd. Balancing relations in South Asia is in our interest and requires maintaining an alliance with both Inda and Pakistan, not one for the other. In fact, Hitchen’s doesn’t even address the crux of the issue :U.S. Foreign Policy is problematic in that it’s viewed as merely “transactional”. Instead, he jumps to an implausible conclusion that cooperation is doomed for failure.

To contrast, Goodman suggests understanding Pakistan’s complex demographic, history and then engaging them for the long haul, especially with the Chinese sitting in Pakistan’s backyard eager to replace an American absence. His piece addresses such ground realities and offers a plausible prescription for change in what’s increasingly seen as “transactional ties”.

So although Hitchens is loud and published mainstream, he’s unfortunately inaccurate. Dr. Goodson’s work is more obscure, but it’s pragmatic with a well spelled out assessment and recommendation. his article concludes with detailed recommendations for long term engagement for development in Pakistan while Hitchens outlook puts a damper on an already dire Af-Pak situation.

Presenting problems isn’t enough. Elucidating complex situations, offering accurate insights and practical solutions separate valuable information, from journalistic balderdash. Kudos to Dr. Goodson for a well written assessment of U.S. Foreign Policy to Pakistan.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

%d bloggers like this: