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Analyst: US Should Work With Iran, Russia, China if They Want Stable Afghanistan

Commenting on a BBC study, which claimed that the Taliban is still openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan, Shuja Nawaz, Distinguished Fellow at the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, told Sputnik about the chances of beating this militant group.

NOTE; SERIOUS TRANSCRIPTION ERRORS! LISTEN TO ACTUAL RECORDING BELOW! SHUJA NAWAZ

Sputnik: Some experts have said that Trump’s comments suggest that he sees a military victory over the Taliban, do you think this is likely?

Shuja Nawaz: The military doctrine has not been defined by anyone so we don’t know what the criteria will be that will be applied to victory in Afghanistan.

We had much reduced the US presence and even with the mini-surge, it’s not going to be more than a fraction of what a total of 150,000-odd US and coalition forces were at the peak.

So it’s not clear what it is meant by a military victory. The only change that has occurred is the fact that for the first time the United States is not declaring any date for exiting the country.

That is what deepened the Taliban engaged in the fight because the principal demand is that the United States and coalition forces should leave Afghanistan and that demand has been satisfied with the fact that the US is now staying there indefinitely.

Sputnik: What can you say about the effectiveness of the US policies and what do you think is their aim in currently keeping their presence in the country?

Shuja Nawaz: This has been the issue of the US war in Afghanistan, the so-called forever war. The aims have been shifting overtime and it’s not clear what the aim is this time.

If the aim is to restore the sovereignty of the Afghan government and to assist in providing governance of overall territory, then that it can only be done by working with the Afghan government and the regional governments.

And the regional part of the American strategy is not yet fully articulated. There is very little effort, for instance, to draw Iran into the process because if you look at the map, a substantial proportion of the territory Taliban controlled and even the ISIS (Daesh) is in the Iranian sphere of influence. It is not bordering Pakistan.

So there’s a need to bring Iran into the process and Iran would want a stable Afghanistan on its border so it can also prevent the outflow of narcotics into Iran which has been initially prevented.

Russia needs to be involved [because] it has expressed its desire to be a partner in this process and it has actually hosted some meetings [on the matter]. China needs to be involved because it has huge investments in Afghanistan and also has partnership relationship with Pakistan.

The views and opinions expressed by Shuja Nawaz are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik’s position.

The Inner World

Let Shuja Nawaz take you into The Inner World, a poetic travelogue enriched by a lifetime of discovery across the globe, and introduce you to the people and places that inform this delightfully rich trove of imagery and wordplay. A fitting follow-up to his earlier highly treasured Journeys, this volume will entice and enthrall you. Shuja Nawaz takes you behind the scenes of his own life as a world-renowned strategic and security analyst and advisor of civil and military leaders in the United States, Europe, and South Asia. These poems will surprise and excite you.

Available on Amazon.com

Trump’s Flawed Pakistan Policy

On January 4, the United States announced the suspension of nearly all security-related assistance to Pakistan until Islamabad could prove its commitment to fighting terrorism and cut its ties with militant groups such as the Taliban. This decision came just days after U.S. President Donald Trump had accused Pakistan, on Twitter, of giving “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.” Pakistani leaders responded with a familiar refrain, claiming to have moved against all militant groups without distinction and pointing to the enormous costs in terms of money (over $120 billion) and lives (nearly 80,000 civilian and military dead) sustained by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism since 2001.

For Trump, it may feel good to vent his frustrations about Pakistan, especially now that his administration is desperate to salvage something from the United States’ prolonged and losing conflict in Afghanistan. These new sanctions, however, are unlikely to influence Pakistani behavior, which is rooted in realities on the ground that the United States has little ability to change.

Pakistan is a complicated country in a tough neighborhood. Its main strategic concerns are to contain the surging power of its neighbor and rival, India, and to combat Islamist militancy inside its own borders—in particular, it wishes to fight the Pakistani Taliban, which now operates from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Pakistan launched a military operation in 2014 to clear the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of insurgents, including the Pakistani Taliban, many of whom escaped across the border into Afghanistan. Pakistan, however, is reluctant to please the United States, which it considers a distant and fickle ally, by moving against the leadership of the Afghan Taliban. The United States, for its part, regards Pakistan as a duplicitous partner that is willing to take U.S. funds but unwilling to cut ties with militant groups or eject Afghan Taliban leaders, particularly those affiliated with the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based faction that has orchestrated high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, particularly in Kabul.

The dwindling and now relatively small amount of financial assistance that the United States currently provides Pakistan is another reason to suspect that its threats will be ineffectual. Pakistani officials have been defiant. Miftah Ismail, the adviser to the prime minister for finance, revenue, and economic affairs, told Reuters, “Aid cuts will not hurt us,” since U.S. aid has been “reduced drastically over the years.” (Annual U.S. aid to Pakistan peaked at about $3.5 billion in 2011, before declining to about $1 billion in 2016.)

