Continuing Challenges for U.S. Foreign Policy: Pakistan
JONAH BLANK: Okay. Well, I thank everyone for coming. It is a pleasure to be here. Thank you to the council and to Kay and to everyone else here. And thank you to our guests, who I'll introduce in a moment or two.
But first, let me just give some brief Council rules or suggestions. Please turn off your cell phones, BlackBerrys and any other ways of communicating with the outside world. If you're unable to do that then please place them on silence or vibrate.
I would like to remind the audience that today's meeting is on the record. So if there's anything that you do not want to see published in the various papers that are here then you may want to whisper it rather than say it aloud. For the Q&A session, which will be starting at 9 o'clock, we'll then ask members to wait for the microphone and to speak directly into it. But I'll remind you of that again if I remember.
So, we're lucky today to have with us three experts on the situation in Pakistan, which is very much on the top of everyone's mind. We have, and I will just get my paper to make sure that I give full attribution where due. We have Robert Grenier, Managing Director of Kroll and former director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, who has spent many years doing things that he can only now begin to tell us about.
We have Dan Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the council. Before this Dan was the head of the South Asia portfolio at Policy Planning at State, and also now is only able to tell us some of the things that he was not at liberty to tell us then. And we have Nicholas Schmidle, a Fellow at the New America Foundation, former fellow at the Institute of Current World Affairs and, for two years, a resident in Pakistan until an excellent article that he wrote for the New York Times Sunday Magazine rubbed a few people in Pakistan the wrong way and he found himself on a plane out.
So, before we get to the audience section we will have a conversation among ourselves up here. And for that I'll say a few words of scene setting. I've just come back from Pakistan myself. I was with the codel that some of you may have heard about, with Senators Biden, Kerry and Hagel.
We were in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Turkey. And the reason that you may have heard of it is that we had a little bit of a helicopter incident, which I can assure you was not nearly as interesting to those of us there as it may have been to our friends and relatives who saw it on CNN. It did also give me a piece of information that I will now convey to all of you in case you happen to be stuck in a Black Hawk helicopter at 9,000 feet in the middle of a snow storm. The warmest place, if you are stuck in a Black Hawk helicopter at 9,000 feet in the middle of a snow storm, is outside the helicopter standing right behind the exhaust fan. (Laughter.)
No one can ever say that council events do not give you practical, real world information. In the realm of perhaps less practical information, what to do about Pakistan? A few thoughts on the situation as it's developing.
First, from a Pakistani perspective, I think that the jubilation that so many Pakistanis felt after the election results is widespread and well founded. I think that the fact that the election does appear to be an accurate reflection of the will of the Pakistani people is genuinely good news. One can argue about the degree to which there was rigging, about whether perhaps the PPP or the PMLN might have gotten more votes if the election had been absolutely free and fair, but the real top-line story is that the election results appear to be an accurate reflection of the desire for change expressed by the Pakistani people.
So what happens next? Well, the PMLN and the PPP appear to be headed for a coalition and appear to be headed for a drastic scaling back of the power of the presidency, that President Musharraf has given to himself. Whether Musharraf will go quietly into that good night or not remains to be seen. But there is a glide-path at least for a return to the type of politics that Pakistan saw in the 1990s.
Now some may say that's good news, some may say it's bad news. But at least the mood within Pakistan appears to be very upbeat about it. What will that do for the prospect of fighting against the extremism that has been moving from the FATA and into the settled areas in Pakistan and that caused the death of Benazir Bhutto along with a great many other Pakistanis in years to come? That's very much an open question because there's a wide spread feeling in Pakistan that this extremism is merely the result of U.S. pressure to take on these radicals and that absent that pressure the radicalism and the violence would remain isolated in FATA. Whether that is a realistic hope our guests, I'm sure, will have plenty to say about that.
From a U.S. perspective there's a certain amount of trepidation. Some people within U.S. government circles still cling to the belief that Musharraf was the last best hope, or is the last best hope, for American goals in Pakistan. Some are now trying to transfer this notion from a Musharraf policy to a Kiyani policy and hope that the Pakistani military will once again have the upper hand.
Others feel that there's no choice but to work with the political parties and are not quite sure whether that will actually be an effective way of realizing our goals. A third group feel that there is no way of actually tackling the underlying causes of extremism without enlisting the informed consent of the Pakistani public and the only way of doing that is with the political parties. But it remains an open question just how U.S. goals are going to be achieved there.
With that, I think we can open our discussion. So, why don't we start out on this issue of U.S. policy, because we are here in Washington. Dan, you've had a lead hand in helping inform some of the policy makers in the current administration. And over the past seven years we've had a Musharraf policy for about seven years, switching to a Benazir policy in the last -- or Benazir and Musharraf policy in the last year. Many of us thought that was not necessarily going to take it where the United States' administration wanted to go, even if Benazir had not been assassinated. Now, what's your sense of where the administration will go and of what the policy choices we have are in front of us in dealing with the new post-election scenario in Pakistan?
DANIEL MARKEY: Well, I think judging from, you know, my time in government and also talking with people now, I think there's a certain amount of trepidation -- you used that word -- or risk aversion to taking any precipitous action politically with regard to Pakistan. So there are a lot of calls in the world I now inhabit, think-tank land, for really moving away from Musharraf very quickly, for trying to perhaps drive a wedge between him and Kiyani so that we can maintain a relationship with Pakistan's army, and then to really accelerate and cultivate the relationship that the United States enjoys with Pakistani politicians. And I think there's a certain logic to that, which is to say that Musharraf is a diminished asset. He is exceedingly unpopular. No one disagrees with that, and that the time has come to really get on sort of the right side of history -- essentially for the United States to jump into the future and work with more popular forces in Pakistan.
