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U.S.-Pakistan Relations

Presider: Robert McMahon, Managing Editor
Speakers: Cameron Munter, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, U.S. Department of State, and Daniel S. Markey, Adjunct Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia
October 23, 2013
Council on Foreign Relations


MCMAHON: Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to this Council on Foreign Relations on-the-record media call on U.S.-Pakistan relations, which is pegged to the ongoing visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Washington. I am Robert McMahon, editor of, and I will be presiding on this call.

And we are very fortunate to have two people well-versed in Pakistan and U.S. relations on the call to help discuss the significance of this visit and get into some issues of the relationship more broadly. First, we have Cameron Munter, who was U.S. ambassador to Pakistan from 2010 to 2012 and is now a professor of international relations at Pomona College, and also Daniel Markey, who's CFR's senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia, and author of the new book, "No Exit from Pakistan: America's Tortured Relationship with Islamabad."

I'm going to start by asking a couple of questions to both of them before opening up to callers on this line. And I know there's a lot of you, so we'll get to you in due order. I wanted to start with Ambassador Munter, who has -- just was part of a meeting earlier today with Prime Minister Sharif. And, Ambassador Munter, could you give us a sense of the tone of -- Prime Minister Sharif spoke at an event this morning in Washington, and you had an opportunity to meet with him and a group of other people. Could you discuss that a little bit?

MUNTER: Sure. This is Cameron Munter speaking. And I attended the speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where Nawaz was, I think, very judicious, very careful. He was -- he's making sure that he gets across a modern and moderate image, and those are words he used, went over -- went through his -- made it clear to his audience who I think wanted to hear this that the greatest threat to internal peace is terrorism and extremism. He was pleased with what the government has been able to do in the short time and energy, but that they have great challenges on foreign policy, and he focused not only on Pakistan, but on its immediate neighbors, Afghanistan, India, and when on to make sure that he gave a very positive gloss to what's been a very strained relationship in recent years to the Pakistani-American relationship.

In doing so, I think what he did was continue what he's tried to do through this time here. He's had high-level visits in Washington in the last couple of days where he's tried to say, we can put this back on a good footing, trying to keep expectations fairly low.

In a later meeting that I attended with him, a smaller meeting, this -- it's something that was a confidential meeting, and I'm not going to be talking about the substance of it, but I would say that the form was very much the same, a very warm meeting, a very straightforward meeting, where he's being very upfront about the problems he faces, especially in security realm, but being very -- being very positive and being very cautious in not taking on too much, but trying to say that we can move ahead.

MCMAHON: Now, there hasn't been a Pakistani visit of this level, I believe, in about five years. What can we meaningfully expect to see from this, in terms of -- you know, we're seeing reports about everything from drone policy, discussions on the Afghan -- the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, energy assistance and so forth. So what should we be looking for?

MUNTER: Well, I think at the very least what we're looking for is the opening -- reopening and the strengthening of dialogue. The Pakistanis are interested in furthering strategic dialogue, something that we had kind of robustly in before 2010 and that kind of collapsed during the time after that, building up on high-level talks on issues that are of common interest to both countries, defining them very well, and going -- and not shying away from problems like security issues, like economic issues, that could separate us. So I think the main thing we're looking for is process that allows us to solve problems, not to be blindsided by things and events as they come along.

MCMAHON: Is the Pakistani delegation that arrived indicative of what they're looking to come away with on this visit?

MUNTER: Well, it is true that they have the -- one of the all-stars on the visit is their finance minister, Ishaq Dar, who is the man who has done the financial and fiscal reforms that have begun those efforts after the election to try to fix some of the real important domestic issues. And there's a foreign element to that. They want to make sure that they're on the right footing with us in financial areas and to open up for business and things of that sort.

He has -- he has a very able set of advisers with him. So I think that what he wants to demonstrate is that we don't need to have a -- if I understood him correctly, we don't need to have a relationship that's based on dealing with the crises of the day. That's something where we can invest in a longer-term relationship, including business relationship, which could actually be the key to some of Pakistan's problems, and that they're looking to the region as a place in which a lot of the action's going to take place in years to come. What happens in Afghanistan, what happens in India will have a lot to do with Pakistan's success.

MCMAHON: Ambassador, one more question, which is, do you see any problem created by -- there's a number of reports that have come out, putting the -- potentially putting the relationship in a negative light, referring to the impact on civilians of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, the extent to which NSA is kind of blanketing parts of the country with surveillance. Are these going -- are these going to shadow -- have they already been kind of taken on in this relationship and addressed prior to this, do you think? Or can you talk a little bit about what impact it might have?