Pakistan also has its own leverage against the United States. Islamabad could, for instance, threaten to cut off the United States’ air- and ground-based supply routes to Afghanistan. That leverage has been diminished somewhat in recent years, both by Washington’s reduction of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan (thereby lessening its need for supplies) and by the proven efficacy of the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), which moves supplies through Russia and Central Asia. In 2011, for example, when Pakistan closed its ground routes to the United States, the NDN allowed the International Security Assistance Force commander, General John Allen, to store nearly six months of reserve supplies inside Afghanistan. Yet Pakistan’s ability to threaten U.S. logistics is still formidable: in 2015, Russia shut down the NDN, and there is always a chance that Moscow could decide to play hardball if the United States sought to reopen it. In 2014, the United States lost the use of its Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan, the last U.S. base in Central Asia, as the Kyrgyz government sought to win favor with Russia. Another option is for the United States to use an Iranian land route moving through the port of Chabahar, but this is likely off the table given the heightened war of words between the Trump administration and Tehran. Depriving the United States of its air routes into Afghanistan, moreover, would end Washington’s ability to conduct air support with Gulf-based fighters and bombers.

The current standoff is further complicated by this year’s electoral calendar. The United States faces midterm elections in November, Pakistan has a parliamentary election in June, and Afghanistan has one in July. India, too, might bring forward its elections, currently scheduled for 2019, to this year. In all of these countries, then, domestic politics will dominate decision-making for the foreseeable future. Pakistani Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif’s belligerent, rapidfire Urdu tweets on the U.S. sanctions, which pronounced the death of the alliance, are a good illustration of how this domestic focus could make compromise with the United States difficult. Trump, meanwhile, is anxious to show that the United States is winning in Afghanistan, which might lead him to increase pressure on Pakistan by imposing additional sanctions. (As strategic thinker Harlan Ullman’s recent book Anatomy of Failure maintains, the United States has never won a war that it started.) Meanwhile, Afghanistan and India could support U.S. attempts to influence Islamabad. This would in turn fortify Pakistan’s perception of an international conspiracy against it.

A final obstacle in getting Pakistan to change its policy is the fact that it currently has an ersatz government run by a competent, albeit weak, prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Abbasi has no political clout within his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which still bears the name of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was forced to step down over corruption allegations in July but continues to call the shots. Dynastic politics in Pakistan weaken civilian governance and democratic legitimacy, allowing the wellorganized military to dominate policymaking and take a strong position against U.S. demands. Since 2001, moreover, the United States has tied itself to successive unpopular, autocratic, and corrupt administrations in Pakistan, including that of the dictator Pervez Musharraf. In doing so, it has failed to build a relationship with the 200 million people of Pakistan, a majority of whom, even at the height of the Afghanistan war and U.S. drone strikes on their country, wished to have better relations with the United States.

Against this backdrop, it is unlikely that threats to cut off U.S. funding—or Trump’s inflammatory tweets—will have much effect in terms of changing Pakistan’s behavior. Rather, they will only inflame tensions between the two and worsen the situation in Pakistan. After all, the last time that such a break in ties took place was in the 1990s, in the wake of Pakistan’s development of a nuclear weapon and the United States’ withdrawal from the Afghan theater following the end of the Soviet occupation. Pakistan was left to cope with the aftershocks of the Afghan war on its own. The United States also stopped all U.S.-based training programs for Pakistani military officers, beginning with the Pressler Amendment in 1985 and lasting through the 1990s. This “lost generation” was deprived of contact with its American counterparts, leading Pakistani officers to develop a view of the United States as an untrustworthy ally. Yet today, more than 200 of the brightest Pakistani officers come to the United States for training purposes every year. If the U.S.-Pakistani relations continue to deteriorate, this training program may disappear again.

Indeed, the current public contretemps will likely produce a train wreck for the U.S.-Pakistani relationship unless meaningful dialogue resumes. It is important that the discussions between the two be led by diplomats, rather than politicians, so that solutions can be found that build on the two countries’ dependence on one another and serve both of their interests. It is important, moreover, for Washington to inform and engage with the people of Pakistan in these exchanges. Washington is right to favor results-based assistance. Why not let Pakistan set attainable targets for aid, and agree with the United States on these before aid is disbursed, rather than quibble over reimbursements, as is the case now? The United States, meanwhile, could use its influence with India and Afghanistan to develop a more sustainable, long-term regional plan to fight terrorism and militancy. If Trump can pull this off, he can declare victory before exiting Afghanistan. If not, the current dispute could portend a messy defeat.