And I think -- I get that logic and I think the administration also gets it. But I think they still have a deep concern and the deep concern is very reasonable as well, which is that trying to drive a wedge between Musharraf and the institutional army is a risky proposition. It risks alienating both.
And Musharraf isn't gone and the army is not going anywhere. And the concern would be that pushing too hard in that direction would, in fact, be counterproductive despite the fact that everybody recognizes Musharraf's personal unpopularity. I think the administration rightly recognizes that he never got to be where he is because of his popularity, that he got there because of his connection to the army and that there isn't a sign yet that that connection has been severed. And I think until the administration feels that there's reason to believe that that has happened, it's unlikely that they would take that next step.
I think that's roughly where they stand right now. It puts the United States in a tough spot because it is very clear, at least to me, that there's a strong desire to have seen this process unfold, probably not quite in the way that it did, but certainly to move over the past year towards a democratic or more democratic transition. And that's the plus side. The down side is the United States hasn't won a lot of friends in the process and continues to find itself in a difficult spot.
BLANK: Indeed. Bob, one of the questions for U.S. policymakers is what is the new ruling regime or the new political dispensation in Pakistan going to do in terms of furthering U.S. goals, particularly counterterrorism? There's a lot of fear that let's say the PPP and the PML will not be as, either as willing to take on this challenge or is able to take on this challenge as the military. Compounding this, this uncertainty, is the fact that very few U.S. policymakers actually know the political leaders involved.
Many of us in this room knew Benazir Bhutto fairly well. Very few of us have the same sort of knowledge and connection with her widower, Asif Ali Zardari who, of course, had been in prison for many years and only came to Washington a few times since. And even Nawaz Sharif, who some of us knew from the 1990s but who has really not been on the circuit very much and has not made his presence felt. Bob, what's your sense of first, the capability of the political parties in actually pursuing these goals; and second, of their willingness to do so?
ROBERT GRENIER: Well I guess I'm a little bit more concerned about the willingness question at this point. And the fact of the matter is at this point we really don't know what they're going to do. I wish that I could argue that this new political dispensation will pursue a coherent, straight line, well thought out, systematically applied policy to counter terrorists and to eliminate the safe haven in the tribal areas. I'd have trouble doing that, however. And as much as I hate giving on the one hand this and on the one hand that answers, I think that in fact there is going to be a pull and a push at work here.
On the one hand, certainly the leadership of the PPP should understand clearly, having gone through what we recently had with the murder of Benazir Bhutto, is that in the long run there really is no separate peace to be had with the extremists. On the other hand, I think that there is going to be a real temptation, certainly at given points in time, to try to make that sort of a separate peace. And Baitullah Mehsud, clever fellow that he is, has come out as I understand just this past weekend with a statement saying that he's quite open to discussions with the government.
Now as I read his statement, and knowing a little bit about him, I suspect that the sort of peace that he wants is one where essentially he and those who are inclined to follow him are left alone to do as they will. And that would buy a certain respite, I think, perhaps for the regime. The problem is that it is unsustainable.
It's unsustainable in terms of what the al Qaeda safe haven is likely to mean in terms of threats to the West. The West is not going to stand still for it. It is unsustainable in terms of what it could mean for the insurgency in Afghanistan. And sooner or later there is going to be some additional outrage in Pakistan itself, which the government will have to respond to and which will have negative consequences for government security forces in the tribal areas.
So I think that we're going to have to go through an education process, I suspect, with the new leaders, whoever they turn out to be. And it's going to be a difficult and a halting process to get to where it is that I think we want to go, and that is a sustained, systematic counterinsurgency program in NWFP and specifically in the tribal area.
BLANK: Well that's a good transition to a question for Nick. In FATA and in NWFP not too many people, I think, have a really good picture of what's going on there, either Americans or Pakistanis. It's really closed territory, not so much NWFP -- although parts of that are closed as well -- but particularly in FATA.
You're one of the few people who have actually spent some real significant on the ground as an outsider there. Can you give us a little bit of a sense of how you see things developing there? Is this a place that is simply alienated by policies of either Musharraf or of the U.S., and can simply go back to the status quo ante if they're not continually poked, which is what many Pakistanis believe is the situation? Or, do you see the situation there having very much been changed, that a new generation of radicals having emerged, of people like Baitullah Mehsud having themselves been transformed to a very different movement than it may have been and that this may be a one way street?
NICHOLAS SCHMIDLE: Certainly the status quo has tremendously shifted, been transformed over the past five or six years. In the aftermath of the American invasion, as all of these Taliban and al Qaeda fighters were flushed into the tribal areas, what we've seen over the past several years is a systematic reshaping if you will of tribal society. There have been more than 200, 250 tribal elders that have been murdered by the militants.
And I use the word militants kind of loosely. The distinction between Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan is something that's very, very blurred. Typically, we just refer to them as either local militants or foreign militants. So as I use that word that's what it will mean, more or less.
And so what's happened, though, is that the militants have systematically slaughtered all of these tribal elders. So the tribal system as it existed pre-911, the tribal system that existed even pre-2003 is completely broken. This has ramifications in several ways.
