Category Archives: Atlantic Council

Afghanistan and Pakistan Need Better Governments

Shuja Nawaz, director of the Council’s South Asia Center, has an interesting post at Foreign Policy‘s new The Argument blog, entitled “Panic Stations in Kabul. Is Islamabad next?”

The setup:

The coordinated attacks by the Taliban in Kabul on the eve of U.S. Amb. Richard Holbrooke’s arrival were no coincidence. Apart from ratcheting up fear among the citizens of Kabul, these attacks may well reflect a sense of desperation on the part of the Taliban. They fear that the impending arrival of additional troops in Afghanistan and simultaneous attempts to begin a dialogue with elements of the Afghan insurgency could leave them isolated. Hence the need to show their strength and ability to penetrate and attack the government in Kabul at will. Apart from showing off their military prowess, the Taliban wish to highlight President Hamid Karzai’s inability to control even his own capital. There may be a regional strategy behind this approach.

The complex interrelationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan, especially in the fluid border regions, is something with which the West has become suddenly and painfully familiar with in recent years.  Shuja’s essay focuses on a Comparative Politics 101 issue that we International Relations types often overlook: the key role that good governance plays.  It’s something in short supply in South Asia and, indeed, most of the developing world.  And it would be worth more than all the Predator drones and provincial reconstruction teams in the world in ridding the region of extremists.

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.

U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan: Shuja Nawaz on NPR

Shuja Nawaz, director of the Atlantic Council’s new South Asia Center, commented today for an NPR piece on President Obama’s use of unmanned drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions.

  Other commentators included Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy Studies program; Retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international affairs at Boston University; and Seth Jones, a South Asia expert at RAND Corporation.

Read Article

Listen to Audio (5:16)

Photo credit: Maya Alleruzzo, AP, NPR.

 

Fulfilling Iraqi and Afghan Dreams and Wishes

Although it may surprise many insular people in the United States, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and the region they inhabit want nothing more than what most Americans dream of. They want peace, a chance to raise their children with good healthcare and education, and an ability to earn a decent living. They do not want to be invaded or occupied, nor ruled with an iron fist. Decades of war have damaged Afghanistan and Iraq and destroyed the fabric of their societies. Their intellectuals and middle class have either been targeted by internal militancy or have left to seek a better life, ironically in the United States and the West, the occupying force and source of their current discomfiture.

The best hope for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan from the new US administration that took office yesterday is that it will set in motion plans for a military exit but launch a sustained assault on poverty and help inoculate both countries against the rise of autocratic systems of rule. Both are tribal societies with centuries-old traditions and mores. Devolving power to the provinces and districts and to local councils and encouraging the formation of a national consensus along the lines of the previously stable “Meesak-i-milli” (People’s Concord) of Afghanistan will be one way to assure stability. Start rebuilding socio-political structures from the bottom up not top downward.

But a US military withdrawal must not mean a political or economic exit from both countries, the worst nightmare of the people of both war-torn lands. The US abandoned Afghanistan once before, after the Soviets left in 1989. In the words of General Brent Scowcroft, it had to go back in 2001 to complete the job that it ought to have done at that time. It also left Iraq to its own devices after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. It cannot risk making the same mistake again. For there are broader implications of such actions.

To enhance regional harmony, the new US President will also need to build better and longer relationships with both countries’ neighbors: re-open dialog with Iran instead of painting it into a hostile corner, and build a longer-term relationship with the people of Pakistan rather than with any single ruler or autocrat. This will restore stability in the region and allow Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan to contribute towards peace rather than war in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of the world today. If they could, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan would vote for a US president who waged peace not war.

Shuja Nawaz is director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council.  An edited and translated version of this piece ran in Foreign Policy Edición Española.

Nawaz in Foreign Policy Espanol

Foreign Policy Espanol

Shuja Nawaz, director of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, published a piece in Foreign Policy Edición Española entitled “AFGANISTÁN E IRAK NECESITAN UNA OFENSIVA CONTRA LA POBREZA.”  A longer, English language version appears in New Atlanticist as “Fulfilling Iraqi and Afghan Dreams and Wishes.”

The full text of the original appears below as a courtesy to Council members.

El nuevo presidente estadounidense tendrá que forjar unas relaciones mejores y más duraderas con los vecinos de Irak y Afganistán [1], así como llevar acabo una retirada militar que no implique un abandono económico y político de unos países destrozados por la guerra.