MUNTER: Sure. I'm pretty positive about that. These are not new issues. They're serious issues. They need to be discussed at the highest levels, and when Nawaz sits down with John Kerry or Chuck Hagel and -- or the president of the United States and talks about them, that's a very good thing. But these are -- these are not new. These are problems about the American and Pakistani efforts to fight terrorism, American and Pakistani efforts to try to come to an agreement about how the world is going to look after 2014, where that part of the world's going to look.

So even though these reports are out there and it's good that we discuss those things in public, I don't think for the relationship this is anything new. It's a reminder that we really have to address these things seriously, and it's good that we're going to do that.

MCMAHON: Thank you.

Dan Markey, your extremely timely new book describes the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan as bedeviled by mistrust and missteps, and with problems that defy easy solutions. I'd like you to first take a step back to spell out why this effort matters, why Pakistan matters to U.S. interests at this point in time.

MARKEY: Sure, thanks. Look, the -- from a U.S. perspective, broadly speaking, we have sort of three layers of interests and concerns about Pakistan. And, of course, the first two are most familiar. They begin with a question of nuclear weapons, Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, which is growing, concerns about Pakistan have to -- because it is nuclear-armed, because it has a history of hostility with its next-door neighbor in India, because it has also in trans-terrorist networks, concerns about Pakistan have to loom larger than they might otherwise.

Second issue gets back to the terrorism problem. It's not just Al Qaida, although it starts there. It continues on into regional militants' groups that have been active in Afghanistan, groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba that have targeted inside of India, and groups that -- inside of Pakistan, sectarian groups and other types of terrorist organizations that threaten the peace inside of Pakistan itself.

And then, as Ambassador Munter pointed out, Pakistan can't just be dealt with in a vacuum. We do need to see it not only in the context of post-2014 plans in Afghanistan, but in terms of our broader regional agenda, that -- from a -- from a really macro perspective and a macro historical perspective is increasingly focused on the rise of China, concerns about how to respond to that rise in terms of Chinese power, and that relates very directly to also the question of the rise of India and our relationship with India, which has become closer in recent years, and the question as to where Pakistan fits into that wider regional agenda, whether Pakistan -- if things get worse -- would become potentially a real spoiler or irritant.

One could imagine a situation where Indo-Pakistani hostilities drag India down, make it less of a partner than Washington would like. And one could imagine scenarios in which a U.S.-Pakistan crisis would also create problems for the United States and China, given that China has always been one of Pakistan's major backers.

So we have a lot of different interests there. And when you put them together, it becomes a really difficult knot to untangle.

MCMAHON: Well, the countries have emerged from the trough of a couple of years ago, but -- and seem to be working together, at least speaking together quite a bit about the devolution of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, and, you know, what a post -- a post-U.S. military scene would look like in Afghanistan. You have written a new op-ed that addresses the little-understood -- at least in this -- I think in this country -- insurgency with Pakistan's Taliban. And you call in this new op-ed for sort of a low-key U.S. approach as Pakistani leaders take up these talks, even laying off drone strikes so as to avoid giving some Pakistani politicians maybe a useful villain to focus on.

But why would that approach be useful? And what does that say about the way -- the nuanced way this relationship needs to be handled?

MARKEY: Well, let me be very specific. Right now, the Pakistani government, and Nawaz Sharif included, but also the other political parties, have decided that they want to entertain a dialogue with the Pakistani Taliban. That is not entirely distinct, but in important ways different from the rest of the Taliban or the Afghan Taliban that have been focusing their attentions more in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban has brought huge violence and destruction to Pakistan itself. It has been a declared enemy of the Pakistani state. And so the question now is whether there's space for a dialogue.

Now, I'm personally quite skeptical about the prospects for such a dialogue, given that the Pakistani Taliban has really declared itself anti-state at its core, but I think most important, whether or not there's success, major or minor, we should make sure -- we, the United States should make sure that we have -- we are not perceived as being the reason for any failure of dialogue, that we are not injecting ourselves into that process in a way that would lead to more discord between Washington and Islamabad.