First of all, what it means is that all of these peace treaties that the government has signed with the tribes over the past several years are not really being signed with tribal elders who derive their legitimacy and their authority from their place in the tribal system. They are being signed by Taliban commanders who have slaughtered the tribal elders and who have stepped up into their place to say we're now the new warlord in charge of this area. So in that sense, we've seen a dramatic transformation of what constitutes authority in the tribal areas.
There are also, as you mentioned, there is a sort of new generation of Taliban for sure. In many ways it galvanized in the aftermath of the Lal Masjid episode. Yesterday there was a bombing in Rawalpindi that killed the surgeon general, also a major general. And immediately, I don't know how this information is gleaned, but they're saying that it was done by youth who had been studying at Lal Masjid and who had been completely -- had been radicalized in the aftermath and had pledged their lives to blow up as many senior army commanders as possible.
So there are some people in Washington who make this distinction between sort of al Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban, Afghan Taliban. They might all now be coming into the tribal areas or into Swath (ph) or into these affected areas with different motives, whether they be sectarian, whether they be Taliban inspired, etcetera. But now, what's so scary is that you just see this blending of ideology.
And so the local Taliban -- I mean the fact that the Afghan Taliban if you will, pre-911, before the assassination of Ahmed Mahsoud, I think that was the first suicide bombing in Afghanistan. And now -- this is just something that Pashtuns didn't do. They didn't blow themselves up in order to take out their enemies. Now, it's happening at a weekly rate.
And so what you're seeing is their ideology affected more and more by the foreign ideology, by the Arab ideology. And to an extent -- I mean the Uzbek element is -- I always kind of looked at the Uzbek element with a bit of a sort of skepticism, as if the Pakistani government was constantly trying to blame this on Uzbeks because they knew there were a lot of Uzbeks there. And I kept thinking Uzbeks, okay -- so the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan has created some trouble but they certainly aren't that scary. But the Uzbek element in South Waziristan is incredibly divisive and this actually led last year to a kind of a civil war between the Taliban in South Waziristan in late March, I believe.
And this gets back to my original point. What's happened is that because the tribal system is so fractured -- there's been some talk also in the past few weeks about sort of imposing an Anbar-style model into the tribal areas. The problem is there are no tribals that are not -- the senior tribal leaders are all killed. So if you're going to consider imposing this model you really have to face the fact that you're going to pick good Taliban to fight against bad Taliban. You're not going to pick tribals to fight or to try and root out foreign al Qaeda elements.
And that, I think, as you asked originally, I mean that is the status quo right now. And it's very different -- it's not reversible, I don't think, unless generations were to go by. I mean right now it's just that the gun and the mosque are what's determining authority. It's not a positive trend.
BLANK: I'd like to get Bobs view on this idea of playing tribal politics, of good Taliban versus bad Taliban or of just whether we -- would ISI even have the capability to go into the tribal area and try to manipulate tribal politics in such a way that we can use it for our own ends. The Pakistani state has tried to do that by making deals with Baitullah Mehsud and Commander Nazir and these deals often seem to be merely tactical deals. Is there a better tribal strategy to play this tribal chess or is it something that both we and the Pakistanis simply lack the resource base, the assets and the intelligence in both senses of the word to play that game effectively?
GRENIER: My concern is that for reasons that I think Nick has just underscored, the objective circumstances just don't lend themselves currently to the kind of tribal manipulation that you're describing. I think that there are a few in the ISI who do have the requisite knowledge of the personalities and the tribal politics in these different areas. And in fact, listening to Nick speak, I'm not going to go off on a tangent right now but there's a lot that I would like to know in terms of the relative degree to which the tribal malik system has been destroyed in various parts of -- in various districts and agencies of the tribal territories because I think it does vary considerably from agency to agency. But the bottom line, and particularly if we're talking in the context of North and South Waziristan, is that we just lack the objective circumstances right now.
Now, as we look to the future, and if there were a sustained effort at counterinsurgency as broadly defined that was promulgated by the Pakistan government with active support -- low level but still active support or low profile active support from the Americans that would address economic development and political development as well as a forward deployed military presence such that you were appealing to the mass of the people to show them that there is a future for them, there is good for themselves and their families in allowing the government to come in and establish its writ more clearly -- and if in that same context you, that is the Pakistanis, put themselves in a position where they provide protection to surviving tribal leaders. I presume that many of these tribal elders who had been killed have sons. And so perhaps there would be the possibility of building up a future generation, if you will. But it's going to require, I think, a long term, sustained engagement on the part of the Pakistan government to change the objective circumstances that we see on the ground.
And one of the real difficulties here is that, I would agree that there is no reestablishing the old malik system. And that in fact what we, what the government of Pakistan needs to do is to get beyond the old traditional system to one where the tribal territories are fully incorporated in Pakistan proper so that rather than relying on the old system of political agents and tribal maliks, you actually have locally elected councils. And the maliks, obviously, are constitutionally opposed to that. So, the degree to which they can be enlisted or their families can be enlisted over the long term, I think, is going to be limited.
BLANK: Great. Last question before we go to the audience. And to anyone who feels so move, please jump in.
Every time of change is also a time of opportunity, and the standing of the United States in Pakistan is not entirely encouraging. We are not seen as the agents of all good things. Do we have an opportunity to change that perception? And if so, what should we be thinking of as a way of resetting the relationship?
