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The U.S. Strategy In Afghanistan And Pakistan

Speakers: Stephen D. Biddle, Senior Fellow For Defense Policy, CFR, and Daniel S. Markey, Senior Fellow For India, Pakistan, And South Asia, CFR
Presider: Deborah Jerome, Deputy Editor, CFR.Org
May 4, 2011
Council on Foreign Relations

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OPERATOR:  Excuse me, everyone.  We now have our speakers in conference.  (Gives queuing instructions.)

I would now like to turn the conference over to Deborah Jerome.  Ms. Jerome, please begin.

DEBORAH JEROME:  Thank you very much.

Good morning.  Thanks to all of you for calling in to this Council on Foreign Relations media conference call looking at the impact of bin Laden's death on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and U.S. relations with those countries.

I'm Deborah Jerome.  I'm the deputy editor of CFR.org.  With me to answer your questions -- and I'm sure you have plenty -- are CFR senior fellows Steve Biddle and Daniel Markey.

I think we'll start out with giving each of you some opening remarks about how you can -- how you broadly see the impact of this event.  And then we can open up to questions.

Steve, do you want to go first?

STEPHEN BIDDLE:  Sure.  And I'll try to be brief, to keep the question time as long as possible.

Let me speak to the issue of the effect of the bin Laden killing on the campaign in Afghanistan, and I'll do it with respect to three different sub-issues.  First is:  Will this affect the tactical conduct of the war?  And the answer is, no.  The Taliban had much more immediate concerns than what's going on with Osama bin Laden.  Their to-do list is rather long as it is, so I don't think this will affect the way the war is fought in the near term very much.

Second is the case for the war, though.  I mean, after all, the rational -- the rationale presented for the United States continuing to wage war in Afghanistan is usually that it is designed to prevent al-Qaida in particular and other terrorist organizations from getting bases in Afghanistan from which they might attack us or attack Pakistan.  If the virulence of the terror threat that the war in Afghanistan is supposed to reduce goes down, one might expect that to reduce the strength of the case for waging the war -- which in my view has always been a fairly close call on the analytical merits.  And if, in fact, the post-bin Laden fate of al-Qaida, and, importantly, allied terrorist groups in Pakistan, is that they wither and die as a result of the removal of a charismatic leader, then I think that would in fact substantially weaken the substantive case on the merits for waging the war.

The trouble is, most terrorist organizations, of course, survive decapitation attempts.  I mean, there are exceptions.  Guzman and the Shining Path, for example, is one; Shoko Asahara and Aum Shinrikyo might be another.  But by and large, terrorist organizations are not destroyed; they're weakened, but they're not destroyed by the removal of a leader.  So I -- A, and, B, if in fact al-Qaida ends up going the way of the Shining Path, and not the way of most terrorist organizations, and it does wither and die as a result of this, we won't know for a while.

I mean, it's been less than 72 hours since this guy got killed.  I don't think we have any basis for knowing at this point that the effect of this on al-Qaida will be sufficient to tip the scales against waging war in Afghanistan on the merits.

People have also suggested that it changes the politics in ways that would give Obama political cover for disinvesting from the war.  There, too, I'm skeptical.  I don't think he needs a great deal of political cover for doing that if he actually wanted to do.  I think the political environment is fairly permissive at the moment for drawdowns in Afghanistan if somebody thought that that was actually the wise course.

And I don't think this event changes the substantive calculus on whether it would be the wise course.  If you thought withdrawal made sense before, you still would.  If you thought it didn't before, this wouldn't change your view, at least not on the basis of any evidence we can see so far.

So I don't think the case for the war at the moment is significantly changed.  It might in the longer term, depending on what happens to the trajectory of terrorism in the region.

Last, let me address some issues having to do with the prospects for a negotiated settlement.  There's been some discussion recently that the killing of bin Laden might pave the way for more progress in what was already a negotiating process that had begun with some or more of the Taliban's component factions.  And the argument goes that the Quetta shura Taliban, the survivors of the old Taliban Afghan government, are the largest of the three primary Afghan Taliban factions.  And Mullah Omar, the leader of the Quetta shura Taliban had made a promise to Osama bin Laden that he would not hand him over and that that promise was going to be a significant obstacle to progress in any negotiated settlement, because it was a red line for us that the Taliban or any part of it that we negotiated with would eventually have to renounce al-Qaida if we were going to do a deal with them.

So the argument goes, the removal of bin Laden -- who after all was the recipient of the promise from Omar, not some larger institution, but this individual -- now being gone would empower Mullah Omar to do a deal in ways that he wouldn't have otherwise.

This seems to me is interesting, but I would be cautious.  The interesting bit about it is mostly with respect to the question of why it's taken the Afghan Taliban so long to come up with some sort of reaction to the killing of bin Laden.  This is an organization that is normally very, very nimble in their public diplomacy.  They get statements out on the streets in nanoseconds.  And yet it's taken about two days almost for them to decide what they think and say something about the removal of bin Laden.

And what they ended up saying what this strange, technocratic response that was neither, you know, a full-throated criticism of the United States and support for al-Qaida as a flag bearer for the Islamist movement nor welcoming the event, but instead, this, you know, claim that there isn't enough evidence yet; we don't have proof.