© Foreign Affairs

Countering Militancy and Terrorism in Pakistan: The Civil-Military Nexus

Based on interviews with civil and military officials and politicians, this report details the poor governance and imbalance of power in Pakistan and offers key recommendations for the military, civilian institutions, parliament, and civil society to achieve the goals and objectives outlined in Pakistan’s National Action Plan (NAP). The need for an assessment of the National Internal Security Policy and subsequent NAP became evident as the heightened military action under Operation Zarb-e-Azb entered its second year. Much remains unclear due to the lack of transparency in operations of both civil and military institutions and the absence of active parliamentary oversight.

Summary

  • Pakistan resides in an unsettled and hostile neighborhood and faces an existential challenge from domestic forces of sectarian and ethnic militancy and terrorism.
  • Many of Pakistan’s domestic problems are related to poor governance and the imbalance of power and operational ability between civil institutions and the military.
  • Shortsighted policies of successive civil and military governments and a dynastic political system have hobbled efforts to develop a strong, stable polity and economy.
  • Civil and political institutions remain weak and dysfunctional; a well-organized and disciplined military continues to dominate key strategic sectors related to foreign policy and security and currently retains control over the Afghan border region.
  • Recent military operations to clear the northern border regions abutting Afghanistan of terrorist bases have had some success, but the effort inside Pakistan remains unfinished.
  • A well-defined objective and longer-term timetable are needed for the use of the paramilitary Rangers in Punjab and Sindh. Karachi may be the test for these efforts.
  • Governance would be strengthened with better coordination and collaboration between civil institutions and the military.
  • Greater willingness by the military to bring civilians into their military campaign planning processes and to train and assist civil institutions (particularly the police force) in growing into their roles and responsibilities would bolster security.
  • The central government should establish a clearer vision and a process for decision making related to antiterrorism and antimilitancy efforts; devote more resources to its security institutions; and better organize its relationships with individual provinces.
  • Parliament should play a more active role in defining and measuring the success of efforts to counter terrorism and militancy.
  • Civil society must play a more active and informed role in this process.

About the Report

The need for an assessment of the National Internal Security Policy and subsequent National Action Plan of the government of Pakistan became evident as the heightened military action under Operation Zarb-e-Azb entered its second year. This report is based on conversations with civil and military officials and politicians inside Pakistan and on focus group sessions with leading civil and military thinkers, including retired officials, members of the media, and members of the police force. Much remains unclear due to the lack of transparency in operations of both civil and military institutions and the absence of active parliamentary oversight or questioning of operations. A key element of the review was the ability of the military and the civil government to work together effectively at both the federal and provincial levels. As a corollary to this, it was important to see the opportunity for the central government to assert its supremacy. This report focuses on the civil-military nexus, especially in the context of the Apex Committees at the provincial level, and identifies areas that demand attention if the National Action Plan is to succeed.

About the Author

Shuja Nawaz is a Pakistani-born strategic analyst based in Washington, DC. He was the founding director of the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, where he is now a distinguished fellow. He writes for leading newspapers, journals, and websites and speaks on current issues before civic groups, at think tanks, and on radio and television worldwide. He has also advised and briefed senior government and military officials and parliamentarians in the United States, Europe, and Pakistan.

Flashpoint South Asia: Opportunity knocks

As President-elect Donald Trump finalizes his cabinet and receives his intelligence briefings, among other things, he will be told about the potential for a nuclear conflagration in South Asia. This populous region with its age-old religious and sectarian rivalries has posed a challenge to US policy makers. Other than a departure plan for an unfinished engagement with Afghanistan, we still do not have a clear or comprehensive regional policy for this volatile yet critical part of the emerging global order. For too long, we have adopted a band-aid approach and single-country policy or at best hyphenated pairs of countries in this region (as in the Af-Pak odd couple). We now have the capacity to craft a broader approach and thus sustain peace and stability in Greater South Asia while opening up larger markets for US goods and services. We need to create relationships that will endure. This demands a regional overview, one that will save the US taxpayers expenditures on fighting wars and US exports and influence in Greater South Asia.

An effective regional policy for Greater South Asia has to include more than India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal; Afghanistan and Iran have ancient cultural, economic, and religious ties to the region. Indeed, for example, more Pakhtuns live in what is now Pakistan than do in Afghanistan. And Pakistan has a Shia population that exceeds 40 million, and more Shia live in India and Pakistan than the total population of Iran.