And the example I would use is, last May, Pakistan had national elections. And unlike in past contests, the United States was very much hands-off and was by and large seen that way inside of Pakistan. And that was a healthy thing. And here, again, if we can try to keep a hands-off approach -- and as I say, let the talks fail for their own reasons -- I think they might fail well. That is, the Taliban's motivations and lack of desire to pursue a real peace talk would be perceived by the vast majority of Pakistanis, and that would, I think, lend support to greater unity in tackling the problem of violent extremism inside of Pakistan that's a real very problem. And, again, it's somewhat distinct from the problem that we have with Pakistan on its dealings with the Afghan Taliban or that we have in trying to bring stability to Afghanistan. It's a very important one, given the broader challenges that we see inside of Pakistan itself.

MCMAHON: And there seems to be an opening, perhaps, for, again, U.S. assistance to Pakistan. It was just announced that the U.S. was going to give, I think, more than $1.5 billion in assistance. This is, I believe, assistance that had been blocked because of tensions that arose since the raid that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan. Is this -- this kind of opening maybe opening to further trade and aid that might, you know, maybe build up a new period of goodwill in the relationship?

MARKEY: Well, more than anything else, I think this is trying to get back to a level of business and cooperation that was ruptured in the period after -- from about 2011 through half of 2012. This is not new money, new military assistance. This is money that had been in the pipeline, as I understand it. And so I think this is kind of an effort -- and I would call it a renegotiation of the relationship.

And in some ways, this is the third negotiation of U.S.-Pakistan cooperation since 9/11. There was the "You're with us or against us" moment shortly after 9/11, where Pakistan joined with the United States in some important ways on fighting Al Qaida, and we had some major arrests and captures during that early period. Another renegotiation of the relationship at the end of the Musharraf regime and the beginning of the first civilian government and a new army chief in General Kiyani. And now we have this third negotiation with a new prime minister in Nawaz Sharif and soon -- at the end of November -- a new army chief, as well.

So I think, as Ambassador Munter said, this visit by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is useful to re-establish this dialogue and to maybe build a new foundation for a new type of cooperation on a range of issues and to confront some of those really tough ones, including drones and Taliban talks that have really bedeviled the relationship for years now.

MCMAHON: One final question before we open up this call to our callers. You did mention the transition of military leaders. It's a time when the whole region is undergoing transition. There's going to be elections in India next year, in Afghanistan, as well. Pakistan itself obviously had is own turnover in -- of civilian control.

So this -- it might be a time to -- to take stock of the glass being half-full rather than it half-empty. But as your book conveys, there's a lot to be sober about, as well. Do you see -- what are the opportunities you see, though, in this kind of regional transition going on, Dan?

MARKEY: Well, in many ways, I'm concerned for the next, you know, say, eight months or so because of the uncertainties associated with politics. And you mentioned elections in India. We don't know what's going to come. But we can be fairly certain that there will be a new prime minister, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been a stabilizing influence by most accounts. He's been somebody who certainly has reached out to Pakistan on multiple occasions, and he's also somebody who's taken a very sober approach to what has unfolded in Afghanistan, even though Indians are very concerned about the situation there.

So whoever comes, first, there will be tumultuous elections, and then there will be a new face, and so there's uncertainty there. And on the Afghanistan side, there's also uncertainty. Even just in the process of the election itself, I think with the degree of insecurity, national insecurity and political corruption, there will be real questions about the legitimacy of the process, and, yet again, an opening for those who challenge this Afghan state, centered on Kabul, to doubt its legitimacy and to call that into question at a national level.

And so that gives strength -- strength to insurgents and strength to opposition leaders, makes it harder to see that at least in that timeframe we have the pieces together to lead to a predictable and, therefore, somewhat more likely stable regional scenario.

MCMAHON: Thanks, Dan. I'd now like to open up this call. And just a reminder, this is a CFR on-the-record media call with Cameron Munter, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and a professor of international relations at Pomona College, and Daniel Markey, a CFR senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia.

Operator, do you have any questions from our line, please?

OPERATOR: At this time, we would open the floor for questions. If you'd like to ask a question, please press the star key followed by the one key on your touch-tone phone now. Questions will be taken in the order in which they are received. If at any time you would like to remove yourself from the questioning queue, press star, two. Please limit your questions to one at a time. Again, to ask a question, press star, one.

Our first question comes from Shaun Tandon with AFP.

QUESTION: Yeah, thanks for doing this call. I guess there are lots of things to ask about, but just to focus a bit on the drone issue, just if that's -- as Ambassador Munter said, not new, but it's front-and-center right now. What, if anything, do you think the two leaders can do on that tomorrow at the White House? I mean, is there a way for the two to have some sort of compromise, some way forward on the drones? Or is that just an area where there's going to be some disagreement?