I think one plausible interpretation of what's going on with the Quetta shura in all of this is that there's a substantial amount of internal debate, quite possibly between the older guard -- Mullah Omar and the people around him -- and young Turks, in many cases people who've replaced leaders who we've killed or detained, where the young Turks by and large are more extreme and more hardened and more Islamist than the old guard.  And they may be in the process of a dispute and trying to sort out what they think about the removal of bin Laden, in part in the context of, does this mean we should now talk with Karzai and the Americans or not?  And this kind of odd response could represent an attempt to paper over that difference while they continue to wrestle with one another.

So there may be some reason to believe that once this wrestling process sorts itself out within the Quetta shura, the result could be greater willingness to negotiate than there would have been before.  But it's important to realize the constraints on what this ultimately means for us.  The Quetta shura is one of only three factions.  It's not clear how important Mullah Omar's views are within the Quetta shura.  The leadership is in the process of transition as older leaders are killed or removed and replaced by younger, probably more radical people.

So at the margin, this might help.  But it's far from clear how much.  And it's even less clear what effect it would have on the Haqqani Network or on the HIG, both of whom -- neither of whom are as closely tied to whatever personal deal Mullah Omar might have made with Osama bin Laden back in 2001.

JEROME:  Steve, thanks so much.

BIDDLE:  Why don't I stop there?

JEROME:  Thank you.

Dan, what about you?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Sure.  Let me pick up on this reconciliation issue and then transition into more of a discussion of Pakistan and what this means for the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. 

First, I agree with Steve.  The implications of the killing of bin Laden for an Afghanistan -- an opportunity for accelerated progress in reconciliation in Afghanistan are not as clear as some would make them out to be. 

I would focus, however, on the observation that aside from whatever relationship Mullah Omar had with bin Laden, whatever personal promises he might have made, that there's a broader issue here about whether Mullah Omar or the top leaders within the Haqqani Network or others that have had very close ties with al-Qaida in the past should be reconciled with in the first place. 

And my contention would be to the contrary, that it has never made a lot of sense that these individual would be a part of an effective, stable Afghanistan, that they would contribute to opportunities for national unity, and that they would be accepted by fellow Afghans as a part of a political process.  I have been skeptical about that; I remain skeptical about that.  I think whether or not they can be cleaved off from an al-Qaida that may cease to exist in some relative near term is less of an issue to me than whether or not they would behave in ways that they've behaved in the past and condone activities, including international terrorism, as they have in the past.  I don't see a great deal of change there.  So I don't understand the argument -- or I understand it but I don't accept the argument, that this killing provides an opportunity that we were looking for to reopen negotiations with top folks like Mullah Omar.

Moreover, I would suggest that, to the contrary, this killing provides us an opportunity.  It is a demonstration of the hard edge of American power, our capacity and commitment to utilize that power when necessary, even under risky circumstances.  And this was, I think we need to remember, a risk that was taken by President Obama to undertake this operation.  And it could have gone very wrong.  But it also showed how capable we are of going in, once we have proper intelligence, and eliminating individuals who we deem to be enemies. 

I think, if anything, what we ought to be is far clearer about exactly who within the Haqqani Network -- if there is anyone, and I doubt there are many -- and who within the broader Afghanistan Taliban -- and here I think there are opportunities for people who we are willing to negotiate with.  We should, at the very least, name those we are not willing to negotiate with. 

And I believe this is important not only for our position within Afghanistan -- because we do need to show other Afghans, Afghans who have been eager and open to the prospect of greater national unity, of an Afghanistan that is modern and capable of engaging with the international community -- I mean, you'd show them that essentially we're on their side and they have a reason to stick with us, and that we can actually regain momentum that was long lost back in, say, 2004, 2005; if we can go back to that earlier period where the narrative was largely of the inevitability of American success and victory over al-Qaida, that it was only a matter of time.  We've lost that narrative.  We've lost the confidence that went along with that.  And I would see this as an opportunity to at least regain elements of that. 

And the most important thing here, though, is not Afghanistan.  In my mind, it's regaining elements of that confidence with respect to our dealings with Pakistan, because Pakistan will be our long-term strategic challenge in the region, and it will be that because it's growing rapidly in terms of its population, and because its nuclear program is large, and because if left to current trends and trajectories, this will be a country by mid-century of over 300 million people, many of whom are poorly educated and incapable of being productive citizens within the global marketplace.  They will have few opportunities but to be disruptive unless things change.

And so this is -- this is an opportunity now.  There's a broad opportunity to wean Pakistan away from its existing strategy of continuing to work with terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network, including elements of the broader Afghan Taliban, and including Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group not all that involved, although somewhat involved, in Afghanistan, but more involved in trying to destabilize India and a broader regional threat; that these things, that this behavior by Pakistan needs to change. 

And the demonstration effect of American power and capacity to go after bin Laden, to do so without Pakistani assistance and completely catch them by surprise -- as it looks now, at least from the outside -- should suggest to them our capacity to do this in other instances.  If -- now is the moment to press the fight against these groups, to convince the Pakistanis that the time has come for a change, and to bring us back to the kind of narrative, as I said before, that we had shortly after 9/11.