When previous US piecemeal policy failed, our government abandoned the region in frustration. For much of the post-World War II period, the US and India were not in the same camp. Today, they are. For the first time in recent history, the United States has developed relations with all the countries of the Greater South Asia region, one that contains around 1.7 billion people and perhaps the largest agglomeration of the Middle Class in the world. South Asia may well be the engine of growth and stability of Asia as a whole in the 21st Century and provide a counter balance to the growth of China.

The United States now has an opportunity to help knit together this region to foster trade within South Asia, between South Asia and the Pacific region, and between Central Asia and China. South Asia already has powerful economic ties to the Middle East, providing much of the expatriate labor force that has built up the Gulf States and Arabian Peninsula economies. According to the World Bank, in 2015 more than $116 billion of the total $581.6 billion of remittances from the Middle East flow to geographic South Asia. The slowdown of the Middle Eastern economies following the drop in oil prices will likely have serious consequences for the region. Further, as the Economist Intelligence Unit states “The expected raising of US Federal Reserve policy interest rates from 2017 will also add to downward pressure on the [Indian] rupee and, to a lesser extent, on those of its smaller neighbours.” Creating a regional market, with US help, could help the countries of the region and the United States.

India’s huge trade of nearly $100 billion a year with China rivals that with the United States. This economic codependency may help keep these powerful nuclear neighbors from pursuing the path of conflict. Similarly, Pakistan and India have the potential to increase their trade from the current paltry $2.6 billion that favors India to five times that number in the short run, and eventually a high approaching $100 billion a year, helping cement economic ties and shifting the focus away from conflict. The United States needs a game plan to assist in these directions and away from conflict. China is working with Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan to establish closer trade routes and economic ties. Its One Road, One Belt policy hopes to knit economic ties with Central Asia and other neighboring areas. This fits in nicely with the United States’ New Silk Road initiative, as former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman recently argued. And both initiatives could tie the China Pakistan Economic Corridor into trade routes between Afghanistan and Pakistan and Central Asia and the Gulf.

The US, with its European partners, should be crafting policies that will assist the creation of a thriving regional economic network in Greater South Asia, based on infrastructure and development of human capital. Helping Afghanistan will be key. Pushing for an extension of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement to India should be among these objectives. This will assist the United States in developing economic and political ties to the people of these countries rather than with status-quo elites or military clients alone.

As a start, President Trump should drop the outmoded Af-Pak model. Reviving and revivifying a Central and South Asia Bureau in State and a reorientation of countries in two regional commands, PACOM and CENTCOM, in the Pentagon, to bring all of South Asia into the same orbit would be important changes to consider. This would allow, among other things, for the Indian and Pakistani navies to work together to protect the sea-lanes of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Despite the rhetoric of collaboration across the Pentagon’s regional commands, the walls between them are too high and impervious.

A big challenge will be to help Pakistan transform itself from what was once termed an “Ally from Hell” to a partner in creating regional growth and stability. Helping Pakistan effectively fight terrorism and militancy inside its own borders, opening up South Asia trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia, and allowing Pakistan to benefit from access to Iranian gas and oil as a first step to linking Iran’s oil pipelines to India’s refineries should be high on the priority list. Further securing its nuclear weapons from radical groups would involve building on the already well-established ties between its nuclear community and that of the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Pakistan also needs help in transforming its anachronistic educational system laden with radical Islamist dogma to an open-minded curriculum. The British government is concentrating on rebuilding the education sector. The US could ride in the British wake. Greater communications and cooperation between India and Pakistan on the nuclear front and on water and glacier management, especially in disaster management planning and control are also areas where the United States’ research and experience can play a key role.

If countries in the region are willing to benefit from this enhanced US engagement, economic and financial assistance and advice could then be provided via the International Financial Institutions where the United States has a powerful voice and vote. Afghanistan will need such aid for many years to come. Pakistan has just graduated from an International Monetary Fund program but is not out of the Bretton Woods yet. It relies heavily on World Bank project lending and grants and credits from its subsidized lending programs via the International Development Association. India is not an IMF borrower but still has World Bank and IDA loans and grants on its books. However, it could benefit from advice, as needed, as does Iran.

All these are opportunities waiting for a strong and clear-headed policy leadership in Washington. This will involve taking a harder position with countries that demand US assistance so that they take greater ownership of their projects and programs and set attainable benchmarks for success. The US aid program should not be taken for granted or as an entitlement, as was the case with Afghanistan and Pakistan in the past. Further, we need to work more directly and closely with grass roots and civil society groups so we can empower them rather than the often corrupt elites in the capitals of aid recipient countries. And we must forge a partnership that spends aid money in the countries rather than siphon it off back to consultants inside the Beltway or allows aid to be spirited to offshre accounts of ruling elites. Results-based budgeting in this process is a must. This will help us get out of the trap of cash-for-hiring local partners that has characterized our lending and grant making for decades.