MARKEY: I would say that you're absolutely right. I mean, we do have a real opportunity, a real window, particularly to work with the newly elected leadership in Islamabad, but also in NWFP and the provincial assembly there. The ANP and probably the PPP will have something of a coalition government there. They are a very obvious partner for the United States. If the ANP harbors some historical tendencies to see the United States as an imperialist power and so on, I think those things can be overcome in the name of a common interest in terms of fighting militancy in the area. So there is a real opportunity there.
I think one of the things that in the back of our minds we need to recognize is these elections at the national level were really just the beginning of something, and we are nowhere near a consolidated democratic solution in Pakistan. And the reason we're nowhere near that is because there's still this tendency in Pakistan to go back and forth between military and civilian rule. And there's nothing about the current situation yet that can give us a great deal of confidence that we won't in some future iteration see going back around. You said, you know, maybe we're back to the 1990s. Well, the problem with the 1990s, or at least one of them, is it ended in 1999 with a military takeover.
And I think from a U.S. perspective, if we're looking to exploit this opportunity, the real thing would be to try to come up with measures of more sustainable democratic and civilian governance there, and to really get behind those. And in particular, to make it clear that, you know, yes, we've worked very closely with the Musharraf, but yes, we're also very interested and very excited to work with whatever civilian face emerges, and we'd like to put our money where our mouth is on that and get behind it and really support it. I think that would be useful symbolically, but I think it would be useful practically as well because the real thing is the need to build up, as I say, sustainable civilian democratic institutions, ones that are capable of actually governing.
I mean, the reason why -- you know, back to the NWFP. The reason why the Islamists or one reason why they got tossed out is because they didn't deliver. They weren't good at governance. Now, the ANP may not be good at governance either. And so to the extent that we can help them be better at governance, I think that should be a serious priority for us.
Well, let's go to the audience. And first I'd just remind everyone, please wait for the microphone to come to you and please remind everyone of your name and affiliation.
QUESTIONER: Robin Wright, The Washington Post. I have two questions, one for Nick.
Baitullah Mehsud was a name that kind of leapt out at us after Benazir's assassination. How strong is his following? And who are the other people we ought to be watching for, the other names that may emerge?
And for Bob, how does the new political landscape impact our ability to deal militarily, with Special Forces, in the tribal areas, to do other operations, whether it's going after al-Libbi or, you know, that kind of thing?
SCHMIDLE: Regarding Baitullah Mehsud, he certainly did sort of creep up on us. I mean, he was a name, but he wasn't -- a couple things about Baitullah Mehsud. He must have had enough standing that for him to have been sort of nominated as the emir of the Pakistani Tehreek-e Taliban within the -- meaning the Pakistani Taliban movement in the middle of December, for him to sort of have been the unanimous choice as the leader means that he must have had a lot more grounding then all of a sudden, you know, sort of two days before October 18th, when Benazir came back, and the rumors were that Baitullah Mehsud had said that his suicide bombers would -- he'd send suicide bombers to welcome her. All of a sudden, everyone in Pakistan and the United States said, oh, who is this guy? (Laughs.) That's a pretty bold claim.
But because of -- and I hate to use the word "shadowy," but I mean, the guy is -- he's mysterious. He doesn't -- the only picture that's out there is him with hair down to about here, poofy out to here -- poofy out to here, and he's got a scarf on. He looks like a bandito. And every time that he's signed a deal with the government he's insisted on covering his face.
Now, in the aftermath of the Lal Masjid episode, apparently there were several hundred students who were able to get out and escape, including females, who went to Baitullah Mehsud, knew that Baitullah Mehsud had the most sophisticated suicide bombing training camps, and enlisted with Baitullah Mehsud.
He also apparently, up until about six, eight months ago, was really more focused on Afghanistan and was more focused on sending suicide bombers into Afghanistan. And then all of a sudden now he's turned his attention.
As for other leaders, Malana Fazula (ph) remains -- no one knows where Malana Fazula is right now, but he is -- he probably is -- he's kind of the vice chairman, if you will, or the vice emir of the Pakistani Taliban movement. He is somewhere perhaps in Swat still, perhaps in Dir. No one really knows. But he also has a massive following. When I managed to get into his training camp/madrassa/mosque complex in the middle of October, I had briefly, briefly met him. He sort of came out -- he had invited myself and another local journalist and came out -- he knew there was an American journalist there, and came out as a gesture of hospitality to say, look, you know, I've got to give this sermon, but I know that you're a foreigner, I know that you're here, I just wanted to welcome you. I mean, it was amazing; the guy was flanked on all sides by people that looked like they were literally ready to pull the cord if anybody got close. And you know, I mean, really intense devotion.
Now, inside this mosque compound there were also two -- at least two or three Uzbeks that I noticed that were milling about. There were also a number of people who -- actually, I witnessed a scene of this public punishment that Malana Fazula (ph) gave, and the people who were giving the public punishment had their faces covered. Now, I don't want to jump to assumptions, but there's also something -- you can tell something from even this much of a person as to where they're from, where they're not from. And you look at all the other Pashtun faces surrounded, and the two that had their face covered that were actually handing out the punishments and doing the lashing were certainly not from Pakistan. Whether they were Arabs, whether they were Uzbeks, there was something distinct about their eyes, distinct about their eyebrows that you could -- and distinct about their skin tone. You could tell they weren't from there. So you've got Malana Fazula (ph).