MCMAHON: Ambassador, could you kick that one off, please?

MUNTER: I'd be happy to. This is Cameron Munter speaking. I think it's very healthy for that public debate to be taking place at this time. And I think it's a good backdrop for a topic that senior members of our governments have been talking about for a very long time.

The issue, in my mind, is more than just the drones themselves, even though there are many technicalities and things that are being discussed. The issue is the fight on terror and the common war against the people who have killed thousands of Pakistani soldiers and even more thousands of Pakistani civilians.

When Pakistan talks about the fact that it doesn't want to be seen as a source of terrorism, but rather as the victim of terrorism, it needs to talk to those people who wish it well, like the United States, about the means by which we do that. So I think that the way in which the president and other leaders of our country will talk to the Pakistanis will be to embed the discussion about drones into the broader question of, how do we deal with the common task of dealing with terrorism? What are the elements that the Pakistanis had, the Pakistani army, the Pakistani intelligence, the ability of the Pakistani people to play a role? What do the Americans bring to the table? And how is that changing in the time up to 2014 and after? What are the technical means? What are the things we want to deal with?

So I guess my answer to your question about drones itself is, talking about drones and the difficulties that drones have posed as an issue only the prelude to talking about counterterrorism and the way in which both countries decide they're going to work together or not to try to deal with it.

MCMAHON: Thanks. Dan, would you like to add anything?

MARKEY: Yeah, sure. I just would pick apart the drone issue into at least two pieces from -- more from the Pakistani perspective, but also how it relates to the U.S. side. I mean, first, you have the political problem. And I think this -- the last Pakistani government, President Zardari and his prime ministers really faced it as a political problem, that is, they by all accounts were willing to countenance U.S. drone strikes, at least at some level, and quietly give their assent. And they believed, probably, that the drone strikes were actually serving a purpose in many cases that was helpful to them, that is, that they were targeting terrorists and other violent extremists who also would have targeted President Zardari, if given half a chance.

So it was a political problem, though. They were unpopular inside of Pakistan. Now there's a problem not just -- in addition to that, there's the kind of strategic problem, that is -- sorry, I'm getting called here -- there's a strategic problem, which is that U.S. and Pakistani sense of threat, that is, which groups should be targeted by drones, have been different for a very long time, whereas both of them are willing to go after Al Qaida core leadership, to some extent, and both of them are certainly willing to go after Pakistani Taliban, we've already talked about a bit, there has been a difference of opinion on Afghan Taliban and in particular Haqqani network, which the United States is seen as being affiliated with Al Qaida, has been wanting to target and has been targeting with drones, and which Pakistan sees as being less of a threat and certainly not a direct threat to Pakistani civilians or the Pakistani state.

So there's a political problem and a strategic problem. And just very quickly, in terms of a compromise, I believe that it is possible to imagine a compromise in which the United States would be willing to scale back its target list to Al Qaida core for a period of time, certainly during, say, two months or so, while Pakistan-Taliban talks are ongoing, if given the assent of the Pakistani state, because what we've gotten to is a place where Pakistan's leaders have been very publicly saying that these drone strikes are illegal, violations of their territorial sovereignty, and that is not a precedent that I think the Obama administration should be setting.

I think it's a difficult position for the United States to be in. And if there's a way to get out of it, which includes a compromise that would further narrow the target list, I think that it should at least be on the table for discussion.

MCMAHON: Yeah, they even heard it from Malala Yousafzai recently in her visit about the drones, which I think was probably a little awkward moment.

MARKEY: Probably a bit awkward, yes. That's probably not a conversation they expected would come up.

MCMAHON: Operator, is there another question on the line?

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Carol Williams with Los Angeles Times.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for doing this. There was a reference in your opening to the deterioration of U.S.-Pakistani relations after the Obama -- Osama bin Laden killing. Was that grounded in feelings that their sovereignty had been violated? Or was there popular opposition to that strike on other grounds?

MCMAHON: Ambassador Munter, could you start again on that?

MUNTER: Sure, I'd be happy to. There were the -- the context, even though that's kind of a benchmark that we look at, there were things that were actually going downhill even before that. There was the public discussion and the debate that was going on over drone strikes. There was the Raymond Davis, in which as you will recall a -- a CIA operator was arrested in Lahore or -- and accused of shooting two Pakistanis.