A clearly enunciated regional policy for South Asia will help remove the doubts surrounding an impending pell mell withdrawal from the region. Afghanistan must not be left in the lurch again, as we did in the 1990s. Engagement is also critical with the other countries of the region. A stable and growing South Asia would not only be good for the region but will also help the United States fulfill its global obligations as a leader and friend of democratic forces and expand the market for our own exports. Delay in addressing the needs of South Asia will add to the list of potential flashpoints around the world and detract from President Trump’s ability to tackle the emerging issues at home. Opportunity is knocking.

Shuja Nawaz is Distinguished Fellow at the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council in Washington DC and author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within, (Oxford 2008) which he is now updating to the current period.

Obama Needs to Look to the Future

As President Barack Obama prepares to address the Muslim World from Cairo on Thursday this week, he would do well not to dwell on the past but to look to the future. His speech should be the first salvo in a battle to meet the expectations of a world dominated by youth. He should not revive memories of past conflicts. He needs to keep certain facts in mind, many of them intuitively clear to him no doubt from his own exposure to parts of the Muslim World and to his early personal friendships with young Muslims.

First, Muslims, who comprise between one-fifth and one-quarter of the world’s population, are a diverse lot. Speaking politically or socially of the “Muslim World” as a bloc would be a mistake, as much as speaking of left-handed persons in the world as a bloc. Second, their population is rising rapidly, close to 2 per cent a year worldwide. In the last century the world’s Muslim population rose from 150 million to over 1.2 billion.

Most important, President Obama will be addressing a population with a huge “youth bulge”: In the Middle East, for example, 60 per cent of the population is below 25 years. Research indicates that some 60 of the 67 countries with a youth bulge are embroiled in internal conflicts today. In 62 countries of the world, two-thirds of the population is below 30. Countries like Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are included in this group. Over half of the population of Iran is below 30 years.

Muslim youth were excited by Obama’s election and it is this group that he should address when he speaks from Cairo on June 4, for they, not the aging autocrats or obscurantist clerics, will control the future of the Muslim World. And they are increasingly connected with the world at large through the internet, radio, and television.

What is the message they wish to hear?

  • The US will match its deeds to its words. It will no longer talk of democracy while supporting and propping up autocrats in the Muslim World;
  • It will help open up societies, using moral suasion, new technologies, and by aligning itself with the forces of moderation and progress;
  • It will help create jobs by investing in the infrastructure of the Muslim World, while laying the foundation for the future with aid for education rather than military hardware; and
  • It understands the angst and the anger of the youth of the Muslim World and supports them in their quest to stay true to their Muslim roots while reaching for the fruits of democracy and progress that youth around the globe seek.

If President Obama connects with Muslim youth this week he will be investing in the future by drawing them away from the blandishments of the radical Mullahs. If he bends his message to maintaining ties with the antiquated feudal and dynastic leaders of the Muslim World, the opportunity will be lost to build a better world for all of us.

This also appeared on The Huffingotn Post and www.acus.org

Wariness in Pakistan

February 22, 2009

PROVINCIAL authorities in the Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan struck a peace deal with local Taliban franchisees this week, and in it the government agreed to extend Islamic law in the area. Since then, commentators around the world have pretended to know what the agreement means. Some suspect a "hidden hand," whether it be the intelligence agencies or the United States. In a conspiracy-prone Pakistan, some even talk of an inside deal between the army and the militants – even as they ignore the hundreds of casualties that the army suffered in Swat. Never mind that facts may interfere with these pet theories.

In reality, only the locals know what the deal really means. I recently received the following account from a young woman from the area:

"For months and months the military has been trying to quell the militants. Two days ago their failure was accepted when the provincial government of the North-West Frontier Province went into talks with Mullah Sufi Mohammad and accepted some things. We don’t yet know what those things are but the first promise is peace. Peace on what grounds? We don’t know.

"Today the party of the Mullah announced that ‘democracy’ is un-Islamic. It is too late. We have lost the battle against the militants. We have seen day by day how government and army have [been] weakened, how they have finally been reduced to talk and to deal. Nobody is accountable for the thousands killed, for the closure of schools, for the beheadings of men and women. Nobody. Someone said to me the other day – ‘Don’t complain, because the one you complain to will be your enemy.’

"We no longer can turn [to anyone] here to complain. We now have to think about how to survive this. We now have to give up much of what many of us believe in – tolerance, peace, educated women, and freedom."

She believes the North-West Frontier Province is lost. And she questioned whether President Obama understands the extremists. "He seems to think that these people can be contained within their land, or [any] land. He thinks there is a meeting point, a dialogue possibility. Those who think that giving the militants their haven will contain them – well, the rest of the country and the world will see what this will lead to. This is not the end, it is only the beginning."