You also have this Maulvi Faqir Mohammed up in Bajaur, who also commands a massive following. In the aftermath of Lal Masjid -- the Lal Masjid operation, apparently 20,000 of his followers gathered in Khar, which is the center of Bajaur, and said that we would avenge, you know, Abdul Rashid Ghazi's death until the day that all of us die.
So I think that those three are the big three that I know of. Bob may know of others, but those are -- I mean, those are the most -- those are the most charismatic, the most well-known at this point.
GRENIER: I really don't have anything to add to that. It's amazing how quickly things evolve. It's been two years since I've been out in that area, and I had escort at the time -- (laughs) -- but I think you probably didn't.
But I just have to shake my head. You know, Faqir Mohammed, who led a group of, you know, maybe -- it was several thousand, surely -- people across the border to reinforce the Taliban at the start of the American invasion, and managed to come -- had to come slinking back across the border, having lost a lot of his people. And in tribal warfare, you don't lose a lot of people. That makes you very unpopular. And he was not in a good position in the beginning of 2002. And here he is, you know, again, you know, sort of a hero of global jihad. So --
SCHMIDLE: Now, was this -- just a quick question, though. This is -- are you speaking of Sufi Mohammed or Faqir Mohammed? Sufi Mohammed is the one --
GRENIER: Oh, I'm thinking of Sufi Mohammed.
SCHMIDLE: Sufi Mohammed took 10,000 of his -- according to 10,000 of his followers, took them into Afghanistan, came back with like three, and all -- (chuckles) -- and all of the parents and family of these people said, you know, what happened? We really liked you, but you've got to be kidding me. He actually was thrown in jail.
He -- Malana Fazula (ph) is the son-in-law of Sufi Mohammed, and his rise to power came mainly because he said Sufi Mohammed is my father-in-law. People started listening to him. So -- I mean, that goes back to the notion of family. I mean, this is why in Pakistani politics there is no place for a Barack Obama. There is no place for someone to sort of rise up unknown. (Laughter.)
GRENIER: No, I'm sorry, you're right; I was speaking of Sufi Mohammed.
BLANK: Though I should note in all of our meetings with political leaders there, people were so intently focused on the U.S. election. As one political leader -- I won't say who -- says, yes, we have an election too, but we really are far more interested in your election. (Laughter.)
Bob, what about Robin's point about working with SF or perhaps some paramilitary -- is there -- is that more or less difficult now? Was it ever really something that was terribly feasible?
GRENIER: Well, it has never been something that's been very easy. Obviously the high U.S. profile in the tribal areas, in the NWFT, is a kiss of death. And the army has been very, very concerned about establishing that sort of a profile. Any U.S. support they've received that they wanted to be -- to keep it a very low profile.
I think that the sorts of political pressures that will be exerted on a democratically elected government will be such that they will be even more sensitive to those issues. So when it comes to things like, you know, operation of Predators, I think that they will be more zealous in guarding Pakistani sovereignty, or being seen to be guarding Pakistani sovereignty.
That said, and although the army of Pakistan will clearly have to have political support to do what it does in the tribal territories, I think that they will resist micromanagement from any government. So if they have the cover to move out and to engage in operations, I think that to some degree still -- and perhaps to an increasing degree as they see that it doesn't cause the sky to fall -- that they will be willing to accept low-level support from the Americans, particularly in the form of training. Not in a high-profile U.S. presence in the tribal territories certainly, but in the form of training and other sorts of low-profile support.
And with regard to things like Predator support and other more inflammatory things, again, I think that the army, being very conservative -- and I think that will continue very much with General Kayani. He's a very conservative, very cautious fellow. He will want to make his own decisions as to what is sustainable and what is not in the way of U.S. support.
BLANK: Congressman Moody.
QUESTIONER: Jim Moody, Merrill Lynch.
I've been interested that so much of this talk has been about the tribal areas in the north. What about the rest of Pakistan? Can we come to grips with that for a few minutes? That would be really great. (Chuckles.) We've had some very big events there, and Jonah, you and I were out there at the same time. How do we -- what is your recommendation for recalibrating, if I can use that word, U.S. policy towards Pakistan in its entirety?
I thought it was fascinating to watch both Musharraf's candidates go down big time and the mullahs go down big time in the election. And my Pakistani friends at the time said to me, you know, there's a symbiotic relationship between Musharraf and the mullahs. They need each other. Musharraf needs the mullahs or the extremist image of -- you know, the fear factor of the mullahs and what they might bring to keep American aid flowing in, which as you know is massive and you -- I'm sure you've looked at the CSIS report, which says it's 90 percent military with very little accountability about what's inside those numbers. In fact, a Pakistani told me, you know, their national budget just shows details on the civilian and then just one line for all military spending with no breakout at all. So the Pakistani -- there's no sense of democracy or accountability on the -- so how do we recalibrate our foreign policy towards Pakistan that's larger, since to break away from that nexus of Musharraf and the mullahs each needing each other, each fanning -- each one fans the other side?
BLANK: Dan, would you like to field this?
MARKEY: Sure. I mean, this gets back to some of the things I was saying before, but this is a real opportunity to strike a slightly different balance of I think the one that you're describing in terms of when you look at the overall weight of U.S. assistance, it has led with the military and followed up with the civilian. And I think that this would be a great opportunity either for the Bush administration or some -- the next administration to get out ahead and to pledge a greater level of assistance on the civilian side.