Let me conclude, though, by saying that this event comes -- for those who haven't been following closely, it comes at a time of intense crisis in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.  Had this not happened, we were already spiraling downward, particularly with respect to the military-to-military and intelligence relationship, for a variety of reasons, including the Raymond Davis affair, Pakistani concerns about the use of U.S. drones along the Afghanistan border, and so on.

So for all of these reasons, we were already in a very bad place with the Pakistanis.  And if we don't handle this current situation smartly, there is very much a possibility that we will continue to spiral downward, not so much because it's in our interests or even in Pakistan's national interest to see a rift open up between the United States and Pakistan, but because they are human beings, who, in the case of the military, are probably deeply embarrassed and concerned about their place in Pakistani society, what this says about their capability, and will -- may react counterproductively in their relations with us, as they have done on some occasions in the past; and this could lead to a war of words, and which will certainly be picked up by the Pakistani media, by broader Pakistani political leaders and back here in the United States, on Capitol Hill, where the level of skepticism, anger, frustration and concern about our relationship with Pakistan have probably never been higher.

So this is a moment of opportunity, as I laid out before, to press an advantage, but it's also a potential moment to see a spiraling downward in a crisis that already existed between the United States and Pakistan.

JEROME:  Steve, thank you so much. 

This is a reminder that you've called in to a Council on Foreign Relations media conference call on the impact of bin Laden's death on U.S.s relations with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Operator, we're ready to open up for questions.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  At this time we will open up for questions.  (Gives queuing instructions.)

Our first question comes from Trudy Rubin from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  Dan -- thank you both very much.  I just want to ask, do you think that this one phenomenal event, but it is one event, shows that we could conduct what basically is a counterterrorist strategy more successfully in lieu of trying now to pursue some grandiose peace plan?  After all, this took four years.  It was tremendously risky.  So is this the model for what we could do to convince both Pakistanis and Afghans of whatever?

And secondly, how would you recommend handling the Pakistanis at this point in order to walk that fine line you describe?

MARKEY:  I can pick -- this is Dan.  I'll pick that up, Steve, if you want to chime in after.

I would say first of all this should not be confused as evidence that a narrow counterterrorism strategy will succeed in serving U.S. goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that the broader war effort there is a poor one, for exactly the reason, Trudy that you mention, which is that this is very costly; it took a lot of effort; you can't do this sort of thing routinely and expect to see success. 

Moreover, just the geography of the situation if we were, say, to retreat further from the region would make it even more difficult.  Apparently these helicopters flew in from Afghanistan and back out to Afghanistan.  It's hard to tell exactly how you would do that without already being in place and having those assets there ready to go.  So it's not an argument for CT versus COIN, at least not in the way that I see it.

With respect to how then, though, to specifically take advantage of it in our messages to the Pakistani side, I think the argument needs to be twofold.  First, it is that this is a -- this is indeed a demonstration of our capability and our commitment, which has been doubted, very clearly, by the Pakistanis over the past few years and that they should be reminded and it should be clear to them that they're dealing with a situation in which the United States most certainly means business and that similar tools, although not necessarily the same ones, can be used against their assets, whether they're the Haqqani Network, whether they're Lashkar-e-Taiba, and so on; and that eventually this will come to pass, that it is a matter of time; and that it's better that we not have to do it, that they should do it instead.  That's one element of the argument.

The other element of the argument, though, is to affirm to them that this is not simply a coercive message, one that essentially is, if you don't do this, we abandon you and leave you to your own devices, declare you a rogue state and try to contain you as an international threat.  The extra pillar of this strategy ought to be one that's similar to the kind of message that we've been making -- delivering in the past, which is, we can be a very useful partner to you, Pakistan, to help you in your efforts to maintain a defense, a legitimate conventional defense against what you perceive to be concerns along your borders, to defend your interests both in Afghanistan in the wider region; that we don't oppose that per se, but what we do oppose is the way that you have been conducting these activities, the methods, not the ends in themselves.

And so we can be helpful.  We can continue to provide you assistance that you can't get as readily from elsewhere.  And we can continue to make your case for membership in the international community, which will only serve your economic and political/diplomatic purposes over the long run. 

And without that, Pakistan will be going very much in the wrong direction.  And I think many Pakistanis in positions of power, even those who aren't happy with us, understand that reality, and so that message can stick even if it's not one that they'd be happy to receive.

BIDDLE:  Yeah, just -- this is Steve again.  Just one word on the CT versus COIN dimensions of this.  I don't think this represents evidence to suggest that a CT approach is perfectly feasible with or without counterinsurgency.  What counterinsurgency is about, as opposed to CT, is, who's going to run the country, what government is going to survive.  And critical in doing any CT approach is the -- getting the targeting information that allows you to be able to use force.  You can always get force there.  If need be, you can fly B-2s from CONUS, which apparently was under consideration in the strike.

But the problem is getting the targeting information.  And significant parts of the targeting information for this strike, as far as we can tell fro what's been described so far, came from sources on the ground in Pakistan -- CIA agents working on the ground, tracking individual vehicles, writing down license plate numbers.