I can see her point. We seem to be reviving a deal that fell apart last year, a deal that the army opposed at that time. It fell apart in a matter of days, and the first army sortie resulted in some 18 dead soldiers. Will the army want to re-enter the fray if this deal falls apart? Who will claim responsibility for the inevitable failure?

Recall that in 1994 Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government agreed with the same militant leader, Mullah Sufi Mohammad, to allow him to run some districts of Swat and Malakand according to his convoluted view of Islamic law. He thus got legitimacy and grew into a force that now has brought a new government to the table.

Pakistan’s constitution already contains provisions protecting against un-Islamic laws. Why then does the country need an agreement with violent extremists to ensure Islamic laws? And who will pronounce on these laws? The militants? And if the army is to remain in a "reactive" mode, as a government minister explained, will they stand by and watch Taliban justice being meted out to people?

Who will ensure that girls’ schools will be rebuilt? Who will protect those who refuse to wear a beard or a burqa? Who will disarm the militants? Certainly not the Taliban.

The Swat deal gives territory in Pakistan proper to a militant minority, against the wishes of the majority of Muslims in what was once a valley of peace and quiet. If the militants gain this foothold, the stain of extremism will spread further into Pakistan. My young correspondent may be right: This is not the end, it is only the beginning.

Shuja Nawaz, author of "Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within," is director of the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council.

© 2009 The New York Times Company

Published by The Boston Globe

What Pakistan Doesn’t Need From America

During the tumult of 2008, the talk in Washington and in Islamabad turned to the need for the United States to have a relationship with the people of Pakistan rather than with any single leader or party. Indeed, only by garnering the support of a majority of Pakistanis can the United States leap over the yawning mistrust between these two countries and help Pakistan’s government become stable.

Two months into 2009, we are waiting for that change to occur. President Obama has rightly focused attention on Pakistan, sending his powerful and highly favored representative Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to take on the difficult job of resolving regional differences and restoring stability to an embattled country. Ambassador Holbrooke will need help from both Washington and Islamabad to get to the roots of regional problems.

As our forthcoming Atlantic Council Task Force Report on Pakistan stresses, Washington needs to find a way to provide a healthy dose of financial aid to Pakistan, based on a thorough discussion and agreement with Pakistan on how that aid will be used to improve the lives of people across the country and not just in the borderland near Afghanistan. Call it conditionality or "tough love", it is important to be clear about the objectives of such aid, for the financial climate in the United States will not allow any more blank checks to be issued. On its side, Pakistan has already taken many steps to assure the international financial community that it is ready to get its economic house in order. But much more needs to be done: Improving the tax administration, broadening the tax net to capture agricultural income and capital gains, strengthening the legal system to provide cover for investors, especially from abroad, and removing corruption from the highest levels of government. Too many ministerial appointments to its cabinet (which now has 83 members) are seen by the coalition’s multifarious member parties as cash cows for their party coffers.

Pakistan could also end the current "cash-for-hire" scheme under which its army was sent into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The U.S. promised to reimburse its "non-NATO ally" for the costs of making this move, and the more than $10 billion in aid given for this purpose is often used as a political stick to beat Pakistan during any discussion of aid to that country. But the U.S. reimbursement scheme barely covers the marginal costs of the army’s entry into FATA, and the political costs for Pakistan have been very high, creating a huge backlash among the population of the region as well in the rest of Pakistan. Inside the Pakistan army there is simmering resentment at all levels about the manner in which the military aid and reimbursements are handled. It would in the interest of both countries to end this scheme, and for Pakistan to truly take on the war against militancy as its own war. Then, if the U.S. is serious about helping Pakistan, it would do so by meeting Pakistan’s needs for financial aid and equipment (including helicopters and training). Let Pakistan do its own job, for its own sake, not because the U.S. pays it to do so.

U.S. drone attacks inside Pakistan are a source of great unhappiness inside Pakistan. The United States needs to find a practicable way of allowing Pakistan to manage the drone operations and to take the lead in identifying and attacking militant targets inside its borders. Fears about transferring sensitive technology to Pakistan could be addressed by joint operations of drones from Pakistani bases. U.S. and Pakistani handlers could "fly" the drones carrying Pakistani markings and be responsible jointly for their upkeep. If Pakistanis call the shots on final actions against foreign militants and eliminate or limit collateral civilian damage, then they will truly be fighting their own war and not "America’s War."