Aunque quizá sorprenda a mucha gente que se aísla en Estados Unidos, los habitantes de Irak y Afganistán, así como de la región en la que se encuentran, no quieren más que lo que anhelan la mayoría de los estadounidenses: paz, una oportunidad para criar a sus hijos con buena sanidad y buena educación, y la capacidad de ganarse la vida decentemente. No quieren ser invadidos ni ocupados, ni que los gobiernen con mano de hierro. Decenios de guerra han hecho daño a Afganistán e Irak y han destruido el tejido de sus sociedades (sus intelectuales y su clase media han sido blancos de la militancia interna o se han ido en busca de una vida mejor, irónicamente a EE UU y Occidente, la fuerza ocupante y fuente de su turbación actual).

La esperanza que pueden tener los pueblos iraquí y afgano respecto al nuevo inquilino de la Casa Blanca es que ponga en marcha planes para una salida militar pero que emprenda una ofensiva sostenida contra la pobreza y ayude a vacunar a los dos países contra el ascenso de sistemas de gobierno autocráticos. Ambos países son sociedades tribales con tradiciones y costumbres que se remontan siglos atrás: una forma de asegurar la estabilidad será traspasar el poder a provincias y distritos y a los consejos locales, y fomentar la formación de un consenso nacional del tipo del antes estable Meesak-i-milli (Concordia del pueblo) de Afganistán. Habrá que empezar a reconstruir las estructuras sociopolíticas de abajo a arriba, no de arriba a abajo.

           
Construir una relación a largo plazo con el pueblo de Pakistán, y no con un gobernante o autócrata específico
           

Ahora bien, una retirada militar de Estados Unidos no debe significar una salida política ni económica, la peor pesadilla para la gente de estos dos países desgarrados por la guerra. Estados Unidos ya abandonó Afganistán una vez, después de que se fueran los soviéticos en 1989. En palabras del general Brent Scowcroft, Washington tuvo que volver en 2001 para completar la tarea que debería haber hecho entonces. Asimismo, dejó que los iraquíes se las arreglaran solos tras la liberación de Kuwait en 1991. No puede arriesgarse a volver a cometer el mismo error porque esas acciones tienen repercusiones más amplias.

Para aumentar la armonía nacional, el nuevo presidente estadounidense también tendrá que forjar unas relaciones mejores y más duraderas con los vecinos de ambos Estados: reabrir el diálogo con Irán en vez de arrinconarlo de forma hostil y construir una relación a largo plazo con el pueblo de Pakistán, y no con un gobernante o autócrata específico. Estas medidas restaurarán la estabilidad en la región y permitirán que Irak, Afganistán, Irán y Pakistán contribuyan a la paz, en vez de a la guerra, en una de las zonas más peligrosas del mundo actual. Si pudieran, iraquíes y afganos votarían a un presidente estadounidense que haga la paz, y no la guerra.

What Will President Obama Mean for India?

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Shuja Nawaz, the director of the Atlantic Council’s brand new South Asia Center, appeared on Indian television network NDTV’s 24 x 7 broadcast “The Big Fight” on the subject “What will President Obama mean for India?

Other participants included Amb. Frank Wisner, Indian fund raiser for Hillary Bal G. Das in New York and Congressman Jim McDermott. The host was NDTV’s CEO Vikram Chandra.

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.

Shuja Nawaz is the author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within (2008) and FATA: A Most Dangerous Place (2009). He is Director, South Asia Center at The Atlantic Council of the United States. 

Focusing the Spy Glass on Pakistan’s ISI

Only in Pakistan does the appointment of a new spy chief elicit more commentary than, say, a Prime Minister under today’s political system, where the presidency holds the power strings. The appointment of Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha as the new head of the Inter Services Intelligence earlier this week has raised expectations about a change in the direction of the ISI and Pakistan in the war against terror and militancy in the borderlands with Afghanistan and inside Pakistan proper. While the changes in leadership of the army in general and at ISI by the new army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani hold much promise, military actions alone do not guarantee a change in direction of the fractured economy and polity of Pakistan. Without a clear sense of understanding and control by the civilian government of all aspects of governance, Pakistan risks muddling through a crisis that may worsen in the days ahead. On the Afghan border, the risk of confrontation with the United States remains. Inside Pakistan, the militants are on the prowl and challenging the writ of the state.

What does the appointment of General Pasha portend?

First, this is the formal assertion of power of the new army chief, who will complete his first tumultuous year in office this November, a year marked by the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the holding of relatively free and fair elections, largely because the army provided security and refused to be drawn into the political process, and the formation of a short-lived coalition between the Pakistan Peoples’ Party and its erstwhile arch rival the Pakistan Muslim League of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Finally the past year saw the abrupt departure of President Pervez Musharraf, who once he had shed his uniform, lost his grip on power. He was succeeded by Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Ms. Bhutto, who has taken firm ownership of her party. Throughout all this, General Kayani maintained a quiet but firm posture, stating repeatedly but not too often to provoke disbelief that he wished the army to return to its professional roots and leave governance of the country to the elected civilians. In a country that has seen too many army chiefs change their minds about this relationship with the civilians, many still believe that he may either change his stance or be forced to do so by deteriorating circumstances in the country.