Pakistan has not been as helpful to us as they could be in this kind of undertaking, but if the Pakistani or the Afghan governments were to fall and be replaced by governments that are unambiguously hostile to us and actively trying to prevent intelligence assets of ours from getting into contact with information about targets like this on the ground, I think there's every reason to believe that this strike wouldn't have been possible.

I think one of the things this strike ought to suggest is the importance of the kind of on-the-ground access to intelligence information that's very hard to get in a truly nonpermissive environment, where the host government is doing everything it can to put barriers between us and the targets that we would be going after.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.

Our next question comes from Chandrakant Pancholi from Overseas India Weekly.

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  Pakistan has maintained these terrorist groups as the instrument of that foreign policy both to attack India and to attack us in Afghanistan and destabilize Afghanistan.  So what makes you think that Pakistan and the ISI, which is almost running the country since decades, is going to give up that policy?  And do you think that at this point we should demand that if ISI knows that Mullah Omar and Ayman al-Zawahiri are under their protection, then give them to us, hand them over to us?

MARKEY:  Well, I can pick this up.  This is Dan.

Of course we can demand that.  We have made similar kinds of statements since 9/11 about cooperation regarding al-Qaida, delivery of high-value targets and cooperation with respect to the Taliban.  The problem has always been -- and your skepticism about ISI is perfectly warranted -- the question has always been, how do you use your leverage and capability to engineer a shift in Pakistan's behavior? 

And you're right to ask whether that's ever going to be possible.  The problem is that if we determine that it's not -- it's strictly not possible, if we throw in the towel, then we find ourselves in an adversarial relationship with Pakistan, then I can tell you the situation doesn't get a lot easier. 

So I'm convinced that that is possible.  We may end up there.  We may end up in a situation where we treat Pakistan similar to the way that we interact with Iran or have with Syria and other so-called rogue states.  But I would prefer with a country that is following a trajectory in terms of its demography and its nuclear developments and all sorts of other things, that we not end up in that situation and that we do -- that we bend over backwards in a sense to seek other ways to deploy leverage.

And the argument that I was making earlier is that we should be hard-edged and in some ways very coercive about the way that we interact with the Pakistani military and intelligence leadership at this moment.  But we should not simply back them into a corner and leave them no option but to declare their unwillingness to cooperate with us or find ourselves in a situation where the kinds of things that they say in response leave us no option but to abandon them.  But politically, there's no space here in Washington to continue to work with the Pakistanis if they say things that are quite contrary to our interests.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.

Our next question comes from Andrea Murta from Folha.

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  It's Folha de Sao Paulo from Brazil.  I'd like to ask you if it's possible to make a comparison with -- about the international reaction to this, including in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. reactions to them, if this had happened during the George W. Bush administration.

BIDDLE:  Well, I mean, I think the reaction to bin Laden has -- to bin Laden's killing has been pretty bipartisan, in the United States.  There's some difference in the polling in the degree to which Republicans and Democrats are willing to attribute credit to the Bush administration for this, but my sense is that the kind of flash polls that have been done is that, by and large, both Democrats and Republicans are giving a significant amount of credit to President Obama and the Obama administration for, among other things, being willing to take the risks associated with doing what was objectively a rather risky mission. 

I mean, given that -- and given that there was strongly bipartisan support for the original invasion of Afghanistan and for the actions that the Bush administration took to get bin Laden in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I suspect if George W. Bush had killed bin Laden, you would also see a substantial degree of bipartisan support for this.  I'm sure there would be fringe groups that would try and read some sort of odd partisan political strategy into Bush killing bin Laden.  Those fringe arguments would be more prominent if the killing occurred right before an American election. 

But I think, by and large, there's been long-standing bipartisan support in the United States for a forceful attempt to get bin Laden.  And I suspect that Bush would be well received if he had done it.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.

Our next question comes Andrew Quinn from Reuters.

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  It's Andy Quinn from Reuters.

Dan, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the U.S.-Pakistan-India sort of triangle in the wake of this -- of Osama bin Laden's killing.  Will -- do you think that the Indians are going to be pressing strongly and publicly for more backing from the U.S. on their various demands about Pakistan, information on militants?  And is that going to sort of put the India-Pakistan hyphen back in as far as Washington's concerned?

MARKEY:  That's a good question.  I think the Indians will -- and have already seized upon this as an opportunity to push the specific point on Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was the group that was responsible for the Mumbai attack in November 2008.  I think they see this as a vindication of the kinds of things that they've been saying about Pakistani behavior for some time now.

But I think if we recognize that this comes in the context of an India-Pakistan reopening of dialogue -- and if anything, as I said before, a crisis in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship -- I'm not sure that the Indians actually will feel the need to press that, at least at the official level, all that strongly, because they recognize that in fact they're basically on our side.  Sitting relatively quiet about it serves their purposes.  And that's been a broad -- a part of a broader Indian recognition that their leverage with Pakistan has been limited, and that one of their best tools that they have is to continue to work with us, to convince us to put more pressure on Pakistan, and that they can do that quietly as effectively as publicly.