And so throughout that period, there was kind of a souring of relations that gets to your element about that there was a lot of public anger and a lot of public disappointment. I believe that in one of the problems that we had was that we had, in that second reset that Dan Markey mentioned before, that second reset of 2008, when the civilian government came in after Musharraf, there were great expectations and expectations that there would be kind of a more harmonious relationship, and many of those expectations through these symbolic -- through these acts were dashed.

The actual Osama bin Laden raid didn't itself lead to -- you know, public -- there was some public demonstrations, but actually not as many as you might think. I think much more, it was part of the downhill trajectory and the relationship that led us to stop the level of, say, military-to-military cooperation, or even intelligence-sharing, that we had enjoyed previously.

So it was one of the events -- and a major one -- that was seen as a step down the slope that included even later in the year the very unfortunate Salala incident, in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in an incursion from Afghanistan by accident by -- by ISAF forces. In other words, it was part of a process that went down through that year. The public was upset. The public remained upset. And it is only, I think, now that we are seeing, after very patient work that has been done by both sides, by people of goodwill on both sides, the kind of thing that Nawaz Sharif is doing now to try to say, where do we have common ground? Where can we set up mechanisms whereby these kinds of problems are less likely to take place? And how do we not shy away from the tough issues like drones that Dan Markey was talking about earlier?

MCMAHON: Dan, do you want to address the sovereignty? Or do you want to move on?

MARKEY: Well, just -- just very quickly to say that not only was the -- of course, the bin Laden raid was kind of a national humiliation inside of Pakistan, revealed to the world that bin Laden had been there, but also revealed to Pakistanis that either their military was complicit or at some level -- or their security forces across the board were complicit or, at some level, incompetent.

It created at least a brief period where the army and intelligence services, I think, felt very vulnerable. It created a political crisis that was quickly -- I think fairly quickly resolved in the military intelligence services' favor, that is, they closed ranks, defended their position. But it created that deep sense of vulnerability.

And, of course, coming back to the -- one of the themes in the book that I've written, you know, this is a two-way street. And this was a major slide in the relationship from the U.S. perspective, as well. I think, you know, from most Americans' perspective, it is now one of the first things they think about in this relationship, and it's one of the first things that gives them pause about contributing further to assistance, both military and civilian, inside of Pakistan, because they sense that there was some degree of duplicity or deep negligence/incompetence inside of Pakistan that led to bin Laden being there for so long. And that distrust is contributing to a downhill slide and has contributed to this downhill slide in the relationship that clearly both sides are trying to at least arrest and bring back around to a more normal working relationship now.

MCMAHON: Thanks for that question. Operator, do we have another question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, our next question comes from Seema Sirohi with Gateway House on Global Relations.

QUESTION: Hi, I have two questions. The first one, wanted to know what you, Ambassador Munter, think about, how much control does Pakistani prime minister really have over foreign and security policy? And my second question is, generally, what would it take for Pakistan's military and ISI to give up these terrorist groups and to stop using them as an instrument of state policy? Thank you.

MCMAHON: So, Ambassador Munter, on the security?

MUNTER: Yeah, to start off with, that question of the prime minister, there's the ongoing question, the constitutional issue, if you will, about the control of the civilians over the levers of foreign and security policy. And it's an open question.

One thing is that that process that Dan Markey mentioned a minute ago, the crisis of 2011 in which there was a bit of a humiliation for the military, not only led the military to close ranks and to defend its position, but it also led to a fairly robust debate in the parliament, in particular, over such issues as foreign and -- and security policy.

I think there's a long way to go, just as there is -- on many other imperfections in Pakistan's democracy, but I think that the progress that has been made in an open dialogue between the military leadership and the civilian leadership is remarkable in that time. I think that what Nawaz Sharif and his teams, especially his interior minister and other leaders have really attempted to do, is to be very frank with the military in Pakistan about the common tasks that they have. What do the police, what do the intelligence services, what do the military all need to do with the support of the people in a democracy, how do they work better in order to deal with the task that is acknowledged as the greatest threat to Pakistan's security?

And I emphasize, the fact that it's widely said in public that the greatest threat is the militant threat is, in my opinion, a welcome change from the sense that many people had, that the greatest threat to Pakistan was understood in years past to be -- to be India. The fact that they're being realistic about this, both the military and the civilians, shows to me that the answer to your question is that those relations are in flux. The prime minister and his team do have, I think, more of a part of the discussion of national security policy, and the military, I think, is more open than it has been in the past. But there is a long way to go there. And they have to work on this.