By removing Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, a former close associate of General Musharraf from the ISI, Kayani has put in place his own close associate, someone who has been at the heart of decision making at army headquarters as Director General Military Operations. This is the office that prepares all military plans and coordinates thinking on strategies. Pasha, a bright, confident officer with twinkly eyes and an analytical mind, has had deep experience at this job and has been involved in crafting policy in the fight against militants inside Pakistan as well as in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas that border Afghanistan. FATA is home to the Afghan Taliban, the home-grown Tehreek-e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP), and the Punjabi Sunni militant groups that were once favored by the ISI in the Kashmiri operations against India but now have broken out of control and tied up with Al Qaeda and TTP elements in the frontier region.

Pasha will be appointing three new deputies: major generals responsible for Evaluation, Operations, and Internal wings of the ISI. The previous incumbent in charge of evaluation, Major General Muhammad Mustafa has been promoted to Lt. General and made the Chief of General Staff at army headquarters. He had been a Kayani associate when Kayani was heading the ISI. The head of operations ( handling relations with Mujahidden groups in Kashmir and other similar groups), Major General Asif Akhtar, and the head of the internal wing dealing with counter terrorism and political issues inside Pakistan, Major General Nusrat Naeem, are reported to have been superseded for promotion by junior officers and moved to other jobs in the army itself. With his own appointees in these key positions, Pasha will have an opportunity to exercise control over the ISI from the get go. But the key will be his ability to control operations in the field, especially ISI contractors and field operatives who deal with the Afghan Taliban and whose performance will the basis of either close cooperation with or confrontation with the United States.

The issue that will continue to bedevil decision making at the ISI and in the civilian government in Islamabad is whether Pakistan will finally take a firm position against the Afghan Taliban, who, unlike the TTP, have till now not been seen as taking a hostile position against the army or the government of Pakistan. They rely on tribal affiliations to enter and exit from FATA surreptitiously; avoiding any battles with Pakistani army of Frontier Corps (FC) elements. Will Pakistan now take affirm position on dealing with them, telling them in effect; “You can come into FATA but cannot leave then to fight in Afghanistan”.  If they refuse, Pakistan’s army risks opening yet another front in the counterinsurgency in its frontier region. IS it capable of doing that?

Pasha understands very well the shortcomings of the army, the FC, the local civil administration in FATA, and provincial and central governments in the war against the militants. In a long interview with me this summer, he explained the weaknesses of the system in place now and what the army is trying to do to shore up its end of the fight. But he described the need for a three-pronged strategy involving “development, political, and military” and analyzed the relative strengths and weaknesses of each part of this troika. His frustration with the lack of will of previous governments at the center and the provinces was palpable, as was his criticism of military actions that were not coordinated with and supported by development efforts. The absence of promised development assistance from the United States figured in his narrative as did the inefficiency of civilian bureaucracies that failed, in his words, to assess the situation with on-site visits in the FATA and application of funds to meet the urgent and basic needs of the people. Pasha’s own previous experience as head of the UN peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone informs his sensibilities about dealing with conflict and post-conflict situations. Like other generals and officers in the field in FATA and Swat, Malakand, and Dir inside the North West Frontier Province itself, he echoed the view that the army needs to avoid civilian casualties “since we are fighting inside Pakistan, against our own people”. The US needs to understand this reality too.

The Pakistan army is not equipped for the counterinsurgency. Its training is for conventional war. So is its equipment. It lacks adequate night vision goggles and attack helicopters and heli-lift capabilities, for example. The United States has promised to replace its outmoded ogles with newer more effective models and has offered some Cobra helicopters but not all of them have been delivered. Some are still being refurbished. The militants attack isolated posts in small numbers. The army cannot reach those spots in a hurry with enough troops to catch and destroy them when they are visible. The US needs to find ways of providing Sikorsky Blackhawks or even third party sales of MI-8 or MI-16 troop-lifting helicopters to meet Pakistan’s needs. It is replacing its own Blackhawk fleet with newer models. Even refurbished Blackhawks are better than none for Pakistan.

While Pasha will no longer be involved in the operational planning and preparedness of the army, he will be at the frontline of the dealings with the militants groups in the field. How he handles the relationship with the Afghan Taliban will be key to his success. He foresees the need for a tripartite relationship between the Political Agents, who represent the government in FATA, some Maliks, and the Mullahs or moderate elements of the Taliban. By bringing in the moderates he sees the chance to isolate the radicals. At the same time be recognizes that the age-old system of PAs and Maliks running the affairs of FATA cannot be resurrected. Things have changed on the ground and the people of the region are much more politically aware and active. Pasha also does not see a potential convergence between the Afghan and the local Taliban. The civilian head of the Ministry of Interior, Rehman Malik, has been reported to as seeing a lack of difference between those two groups. In July, Malik was at the center of a controversial move to bring the entire ISI under the control of his ministry. How will this relationship now develop between Pasha and Malik? Pasha has been closely involved in Kayani’s frequent exchanges with the US commanders in the region and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen. He was the one that Kayani took with him to the meeting on the USS Abraham Lincoln in the North Arabian Sea.