But I think that, again, to get back to the points I was making before, it really needs to be targeted at governance issues. It's one thing -- you know, Pakistan has a lot of needs and -- you know, poverty and education and infrastructure and so on. All of these things need to be met. I don't think the United States is going to be able to meet those kinds of needs in any significant way. We can be helpful, but ultimately that has to be a Pakistani thing. They have to grown themselves into the capacity to do that.
What we can be helpful on is trying to give this next government, and as I say either at the center or out in NWFP Musharraf the capacity to deliver and that's you know sort of, that's tougher.
But that's more in the way of institution building, training, capacity building, so that the people who are for instance on the civilian side in Pakistani politics have a greater understanding of military budgets so that they can in fact monitor and enforce and do oversight in a way that that helps to establish a better civil military balance.
The Pakistani system under Musharraf has brought in a national security council. It's not clear to me that this institution is necessarily going to outlast by far these elections. But there needs to be some sort of internal mechanism that's acceptable both in civilian side and the military side to craft a better balance and a better sharing of information so that we don't resort back to, you know, getting back to military rules. So it doesn't fall back at some point in the next year or two years or five years in someone like Kiyani's lap. That's precisely what we don't want to see. So those are the kind of investments that I think I would, you know, I would certainly support. I think this administration may or may not given where it is in the timeline of the Bush years but it's a real opening for the next administration.
QUESTIONER: (Inaudible) -- if I might ask to follow on to the congressman's question, what was just said by Dan makes sense in terms of the civilian/military ratio. But how do you do that given the priority of the United States in terms of the war on terror?
MARKEY: Well short answer would be you don't pull back on the military side. This is in fact, I mean, this is not a good news story for American tax payers because it's costly, but I think that there's probably at least now a recognition, a wider recognition a consensus that if Pakistan goes wrong, we're all going to be in a much higher cost situation. So I think there may be a willingness to invest. And because there is a new configuration of power in Islamabad, somebody new that we can invest in, I think that also opens up opportunities. I mean, Jonah would know the Hill better in terms of the mood on the Hill, in terms of what people are willing to spend on, but my expectation is that there's a slightly different view now than there was say a year ago about increasing assistance to Pakistan.
BLANK: Just on where the Hill is, those of you who may have either been down in New York for the Counsel's meeting yesterday or will have seen the chairman of the foreign relations committee publicly pitching for tripling of precisely the type of aid that Dan is talking about, non-economic aid tripling it to non-military, I'm sorry, yes, non-economic aid would be difficult. (Laughter.)
To $1.5 billion annual, that's actually a little more than tripling with a democracy dividend, which presumably could be started immediately of $1 billion the first year and an amount to be determined in future years based on good governance and exactly the sort of metrics that we've been talking about.
Chairman's been saying this since November 8th when he first put this forward and the response that I've gotten back has been alarming positive. So whether this will happen or not remains to be seen, but as Dan rightly points out, we have an opportunity here where there may well be Congressional will to do this.
Let's go to the back. Let's see gentleman over here. Or the gentleman way in the back.
QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. My name is Meredith Buel (sp), I'm a correspondent with Voice of America and I was at Senator Biden's press conference in Islamabad the day after the election and covered the elections in Islamabad and I'm a former bureau chief there.
One thing Senator Biden said certainly the newsworthy part of his news conference was with regards to the tripling of non-military aid, but he also questioned, and this was the first time I'd heard someone in a position like this, the capacity of the Pakistani army to actually succeed in the tribal areas. And if you were at the press conference, you may remember that. He said simply that there is an unrealistic expectation in Washington that the Pakistani army and the Pakistani government can actually succeed in, as he put it, wiping out al Qaeda and Taliban-linked elements in the tribal areas, which if that in fact is the case it would seem that U.S. foreign policy would have to be adjusted to a great degree in order to determine how in fact to do that. So I'm interested gentleman if you could tell us what you think the capacity of the Pakistani army is, they've got 110,000 troops in this area according to President Musharraf, and yet they are not only unable to strike down these militants, but they are unable to protect themselves from these militants coming out and into the population centers of Pakistan and doing what happened yesterday in Rawalpindi and what happened during the entire run up to the election.
BLANK: Good question. Bob, I think this is one for you as there's a perception in Washington that Musharraf or his successor could simply flip a switch and get things done. Your view?
GRENIER: No, there's unfortunately if there were a simple answer to this and if what needs to be done were well within the current capabilities of the Pakistan military, it would have happened by now. The Pakistanis by training, by doctrine, are ill-suited to counterinsurgency operations. They are a classic conventional military, they were built for conflict within India. They tend to be very vulnerable to a popular insurgency, they are extremely vulnerable as we've all seen to ambush as they move through these areas. And I think the core foundational difficulty for them and for us by extension is that we are asking them to do two things that work at cross purposes: we want them to do counter terrorism as narrowly defined, going after the foreign fighters, going after the key extremists who are responsible for the establishment of safe haven and this increasingly virulent popular extremist movement in the areas that are of greatest concern to us. And at the same time, we want them to do what might be referred to as a much broader counter insurgency effort, to win over the population, to isolate the extremists and ultimately to remove the safe haven. Well as you take tactical actions to go after the terrorists who are of the greatest tactical concern to us, you further inflame the population and you make it that much more difficult to eliminate safe havens.
