Posts Tagged ‘Zainab jeewanjee politics’

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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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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.

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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.

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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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Where the War on Terror Is

December 29, 2009

The War on Terror has most definitely shifted: terrorists are massacring Pakistani’s.

I churn each time I hear of terrorist attacks since 9/11, and mostly since then, those attacks have been on Pakistan. This weeks suicide bombings on religious processions in Karachi during the month of Mahurrum, (a somber time of reflection, considered sacred for many Muslims) are particularly unnerving.

I’ve lived in Karachi and was there until 2001: suicide bombings were unheard of before 9/11 and even though Karachi is a relatively chaotic city, never has it been victim to such consistent horror. In my lifetime, Pakistan has never suffered such widespread violence and insecurity. I’ve already written about the deteriorating state of affairs post 9/11, so today i’ll share a links to a BBC slideshow and article capturing the recent atrocities :

SLIDESHOW: Karachi March Attacked

ARTICLE : Pakistan’s Recount Horror of Suicide Attack

When the Economist, pundits and politicians declare Pakistan the most dangerous place in the world, important to remember is that it really is the most dangerous place: for Pakistanis.

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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.

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Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions & Deterrence Theory

December 28, 2009

Albert Einstein

Did helping invent the Nuclear bomb bring peace ?

If you could spend a day chatting with anyone from history who would you pick? This question came up over dinner with friends on Saturday night. John Lennon, Socrates, Buddha, Michael Jackson, Jesus, Oscar Wilde, the Prophet Mohammad, Cleopatra and Einstein were some of the names that came up.

We stopped at Einstein and got to thinking: In helping prompt the invention of a nuclear bomb, is Einstein worthy of the historical acclaim he receives? Soon into discussion, we realized that the question itself relies on the assumption that the nuclear bomb is capable of nothing more than destruction. Which led us to thinking of deterrence.

Has the invention of the atomic bomb perhaps prevented more conflicts, therefore saving more lives than it has taken?

Deterrence theory suggests that when two countries obtain the nuclear bomb, the consequential risks of using them become so high, that the likelihood of usage decreases. Meaning the monumental destruction that would result from using an atomic bomb on another country also equipped with the bomb who would retaliate and cause similar monumental destruction outweigh interests to ever use the bomb. Another way to put it is that if two countries have the bomb, they are less likely to use it because Mutual Destruction would take place.

Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is a military strategy related to deterrence that suggests states equipped with enough nuclear armaments to annihilate one another become less likely to use nuclear bombs because it would ultimately destroy ones own state. Thus, proponents of deterrence assert a nuclear capacity actually decreases the likelihood of conflict.

It can sound dicey and common criticisms of the idea question what happens if a government is headed by a fanatical, or irrational leader with no rational regard for consequences or fear of mutually assured destruction. Another criticism relates to the arms race that ensues when two countries spend billions of dollars amassing arms, increasing deficits and applying resources away from the daily needs of citizens over long periods of time.

But deterrence was effective for decades during the Cold War. The United States and former U.S.S.R., engaged in a massive arms race equipping themselves with enough nuclear power to completely destroy one another and proxy wars were fought, but direct combat and nuclear war were avoided.

South Asia might be another example. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since Partition in 1947, and despite perpetually volatile (mostly hostile) relations, war has been avoided since both countries tested their nuclear bombs (Kargil being a conflict, not a full scale war).

So can deterrence work today in the case of Iran? There’s an article in the Economist this week underscoring the first task which is ascertaining the motive for Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Are they after a bomb, or nuclear technology for civilian purposes? Either way, President Obama keeps “all options” on the table for future dealings. That’s diplomatic speak for, “the United States will use force if necessary”. And that itself could be why Iran is seeking the bomb.

Would a bomb bring decreased chance of conflict because states would think twice before using “all options”? Might it coerce Iran and other states to work things out diplomatically given escalated risks involved in conflict with a nuclear power?

I don’t know whether deterrence would apply in the case of Iran and am vehemently opposed to nuclear proliferation. Plus, considering the changing face of warfare given an age of terrorism, non-proliferation should be a primary, international aim. But the deterrent angle is rarely considered in discourse on Iran and I think scholars and policymakers should delve into why or why not the theory would apply to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.



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