On the regional level, Pakistan can and should play a greater role in helping Afghanistan rebuild its military institutions. Increasing collaboration between the two armies would lead to joint operations against the insurgents, while removing the mistrust that has kept Afghans and Pakistanis from working with each other. For example, Afghanistan needs to rebuild its air force something that Pakistan has experience with: it has helped launch a number of air forces in the region. It could become a partner of the United States in speeding up the re-creation of the Afghan air force. Not only would the training be faster and cheaper than with US help alone but also the longer-term effects of close cooperation could lead to mutually understood practices and combined operations. Over time even Indian involvement in this effort could become feasible; both India and Pakistan once assisted Sri Lanka, during the early days of its insurgency.

While the Obama administration seeks to re-energize the engagement with Afghanistan and Pakistan, it will need to find new ways of making friends and helping reduce regional animosities. Throwing money at problems is one way. Changing peoples’ minds about each other may be a better way of achieving peace and stability in that region.

Shuja Nawaz is Director of the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council of the United States and a member of the Council’s Task force whose report on Pakistan will be released later this month. He is the author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within (Oxford 2008) and FATA: A Most Dangerous Place (CSIS, 2009). He can be contacted at www.shujanawaz.com

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/postglobal/needtoknow/2009/02/what_pakistan_doesnt_need_from.html

A Grand Opportunity for a Global President

Charles Dickens called Washington a “city of magnificent intentions.” When Barack Obama takes over on January 20th as the 44th President of the United States, he will need to translate his own lofty ideas into realities. What makes the challenge bigger for him is that he may also be carrying another title: the first globally-elected President of the United States. Unlike any other presidential election in US history, his nomination was favored by denizens of over 90 countries worldwide. All his supporters, here and abroad, expect him to transform the image and reality of the United States, in short order. While this is a daunting task, it also offers him a grand opportunity to make some bold decisions and set the United States and its partners on a fresh path, where an engaged and principled US foreign policy based on humanity and justice would be the rule.

Expectations are high and no where more than in the Muslim World that has seen the past decade marked by a threatened Clash of Civilizations between it and the West. That is also where the most dangerous shoals of foreign policy exist: Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, and South Asia, particularly Pakistan, which may be his greatest nightmare.

President Obama will not have much time to tackle each and all of these regions of unrest before he runs out of the hope and goodwill that will support him in his early days in office. The economic detritus of the Bush Administration has made the transition complex and difficult. But certain principles that are already reflected in some of his public statements may help point to likely actions that will allow him to make some historic leaps and take his supporters and doubters both with him.

Here are some things he could in his first 100 days:

  • Restore faith in the U.S. justice system by shutting down secret jails in Bagram, Guantanamo, and all torture and rendition practices as well as sites in other countries;
  • Recognize that the Gaza conflict has two sides and that the U.S. needs to engage with both to stop the violence against innocent civilians and children; bring Arab support to bear on stopping Hamas’ attacks into Israel and use the U.S.’s own leverage aid and arms-supply over Israel to stop its invasion of Gaza so the search for a longer-term peace may resume;
  • Announce that the US will respect the results of overseas elections that are free and fair regardless of which party comes to power;
  • Open a dialog with Iran to resolve issues and thus help eliminate Iranian involvement in Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza, while opening up the path to Iranian help in rebuilding Afghanistan and expanding its gas pipeline into Pakistan and India; Iran is the key to many locked doors in the greater Middle East and to the peaceful US exit from Iraq;
  • Engage and help the people of Pakistan directly to wrest control back from the militants that threaten the stability of that key country in South Asia and thus restore peace and stability to Afghanistan as well; do not favor any single party or person for short-term US gains;
  • Help India and Pakistan back to the peace table by opening up their borders to trade and people; draw the Diaspora Pakistani and Indian community into this process for cross-border joint investments that would allow both rival nations to benefit from trade and cultural exchanges and remove Kashmir as a cause of conflict over time; and
  • Let the Muslim World understand loud and clear that the United States has no designs against it and that it will practice what it preaches by not supporting dictators and autocrats against the freedom-seeking people of the Muslim World.

President Obama can make this statement more effective by choosing to deliver his major foreign policy speech abroad, preferably in the Muslim World…then see the wave of support carry him over the obstacles to these Grand Objectives.

Where would be a good venue for this event? How about the Wagah border crossing between India and Pakistan, so both Indian and Pakistani crowds can see and hear him? And let those metal gates that are shut by goose-stepping soldiers every evening remain open forever after that as a symbol of good neighborhood and out of respect for a brave new U.S. president who is unafraid to tackle the hardest tasks first.

This piece also appeared on The Huffington Post and on the Atlantic Council website www.acus.org, where the author is now Director, South Asia Center.