I think the people in charge there are trying to get through to this. They're aware that the situation, as they had it in the past, didn't serve them as well as it should have, and I think that's part of what Nawaz Sharif is trying to do.

MCMAHON: Dan, you want to speak to that point, as well?

MARKEY: Yeah, I agree with what Ambassador Munter just said. I would say, just in terms of the prime minister's control, look, there's a key test that's coming up at the end of November, and that is the way that the new army chief and the decision process of selection for the new army chief is managed. And if you go back through past choices of army chief, some of them have been quite revealing about the state of the civil-military relationship, and Nawaz Sharif knows from bitter experience how dangerous that decision process can be, and so far he seems to have been taking his time, being very, very careful, and trying to manage it without ruffling too many feathers. But he also needs to asset his authority here. And that -- his ability to strike that right balance will be a test.

With regard to what will get the Pakistani military and intelligence services to sever all relations with violent extremist groups from Haqqani network to the Lashkar-e-Taiba to everything in between, the answer is, so far, we haven't seen it. And I think that the reason is because, while they do appreciate the risks of violent extremism when they come embodied in the Pakistani Taliban, they still -- that is senior leaders within military intelligence -- still believe that the costs to breaking with groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba in particular, the costs are still quite high. If they did not manage that break effectively, it could plunge the country into a greater degree of violence. And the potential utility of maintaining those links is still there.

Now, it's possible that their cost-benefit calculation has shifted over recent years, but still we haven't seen it shift enough to change their basic behavior. And that remains one of the fundamental stumbling blocks in this relationship. Nawaz Sharif in Washington cannot manage that, but if he can begin the process of opening up a dialogue that would eventually get back to addressing those kinds of issues, that would be a healthy step.

MCMAHON: Thanks for that question. Operator, is there another question on the line, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, our next question comes from Ayesha Tanzeem with Voice of America.

QUESTION: Yes, hi. Thank you for taking my call. I have two quick questions. One is the level of trust between the two intelligence agencies, what is that right now? And I remember there was that time when the CIA decided not to inform Pakistanis ahead of time before they were targeting a drone -- a drone strike. That became a big issue. Is the level of trust at a place where they still don't trust them? Or is it back where at some point they might start taking them into confidence, A?

And the second thing is that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and Dr. Shakil Afridi, they came -- keep coming back up again and again. Do you see any prospect for a swap or anything else of that? What do you see as the future of the two?

MCMAHON: Dan, you want to start this one?

MARKEY: Not really, because -- frankly, because, you know, to understand the question of the level of trust between the CIA and ISI is something that I think does require very much of more of an insider perspective, and even then I think it's a difficult thing to gauge.

Look, these are -- these are organizations that are at various levels engaged in secrecy, and Ambassador Munter raised the issue the Raymond Davis affair several years ago. That was a CIA contractor who, to my understanding, was based inside of Pakistan, outside of the ISI's knowledge or support, conducting operations that the ISI was not happy about, and doing so because there was a basic lack of trust in the -- from the U.S. side about what Pakistan was really up to.

Since, as I said before, there are still reasons for deep distrust about the nature of the relationship between Pakistan's state and certain groups, with Lashkar-e-Taiba being one of the most important ones, I would have to imagine that at the core there is a lack of trust between the CIA and the ISI. But I would also note that that's probably not all that different than the lack of trust that many other intelligence organizations would have when dealing with other intelligence organizations, and that's the nature of the beast.

As for Aafia or Shakil Afridi, I don't -- I don't see movement on either of those. I also don't see them as being -- while they are politically relevant and sensitive issues, I don't see them as having been central to the drama. But they're more of a symptom of a wider kind of a problem in the relationship and a lack of trust and a lack of comfort and a deeper anti-American sentiment that is quite prevalent inside of Pakistan that persists.

MCMAHON: Ambassador Munter, could you address that at all?

MUNTER: Certainly. On that last point, I would just echo that while these two cases -- Aafia Siddiqui and Dr. Afridi -- are not central, they are cases that, in my opinion, would be good to talk about, as the countries begin to pull away or try to mitigate those elements that were the irritants that made problems. I would certainly see no reason why these -- these issues shouldn't be on the table, why we couldn't talk about coming to agreements that would get rid of these symbolic elements of the problems in the relationship.