QUESTIONER:  Do you think that they are -- they are at all concerned that the U.S. is going to try to sort of use this in any way to jump-start a -- bring Kashmir back into it, for instance, to try and sort of push that India-Pakistan reconciliation to a new level?

MARKEY:  India has always been concerned about that -- (chuckles) -- so they will continue to be.  So I agree with that.  They would not want to see that.  I don't anticipate that there'd be any more stomach in the Obama administration for that approach now than there was before.  And although we heard some suggestions of the sort, that the United States would seek to help India and Pakistan somehow resolve their Kashmir dispute early in the administration, that really trailed off, and I don't anticipate seeing any more of that now.

QUESTIONER:  OK.  Thanks.

MARKEY:  Uh-huh.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Katie (sp) Kay, from BBC.

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  Thanks very much for that.  I'm just wondering what you thought the chances are of a positive outcome in the relationship coming out of the killing of bin Laden.  And also, if you could just spell out a little bit more what you think the worst-case scenario is.  You mentioned the explosion in the population and being undereducated, the nukes and the poverty, and just -- and if you could spell out a little bit more where you think the relationship might go if things carried on spiraling downwards.

MARKEY:  Well, let me -- let me suggest that the potential for this crisis to be exacerbated by bin Laden is high.  I can't put a number on it, but I'd say it's high, that -- but at the same time -- and I think that's if the passions get away, if the emotions get away, if the rhetoric gets away, if the Pakistani military leadership feels locked in by its media and by its public that it feels like it has its back up, that it has no choice but to oppose the United States.  All those things are possible.

However, they have been quiet so far as I know, relatively quiet.  They have not -- the knee-jerk response that would have been counterproductive has not taken place.  They are -- they are trying to be measured.  And there is a lot of ballast in this relationship, in the form of the recognition on both sides that we need each other.  So there's a -- there's a chance that we can pull through this, too.  And I think we should put every effort into that, and hopefully we can sort of take a deep breath and work our way out.

In terms of long-term negative prospects, they usually fall into at least two kinds of categories.  One is, as I said, a sort of a rogue state outcome, where you get a unified Pakistan under leadership that looks not all that dissimilar from today, but perhaps harder-line, more in bed with extremist groups and so on, and essentially breaking away from the United States and seeking to pursue its agenda -- perhaps under some sort of a Chinese umbrella, if they could it off, security umbrella, to protect them from the obvious international backlash.  That's one approach.

The other is sort of a gradual, perhaps step-wise disintegration of institutions within the country; something that looks like more of a direction toward a Somalia type situation.  Now, that's not going to happen right away, contrary to what some American analysts have suggested, because the military is relatively -- still relatively strong in much of the country, and is not opposed by any single force.  But you can see the drip, drip, drip of a state that's incapable and falling apart.  And over years, with an exploding population, that would just continue apace.  And it would be almost impossible to put the pieces back together again.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Yashwant Raj, from Hindustan Times.

QUESTIONER:  Yeah, hi.  My question is about who succeeds bin Laden at al-Qaida and whether that will influence how things go in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  And I'll explain that.  If al-Awlaki, for instance is the next leader and the focus shifts to Yemen, do you think that will help Pakistan, Afghanistan deal with the kind of terrorism (it should ?) there?

Thank you.

MARKEY:  Steve, you want to pick this one up?

BIDDLE:  Sure.  I mean, generally speaking, decapitation campaigns produce replacements but replacements who aren't as good as the people they replace.  So you get the second team, and generally they're not as good at recruiting, they're not as good at organizational work.  What we've tended to see recently in Afghanistan especially has been the second team ends up being less talented but more extreme and less inclined to negotiate, less inclined to conciliate.

Now, the direction that al-Qaida global has been going in for years now has been decentralization, less and less central guidance, less and less central influence over the way affiliates operate.  And that goes for al-Qaida in Yemen as well as it goes for the rest.  It's not uncommon for terrorist organizations to have succession struggles, where the sort of obvious, designated next-in-line faces challenges to their ability to take over.  So you would imagine that Zawahiri, for example, would be the natural person to take over.  It would not be shocking if he were challenged, perhaps by folks like affiliates who aren't located in Pakistan.

QUESTIONER:  Such as Ilyas Kashmiri?

BIDDLE:  Sorry?

QUESTIONER:  Such as Ilyas Kashmiri?

BIDDLE:  You could imagine a variety of possibilities.  I don't think we know yet what's -- how that's going to unfold.  The general rule, again, though in decapitation experience with other terrorist groups is you end up with a successor who's not as good, you do end up a successor.  It can be divisive within the organization.  And for a variety of reasons, the new leadership is usually not as effective as the old one, partly because they've got succession struggles that cause divisions within the organization and partly just because there's a limited talent pool out there.  And when you remove the top, you're moving into a bench that isn't infinitely deep.

So for all those reasons, I think there's reason to suspect that what this will produce is a less operationally efficacious organization, or more importantly, given bin Laden's limited operational role lately anyway, an organization that has even more trouble recruiting.  And al-Qaida's polling in the Arab world has been declining for some time, which has been affecting their recruiting already.