Back to the future in Pakistan

As 2007 was lurching toward a messy end in Pakistan, a documentary film suddenly caught much attention inside the country and abroad, especially among the diaspora Pakistanis. Sabiha Sumar and Sachithanandam Sathananthan’s "Dinner with the President: A Nation’s Journey" tried to shine a light on Pakistan’s future by showing conflicting elements of Pakistani society. At the apex was President General Pervez Musharraf, who was wearing his uniform as Army Chief in addition to running the country from Army House in Rawalpindi. Enterprising Sumar managed to convince Musharraf’s handlers to allow her to film a dinner with him at Army House in Karachi (one of the many such homes that the Chief of Army Staff has at his disposal in major cities throughout the country.) Musharraf invited his mother and his wife to join him at the meal. (Surprisingly the wife’s contributions were almost entirely edited out.) This conversation was the thread that Sumar used to tie together the documentary. Today, as Pakistan, under a civilian government, continues to battle the vestiges of the Musharraf regime and new economic and political challenges, it may be worth taking a look back at that insightful film and what it teaches us about Pakistan.

Sadly, the dinner was the weakest link in an otherwise telling film about Pakistan. By focusing on Musharraf, Sumar and her Sri Lankan partner showed their leaning toward a professed “liberal” autocrat. The assumption that comes through is that Pakistan, with its vast gaps between the rich and the poor, and between the radical Muslims with little or no knowledge of Islam and the intellectual elite, with its confused ideologies and imprisoned in its comfortable drawings rooms, needs a strong central figure at the center to guide it into the future. Even a year later, Sathananthan was accusing Pakistani “liberals” of helping the “neo-colonialists” in removing Musharraf:

“Politically challenged Pakistani liberals — a motley crowd that includes members of human rights and civil liberties organisations, journalists, analysts, lawyers and assorted professionals — are utterly incapable of comprehending the geo-strategic context in which Musharraf manoeuvred to defend Pakistan’s interest. So they slandered him as an ‘American puppet’, alleging he caved in to US pressure and withdrew support to the Afghan Taliban regime in the wake of 9/11 although in fact he removed one excuse for the Bush Administration to ‘bomb Pakistan into stone age’, as a senior State Department official had threatened." ("The Great Game Game Continues", November 2008)

Notwithstanding that the story about bombing Pakistan into the “stone age” was a figment of Musharraf’s imagination and not based on his intelligence chief Lt. General Mahmud Ahmed’s actual report from Washington DC, the film portrays Musharraf as a sensitive liberal with good intentions. The questions lobbed at him were soft; his answers softer still. The dinner turns out to be a dud.

But Sumar comes into her element when she visits with a group of Pashtuns near the Afghan border and bravely challenges their antedilluvian views on Islam and the status of women in society. When confronted by a tough woman armed with potent arguments in favor of equality for women, their best option is to retreat. The most telling commentary on Musharraf’s Pakistan comes in a vignette in the film that shows a poor Sindhi family eating its spare supper on the dirt floor outside its make-shift home. All they have is a piece of flat bread, perhaps some onions and water. They invite the filmmaker to join them. Juxtaposed against the scenes from a comfortable dining room where Pakistani intellectuals rant against the regime or the beach party where obviously drunk young men and women cavort out of control and one plastered young man expresses admiration for Musharraf, the film manages to show the stark choices facing Pakistan, as its heads into an uncertain future.

Critics like Sathananthan may regret that Musharraf was shown the door by the people of Pakistan , and some even bemoan the new civilian government and how it came into power. But they fail to recognize that the only way out of Pakistan’s political morass is to allow the people’s voice to be heard, whether it is through the ballot or through film and other mass media. Musharraf may have facilitated the political return of the Pakistan Peoples Party by removing some of the legal obstructions in its path. But he did not favor the return of the Pakistan Muslim League. The Saudis facilitated that. Both parties won their votes against all odds in a referendum against Musharraf’s rule and on the failing economy.

Showing Pakistan a mirror through discussion and debate so it can see itself may help start a critical debate inside the country. Without such a debate, Pakistanis will lurch from one crisis to another. The chattering classes will be silenced by the cackle of AK-47s and the arguments carried by suicide bombers into the heart of the country.

“Dinner with the President” began that debate in 2008. We hope the team will return to Pakistan in 2009 to show where we are now headed. Next time around, one hopes that Sumar will concentrate on the underlying issues that she uncovered during her “Dinner with the President” and stay away from the drawing rooms and dining tables of the elite. On second thought, perhaps a useful starting point may well be another “Dinner with the President” this time in Islamabad, which was once described as lying (no pun intended) “18 miles outside Pakistan”. Then she should head into the real Pakistan of the poor and dispossessed, where Sumar is at her best. Changing the lives of those people is critical to the future of Pakistan.

This piece aso appeared on The Huffington Post.