Now Pasha will report to both Kayani and the Prime Minister. And he will be a critical interlocutor in dealings with the United States. He brings to the job not only long experience in the military but also his UN experience and a sharp political sensibility, bolstered by the confidence of his army chief. Will he be able to win the confidence of the Prime Minister and President of Pakistan and that of the principal ally, the United States by changing the direction of the ISI? That is the question that only his actions can answer.

Shuja Nawaz is the author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within. He can be reached at shujanawaz.com. 

Pakistan’s Perfect Storm

Within a matter of days, events on the Afghan border seem to be creating a perfect storm of mistrust and conflict between the United States and Pakistan

: The recent U.S. heliborne attack with troops inside Pakistan’s tribal area; the report that President George W. Bush had signed off on such attacks in July, allowing U.S. forces to conduct these raids without clearance from Pakistan; the short-term shutting down of the U.S. supply route to Afghanistan by Pakistan, ostensibly for “security reasons”; and finally an unequivocal riposte from Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani that “There is no question of any agreement or understanding with the coalition forces whereby they are allowed to conduct operations on our side of the border.” Unless good sense prevails, the U.S.-Pakistan alliance may be heading for the rocks in a storm that could rent the tenuous alliance between these two “allies.”

There may be good grounds for the U.S. to feel that it has been let down by Pakistan in the past. Pakistan’s ambivalent approach to the Afghan Taliban and continuing hidden links to former Afghan Mujahideen commanders, such as Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj, came to be at odds with its partnership with the U.S. against militants in the border region. Coming clean on that score may not have satisfied the U.S. Hence the Bush signature on unilateral attacks even perhaps as he entertained the new Pakistani prime minister in Washington this July.

Suddenly the old policy of “a wink and a nod” that worked for President Pervez Musharraf and that appeared to be continuing under the new democratically elected Peoples’ Party government seems to have been set aside. Kayani’s tough statement appears to have widespread public support in Pakistan. The Prime Minister echoed his words. But President Asif Ali Zardari uncharacteristically has been silent. If this portends fissures in the ruling hierarchy then the signs are not good for the balance of power inside Pakistan.

Other dangerous possibilities appear likely in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. The next time the U.S. physically invades Pakistani territory to take out suspected militants, it may meet the Pakistan army head on. Or it may face a complete a cut-off of war supplies and fuel in Afghanistan via Pakistan. With only two weeks supply of fuel available to its forces inside Afghanistan and no alternative route currently available, the war in Afghanistan may come to a screeching halt. The Bush approach may prove to be yet another example of short-term thinking that damages the longer term objective. The Taliban meanwhile will be applauding from the sidelines.

A major consequence of the U.S. invasion of Pakistan’s territory will be the further alienation of the Pakistani public and a serious internal problem for the fledgling civil government that took over from Musharraf’s autocracy. The U.S. may think it has considerable leverage over the Pakistani government because of the latter’s economic ills and financial straits and its overwhelming reliance on U.S. aid. But it is failing to measure the power of the Pakistani street. Already, a vast majority of people in Pakistan, including inside the army, see the United States with hostile eyes. Anyone in Pakistan seen as aligning with the Americans would lose public favor. And the nationalists and religious extremists will then get a chance to say “we told you so!” and gain the upper hand.

All this is happening as the lame duck Bush presidency is getting ready to pack its bags. But the campaign to succeed Bush is heating up. Cross border U.S. attacks inside Pakistan will distract from the war on terror in the region. They will also divert the campaigns of Senators John McCain and Barack Obama from finding solutions to hurling new rhetorical bombs at each other to prove that each is tougher in the use of military force than the other.

Both Pakistan and the United States need to rethink their actions. Pakistan must prove with actions not just words that it is willing to shed its ties to all militants. The United States must ratchet down the rhetoric and the use of force, especially against an “ally” in this war on terror, a war that will last well into the next president’s term and may be beyond. And it must fully equip the Pakistan army to fight a mobile counter insurgency in its borderlands. Otherwise, the U.S. will not only lose an ally in Pakistan but ignite a conflagration inside that huge and nuclear-armed country that will make the war in Afghanistan seem like a Sunday hike in the Hindu Kush.

Shuja Nawaz is the author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within (Oxford University Press 2008).