But at the moment, I think it's too early to do much in the way of horse-race prediction of who it's going to be or what kind of struggle is going to ensue.

MARKEY:  If I -- if I can just jump in, the one thing I would add is simply that given the apparent treasure trove of intelligence that was found in the bin Laden residence, I'm hopeful that they would be able to identify and wrap up a string of other al-Qaida leaders quickly.  And that would be much more devastating to the organization than even this one very important killing.

So it's possible that we could see a kind of a very rapid succession, where the lights will come on in terms of intelligence gathering and movement of people in that they become more exposed to our attacks.  That would be the most positive potential outcome.

OPERATOR:  Thanks.  Our next question comes from Allan Dodds Frank from Newsweek/Daily Beast.

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  Let's for a moment give the Pakistani government and intelligence services the Bernie Madoff family defense, we don't know what Bernie was doing; and therefore, maybe they didn't know bin Laden was there.  But that certainly may not be the case with Mullah Omar.

And so my question is, would the United States be doing the Pakistani administration a favor and benefit the ongoing Pakistan-U.S. relationship if in fact a Navy SEAL team took out Mullah Omar?

BIDDLE:  Dan?

JEROME:  Dan?

MARKEY:  Sure.  (Chuckles.)  Would we be doing them a favor?  I'm sure that they wouldn't perceive it that way.  There is -- but yes, we would be solving a question for them, which is how to perceive the nature of their relationship with groups like the Afghan Taliban, how to take that forward.  That would certainly solve it.  They would see that as a direct -- at this point, because I do think that their relationship with Mullah Omar and the Haqqani Network are different than the relationship they are likely to have had with al-Qaida.

I think they're much closer to those other organizations; that they see themselves as much more capable of influencing and in some cases even controlling their behavior; that they've been wrong in this belief but that it's persisted.  That would shift their calculation.  It would help us.  It would also help us convince them that that's no longer an acceptable way for them to operate.  And so to my eye, that would be a positive development if it followed -- especially if it followed up quickly.

Note that the Pakistani state has released this comment that this killing should not be seen as a precedent for future activities.  Well, in some ways, I wouldn't mind if it were seen as a precedent, especially if these activities took place rapidly afterwards to demonstrate that we -- that we mean business.  And if we can't do that, if the intelligence doesn't support that, that we should make a credible threat that we will pursue this in the future if given the opportunity.

QUESTIONER:  Well, just to follow up, I guess my thinking is that given Mullah Omar's alleged relationships with ISI and versus a -- al-Zawahiri, wouldn't the United States be sending its strongest message and maybe solving more problems in Afghanistan by targeting Mullah Omar, assuming bin Laden left a forwarding address for him in his computer and they could find him?

MARKEY:  Yes, I think that's right.  I think that we would be sending a very strong message about our intentions in Afghanistan, who is ruled in, who is ruled out of a final settlement in Afghanistan, and that would resolve some of the uncertainty that the Pakistanis have had, which may -- to give them the best possible -- to put things in the best possible light -- which may have explained their behavior over recent years in sheltering and in some cases providing assistance to elements of the Afghan Taliban.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Betwa Sharma from Press Trust of India.

QUESTIONER:  Well, hi.  Thanks.  This is sort of a follow-up on the Reuters question.  I was wondering if you could talk about, you know, the recent momentum in terms of India and Pakistan talking, which really took off after the -- (inaudible).  What effect is, you know, Osama bin Laden's death going to have on talks between India and Pakistan?  And do you sort of see the Indian prime minister as sort of a, you know, lone ranger in terms of pushing for these talks?

And second, you know, there is this concern in India that, you know, after the Americans leave, it's going to be India that's going to have to pick up the pieces.  Do you find that a legitimate concern? Is that a possibility?

Thank you.

MARKEY:  To take the second piece, of India's concern about the outcome of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the future, it is a legitimate concern to the extent that the United States may consider leaving an Afghanistan that is still destabilized and in a regional context where there are all kinds of competitive impulses by all the various actors, including India but also including Pakistan, Iran, even Russia, China and so on. 

So India is right to be concerned.  And yet its independent capacity for action right now is far less than the capacity of the United States to leave the place in a more settled manner.  And so it is right that India persists in what has been its strategy of pressuring, relying upon the United States to set the situation right, and not seeking to try to influence things in a counterproductive or destabilizing way until the United States does gradually draw down.

With respect to the India-Pakistan dialogue, I think there's a possibility that the India-Pakistan dialogue could continue apace with little impact from this bin Laden killing, but the most direct way which it would be affected is if the Pakistanis, and their military, in particular, come out with counterproductive or unhelpful statements -- doubting the United States and its characterization of the events, its sort of pulling away from the United States.  

All of these things would lead to the Indians further, beyond Prime Minister Manmohan Singh -- who you're right has been the stronger supporter of an India-Pakistan dialogue, but would lead other Indians to conclude that there's no way to make a deal with Pakistan, there's no way to have a legitimate dialogue with them and there's no point in even trying.  So it undercuts the rationale for reaching out to Pakistan by India, and that would be another negative potential ramification of this event.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Garrett Mitchell from The Mitchell Report.