If you tried to take a much more gradual, soft power approach to try to win over the people over the long term in the meantime, that gives the extremists breathing space to engage in a pattern of activities that effect the situation in Afghanistan and very far beyond as we've seen as a result of the investigations of successful and nearly successful terrorist operations in Western Europe for instance.
So we're asking them to square that circle. We're asking them to do those two incompatible things simultaneously. And there's no getting around it, that's precisely what we have to do. So I think that there has to be a very muscular effort at counter insurgency and we talk it at great lengths about what that would need to do, what that would need to look like while at the same time, taking effective action where possible against the terrorist who are greatest tactical concern to us, knowing that when you take effective action in the pursuit of a latter objective, you're going to be making the counter insurgency effort that much more difficult.
BLANK: Gentleman over here.
QUESTIONER: Thanks, David Abgar (sp) corporate executive board.
The first question I have Nick is for you. I'm not sure that we heard your conclusion about the likelihood that the extremists and this I believe in the tribal areas are going to take the battle to Pakistan, as it were. And the reason I ask is that if they don't, then I gather that you're all agreed that the popular opinion in Pakistan and the popularly elected parties probably would just as soon leave the tribal areas; B, there's a growing consensus among NATO commanders in Afghanistan that it's really going to be necessary to go into those areas just to defend the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan. And given those two facts, again, if the judgment is that the extremists probably aren't going to take the battle to Pakistan, then we might find ourselves in this strange position where our best course of action, and I'd love to get your comments on this, might be weirdly to propose the autonomy or independence of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas if only to create some sort of pretext or logic for going in without essentially shredding Pakistani's sovereignty, I don't know if that's even possible. I don't really have an interest of the least bad alternative. I'm wondering if that's where we're being led, though.
SCHMIDLE: It's difficult I think to try and summarize in one notion what the ambitions are of the Pakistani Taliban. Because besides the fact that this Pakistani Talabani, this united Pakistan movement was created in mid-December, the fact of the matter is that up until the day that they announced that, my thesis was that the Pakistani Taliban is really just a collection of gangs.
And what was interesting to me is that as I was traveling through NWFP in September, October, November, I kept getting, looking at all these copies of these letters that were being sent to newspaper editors, DVD shop owners, cable TV operators, that were warning them, you know, stop your service or else you'll be bombed. All of them were signed by the Taliban and then in parenthesis next to it, you know, the Baitullah Masoud group, the Malana Fazir (ph) group, the Dera (ph) group, you know, various geographical or personality based subsets of the Taliban. Each one of them has slightly different objectives I think. Neither of them I don't imagine are ready to load up into Toyota pick-up trucks and take off for Islamabad and challenge the army. I just don't think that that's in, I don't think that that's the desire.
However, leaving them, I think may of them would be perfectly content setting up little Taliban colonies all along the tribal areas. The danger in that is that while some of them are merely local Pashtun extremists that have a very rigid and unsavory social and religious philosophy in our opinion. There are also others that are perfectly willing to allow these foreign elements to come in and train and could be used as basis for international terrorist attacks. Those, I mean you can't, I don't think you can just leave those colonies untouched. (Laughter.)
But as whether they're practical solution in certain areas where we think that it's only locals and we think that they just want to set up their own little mini-Taliban state and we kind of say okay, okay, do you what you want, I don't know, it raises a profound, you know, not only policy issue but moral issues as well as to whether you can do that in Pakistan territory. I don't know that we can necessarily, I mean, I think we've already seen the ramifications of declaring Kosovo independent state, if we declare FATA an independent state and then go in two days later, I think that it would be difficult for American credibility years down the line if you know what I mean. (Laughter.)
MARKEY: Yeah, if I could just follow up, I mean the image of these Pakistani Taliban getting on their jeeps and riding into Islamabad is kind of an amusing one but look at the Red Mosque. I mean, this is the implication of not so much that they have capacity to take on the army, they simply did not. They were crushed. But they do have a capacity to poke up in different parts of the county in ways that would be more destabilizing than --
SCHMIDLE (?): But the Red --
MARKEY: -- than we would --
SCHMIDLE (?): But the Red Mosque --
MARKEY: -- hope.
SCHMIDLE (?): -- was something that didn't necessarily poke up. I mean, I don't know when you were last in Pakistan, but essentially I mean, the Red Mosque leaders were meeting with Osama bin Laden in 1998, 1999, 2000, I mean this far pre-dated them sort of rising up suddenly and you know, taking over the children's school.
I mean, this, these guys, I had actually had the good fortune of hanging out with them for about the year before the operation, the year before the children's takeover, and got to know the Abdul Rashid Ghazi very well, he's an incredibly dynamic guy. At one point, as they were sort of taking over Islamabad and running brothel madams and kidnapping them, someone, a foreign journalist asked Abdul Rashid Ghazi, said was this the beginning of Talibanization in Islamabad, and his response, he spoke perfect English, and his response was well, when Rudy Giuliani became the mayor of New York City, he went after the brothels, did anybody call that Talibanization? (Laughter.) And you know, you had to say touche. All right. I'll give you that. (Laughter).
MARKEY: No but that's precisely the point, right?
SCHMIDLE (?): Yeah.
MARKEY: It is a wider, a wider issue.
SCHMIDLE (?): It is.
MARKEY: It can't be confined.