QUESTIONER:  Thanks.  And thank you, Steve and Dan.  I want to come back to a question that was asked a little bit earlier, but I want to come at it from a different point of view.  It asks you to imagine that you have one position dart and you have an opportunity to aim it either at Mullah Omar or Ayman al-Zawahiri.  I'm interested to know how you would choose to use that dart -- and I don't mean to be too dark here, but with a purpose in mind -- interested to know which target you think would have the greatest impact or influence on, A, the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, and B, the course of events in Afghanistan.

BIDDLE:  You want to start on the Pakistani relationship, Dan, and then I'll pick up Afghanistan? 

MARKEY:  Well, we can do that.  I would just say, in the case of -- in my mind, the poison dart to Mullah Omar has a -- has the potential to have a strategic effect on the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan and on the sense that the Pakistanis have had that they can somehow harness the rump Taliban leadership that is in Pakistan to advance their goals in Afghanistan.  And I think that, along with -- if I -- if you give me another dart and it can go to Haqqani, that would be very helpful, in a broad sense, in shifting Pakistani strategy and behavior in the region.

The Zawahiri dart would be good for our counterterrorism concerns, but it probably wouldn't, in addition to the killing of bin Laden, do as much as the killing of Mullah Omar in shifting Pakistani behavior.  It would be another important demonstration effect.  I think it would be good for U.S. national security.  But in terms of shifting regional behavior, I think it would do less.

BIDDLE:  Yeah, I certainly agree with Dan.  And Zawahiri and al-Qaida, in general, and Omar play very different roles in the merits of the case.  It's in many ways a very apples-and-oranges kind of a comparison.  I mean, the rationale for waging war in Afghanistan is largely about terrorism threats that don't involve Mullah Omar directly.  Mullah Omar is not going to attack the United States. 

So what Mullah Omar does is to affect other things we care about, whether it's the relationship with Pakistan or whether it's the conduct of a war in Afghanistan that is justified in terms of its effect on an unstable neighbor on the other side of the Durand Line.

You know, Omar might have a fairly direct -- killing Omar might have a fairly direct effect on either the conduct of the war in Afghanistan or the prospects of negotiations with the Taliban over an end to the war in Afghanistan.  But it's -- it has a different function than attempts to weaken al-Qaida Central have, which speak more directly to the underlying interests that the United States has in the region and it has in the conflict anyway.

Now an important point with respect to whether it's Zawahiri or whether it's bin Laden, for that matter, is that al-Qaida is not the only terrorist organization in the region that the United States needs to worry about.  It is the most important of them.  It's not the only one. 

For that matter, killing individuals in any of these schools are only marginal effects on the activities of larger institutions and larger groups.  But the role that Omar and Zawahiri play in the logic of this case is very different.

OPERATOR: Thank you.  Our next question comes from Anesia Mehti (ph) from Western Productions.

QUESTIONER:  I'm interested, gentlemen, in looking down the road bit at strategy toward a goal.  Are we looking toward neutralized states in the region?  Client states?  Independent nonaligned states?  What kind of economic systems?

So I'd like you to imagine that we're on this call together in 2016, five years down the road, and we're looking back at this moment.  I'm asking:  Would you describe what you hope we would see as a reality on the ground in 2016, and from that point of view, how would you recommend we proceed now, in 2011?

MARKEY:  Well, I'll pick the Pakistan piece.  What we'd like to see emerging is this shift, not so much in Pakistan's strategic vision of the region -- that is, that it will still in five years perceive India as an underlying threat, as a potential competitor and so on, as a -- as a larger and more powerful neighbor, and see Afghanistan as an area where it intends to have influence -- but it will have significantly curtailed its relations with the militant groups, from Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani Network to Afghan Taliban and so on; and that it will have, as the other caller was asking about in the context of India-Pakistan relations -- that it will have seen it within its interests to pursue a dialogue with India and a process of normalization that benefits its opportunities for regional integration in the economic front, which is the only way that a country like Pakistan, which is going to be over 300 million people by midcentury, can possibly find an opportunity for its citizens to be productively employed, to pull themselves out of poverty and to find a broader stability.  That's the only way ahead.  Nothing else really works.  Unless it's regionally integrated economically, it won't succeed.

So if we see the beginnings of that and the shift (in many ways ?) and an about-face on its strategic behavior with respect to militancy, that would be a tremendous -- that would be a tremendous victory for U.S. foreign policy in the region.

BIDDLE:  Well, with respect to Afghanistan, I suspect that Dan and I are at different points of the spectrum on how optimistic we are about reconciliation as a process in Afghanistan.  But I think if we're going to get an acceptable result by 2016 on the Afghan side of the Durand Line, it's going to have to be resolved as some sort of negotiated settlement with some significant fraction of the active Taliban factions.  I don't see any meaningful prospect that a counterinsurgency campaign that does not have as some important piece of it negotiations leading to a compromise settlement that involves a legitimate political role for some part of this structure of factions on the other side can get us there.

So if you ask what's the optimistic scenario for what things look like in 2016, and in what way is that influenced or not by bin Laden's killing, I think the argument would -- for optimism would be that in fact this renders the Quetta shura Taliban more amenable to negotiation; that it forces the Pakistanis to make choices that they finally make in a good way as opposed to a bad way; and the Pakistani role in reconciliation talks, which is ultimately decisive -- they have the ability to veto anything they don't like -- ends up being helpful rather than unhelpful; and we look back on this in 2016 and conclude that this moment proved to remove several important obstacles to a negotiation process, generating a settlement to the war.  There are lots of other possibilities here.

QUESTIONER:  Do you believe that the removal of Mullah Omar, for example, would be positive in rendering the Taliban more amenable toward negotiation?

BIDDLE:  The removal of individuals has complex effects.  It has a demonstration effect on others, which makes them, other things being equal, more interested in negotiating, lest they suffer the same fate.  But it also tends to remove an older generation that often is more amenable to negotiation, and replace them with a younger generation that is often more radicalized and that often sees fewer factional differences with others.

I suspect that, to a greater degree even than killing Mullah Omar, threatening that entire group of people in ways that -- the demonstration effect of this and lots of other leadership targeting activities that we've done over the last two years has had the effect of doing -- but freeing Omar from the obligation to resist any negotiating strategy that requires that he break a promise to Osama bin Laden might be useful.  But again, the effects are complicated, and it's not at all clear to me that in 2016 we're going to look back and say this was the pivotal moment in the process.  I mean, maybe if we're lucky, it will, but there are -- again, there are lots of other possibilities for how this could unfold between here and 2016 than just those.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Trudy Rubin, from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

QUESTIONER:  You've both partially answered this.  I wanted to ask about the possibility of a negotiating process.  It seemed before the killing of Osama, Hillary Clinton was hinting at this.  Marc Grossman had gone out to look at this.  How do you think that this death is going to affect the way the U.S. pursues some kind of regional diplomacy and negotiating process?

And Steve, since you seem to think that this has more importance, can you see a scenario that grows from the killing that would lead to something happening in the next couple of years?

BIDDLE:  Well, I don't want to overstate the degree to which I think this is going to be pivotal.  Again, I think by and large by 2016 looking back, I'm not at all sure we're going to look at this as the inflection point in the history of the war in Afghanistan.

If you wanted to construct an optimistic argument, which isn't impossible -- may or may not be the most likely, but it's not impossible -- I think, again, it would run through something like A, this removes one of the several impediments to the largest Afghan Taliban factions participating in negotiations; and B, it might be the device that forces Pakistan to finally confront the internal logical contradictions of their stance and get off the fence and stop being -- stop playing both sides to the degree that they have.

I do not think that either one of those things are monumentally likely.  I mean, my sense is that this has a modest effect on the course of the war in Afghanistan on both the substantive merits of the case and the politics of the case.  And the trajectory the war was on prior to this will probably be about the trajectory it follows after this, that we're putting increasing pressure on a variety of Afghanistan Taliban factions, which gives them incentives to negotiate, which they are tentatively exploring and which I think it is in our interest to explore aggressively as well, and that if there is a favorable outcome to this conflict, it will be because this process yields fruit.

I'm not convinced -- not impossible, but I'm not convinced that the killing of bin Laden is going to, you know, be a critical catalyst in that process.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Camille Elhassani, from Al-Jazeera English TV.

QUESTIONER:  Yes, hi.  Thank you for doing this call.  I had a question.  There's been bipartisan congressional anger at Pakistan and threats to remove the -- to remove funding from Pakistan over the last couple of days.

Do the Pakistanis realize -- I mean, is the funding really in jeopardy, or is this posturing?  And do the Pakistanis -- you know, their promise is to investigate any ties there might have been between people in the Pakistani government and knowledge of where Osama bin Laden was.  Do they realize how serious the congressional threat to defund them is?

MARKEY:  My sense -- this is Dan -- my sense is that the Pakistani military leadership recognizes that they have found -- they are now finding themselves in a -- in an unprecedented situation that looks more like the immediate aftermath of 9/11 than it does like -- although not quite as serious as that -- but it looks more like that than at any other point since then.  And so I'm sure they understand the seriousness of it.

As to whether Congress will follow through, well, yes, there is a very real possibility of cutting assistance, but that has a lot to do with how Pakistan and the Pakistani military in particular choose to respond.  So they get the next move, in a sense.  The language that we're hearing out of the Hill right now is reasonable, and it's legitimate.  The frustration is palpable.  But I don't think it's going to have teeth.  The teeth come if the kind of response we get from the Pakistani side is less than constructive and if it looks like they're trying to go back to a business as usual, or even worse if they're trying to throw this back on us and we see our relationship spiral downwards.

So remains to be seen, but they get a -- they get a say in this.  But I do think they understand the seriousness of it all.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  (Gives queueing instructions.)

JEROME:  I think we can take one more question, and then we're going to have to wrap up.

OPERATOR:  There are no further questions at this time.

JEROME:  Ah, okay.  Well, in that case, thanks, everybody, for calling in.  And many thanks to the CFR senior fellows, Dan Markey and Stephen Biddle.

Bye.

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