SCHMIDLE (?): But I don't know, and you're right as to how you isolate, as to how you kind of try and isolate, I mean, I think that, I don't know how many other mosques there are, I kept wondering because they were so accessible are there other mosques like this all over the settled areas of Pakistan and everyone kept saying, this one is quite unique. And whether it was because the personality of the individuals, -- (inaudible) -- again, their father was the one who made their reputation. So --
MR. : The idea of the Red Mosque as a portend of bringing Giuliani politics to Pakistan is certainly something to chew on.
QUESTIONER: Thank you, Paula Stern, the Stern Group. I wanted to go back actually to what I would call a Freudian slip when you talked about the non-economic factors in U.S. foreign policy because we've been talking about counter terrorism, military and presumably U.S. government support for activities that would deal with governance, education, and infrastructure as I heard. What I haven't heard with the exception of you Jonah, is the word economic. And in the past number of years while Musharraf has been in, the economy in Pakistan was doing quite well. Growth rates were terrific. They pursued an attempt to, successfully, to get at least short term investment, mostly Arab, not necessarily Western, but still there was that as well.
They do not have that anymore and compounding that is the oil crisis and the economic crisis now in Pakistan is extreme. And my question is: what the U.S. foreign policy should be doing to encourage, if you will, non-government, U.S.-Western investment that will necessarily underpin any successful efforts that you all have been describing with regard to U.S. military and civilian economic assistance.
In other words, would you address, if you will, what the U.S. from the bully pulpit or -- any other foreign policy might do to encourage a more healthy economic future for Pakistan?
MARKEY: I think you're absolutely right in terms of -- if we had even more fine grain polling data on these last elections I think we would find that they were very much pocketbook elections. In a lot places, people voting to get the rascals out who hadn't delivered; weren't able to deliver electricity on a steady basis; who were charging them more, essentially, for basic commodities than they're used to paying. So, they were feeling the weight of an economic downturn and I think that was very important. So, in a broader sense, in a political sense, if you're interested in stability in Pakistan, it's also very important to recognize the economic view. So, I couldn't agree with you more on that.
As I said before, though, a lot of these bigger issues are less the United States footing the bill and more the United States maybe jawboning -- there's a certain amount of that -- probably would be useful to try and hold this new Pakistani government, whatever it is, to be more accountable, responsible in a way that it does budgeting. I mean, one of the things that really was a problem in the 1990's was Pakistan essentially ran out of money, in part because their governments went on spending sprees. Well, there's a populist reason for that, a drive to want to spend on public things if you're in government, but some of that is going to have to be pushed off. There's going to be a certain -- you know, have to be a certain amount of discipline to keep Pakistani markets going. So it's not just a matter Pakistani governments building these things, either.
But, in terms of infrastructure, I think energy is probably -- if I had to put my finger on something -- energy and then, longer term, water -- these are the areas where they are really fundamental to the capacity of this Pakistani country to grow. And, it's the United States, probably in combination with international financial institutions -- World Bank -- that's probably the area where could be devoting more attention and maybe working with some outside investors -- you mentioned people in the Gulf States -- some of them are actually greater involved than we might imagine.
So, there are kind of creative approaches that would be outside of the direct governmental process that I think probably bear more fruit.
BLANK: We have only two minutes left. So, just one final question and, please, I would ask it be asked and answered rather briefly. Gentleman in the center there?
QUESTIONER: Hi, I'm Chuck McLaughlin from Accenture and I'd like you to, Mr. Schmidle, if you could expand a little bit on your comments about the Uzbeks and who -- you said they're very divisive. But also, who do mean? Do you mean: people from Uzbekistan or ethnic Uzbeks from Afghanistan and elsewhere or Turkic Central Asians more broadly? And also, what's they're agenda? Are they, sort of, signed up for the reestablishment of the caliphate first or is it more the overthrow of the Uzbek regime or something else?
SCHMIDLE: I think these are all good questions, none of which I have a great answer for. But, I think that most of them are Uzbeks from Uzbekistan who -- most from the Farghona Valley area -- who, after the formation -- toward the end of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, as they were being -- after terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan had been driven into the camps in Afghanistan and they were driven out and also became -- I mean, they brought with them some funds as well and so as they fled from there with the Taliban and senior al Qaeda leadership, they took residence in Pakistan.
As to what their intentions are, I mean, I think that they still say they're the international or the IMU -- what's the -- international?
MR. : Islamic --
SCHMIDLE: Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, sorry.
I mean, I that their intention is still overthrowing the Karimov regime, but as to what they're doing on a day to day basis to do that, I'm not sure or I'm not sure whether they just enjoy the fact that they have a free hand and whether they are now considered -- I don't think that the Uzbeks, pre-2001, were considered amongst the top leadership, or amongst the most feared al Qaeda commanders and yet, now, because of the way that the politics and the structure and the dynamics of al Qaeda have changed and the way they've taken up residence in South and North Waziristan and the role the Uzbeks have, they now enjoy -- Tohir Yuldashev is a much, much, much more prominent leader in the al Qaeda -- the sort of loose al Qaeda organization now than he was six, seven years ago.
BLANK: Well, thank you so much for coming and please join me in giving a round of applause for our guests.
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
The specific challenge in the post-2014 context, as NATO troops draw down from Afghanistan, is to avoid a situation in which violence and instability spike, leading U.S.-Pakistan relations to fray to the point of rupture.