Perhaps that part of the confidence-building that would be constructive, but I don't know whether that is actually the case, since I am now out of the government. The same is true for the first -- the first question. I am not working in the U.S. government, so I'm not sure what is going on between the ISI and the CIA. I can only say that in the broader policy agreement -- agreements, broader policy issue that's at play here, the more that the leadership of American policy -- whether that's American military, intelligence, or foreign policy leaders -- talk with their counterparts, the more likely they are to be able to smooth out those kinds of levels of mistrust, which traditionally have bedeviled the relationship.

Or you know quite well that there have been these narratives in Pakistani-American relations which have been very, very powerful, with the public and with leaders, the level that Americans somehow use Pakistanis and throw them away, or the narrative from Americans that we give them money, and we give them a privileged relationship, and what do they do? They betray us and do terrible things.

These narratives are very pernicious. The way to deal with these narratives is to try to deal with concrete instances in which these have played out, and what I hope is that the calm element that -- the workmanlike element that I believe Nawaz Sharif is trying to inject, and I think that is reciprocated from many on the American side, is the way to get past these narratives and, indeed, get past these irritants.

MCMAHON: Thanks, Ambassador Munter. And just a reminder to those on the call, this is a CFR on-the-record media call on U.S.-Pakistan relations. And we're speaking with Cameron Munter, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and current professor of international relations at Pomona College, and CFR's senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia, Daniel Markey, who's author of the new book, "No Exit for Pakistan: America's Tortured Relationship with Islamabad."

Operator, do you have another question on the call, please?

OPERATOR: Again, if you'd like to ask a question, press star, one. Our next question comes from Ritika with Ali (ph), Associated Press -- Associated Press of Pakistan.

QUESTION: Ambassador Munter and Mr. Markey, for the second time today, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought U.S. intervention in resolving the Kashmir dispute, although -- even though there was already a polite no from the United States and a complete rejection from India, he still laid this proposal in his speech to the U.S. Peace Institute. Do you see any merit to this call? Is America in a position to resolve -- help settle this dispute?

MCMAHON: Ambassador Munter, you want to kick off?

MUNTER: Sure. I was -- I attended that speech this morning, and my understanding of the approach that I think Mr. Nawaz Sharif was talking about -- that I think is a very constructive approach -- is to deal with a number of issues in the India-Pakistan relationship, up and including Kashmir. Everything is on the table, but not necessarily looking to try to make this as the -- the litmus test of the relationship.

And I think that what is -- what is laudable about what has happened, despite the violence that's taken place over the line of control in recent days, what's laudable about the relationship is that, in fact, very quietly and very -- and very systematically -- the Indians and the Pakistanis have begun to talk about things such as trade, visa regimes, borders, those kinds of things, and it would be in my opinion very healthy for them not only to talk about things across the border, but to talk about other interests they have in common.

What do India and Pakistan think will happen in Afghanistan in 2014? And how can that be managed in such a way that the India-Pakistan situation -- that their relationship would not be more troubled by what happens, rather than less?

In other words, Kashmir is an important issue. It's one of many issues that is unresolved between Pakistan and India. It's good for it to be on the table with the other elements where they can make progress. America, in my opinion, is always willing to back up their initiatives. But it is up to the Pakistanis and the Indians to define how they choose to do it and with the support of America and other friends of both countries. I think they can make a lot of progress.

MCMAHON: Dan, on Kashmir, anything to add?

MARKEY: Yeah. In answer to just, is it constructive for the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to raise this in Washington, my short answer would be, no, I don't think it's especially constructive. I do think that it's politically expedient, that is, it's important for him to show his countrymen that Kashmir has not disappeared from the agenda and that he will raise it in international fora, including with the United States.

However, I think that there's a very strong and probably durable consensus in Washington that Kashmir is not an area where the United States wants to wade in deeply. Ambassador Munter is right. The United States is certainly willing to help with any kind of initiative that India and Pakistan would pursue on their own, but it doesn't want to pursue a role as a mediator, it doesn't want to make itself a third-party to any kind of discussion.

And, frankly, it -- you know, I think that the prime minister would be wrong to think that if the United States were to engage in that role, that he would have a strong American partner. That is, I think historically Pakistanis have seen the Americans have been more or less on their side on the Kashmir issue, or have believed that. I think in recent years, the United States sees this really not as an issue where it would take Pakistan's side, but as an issue where it would prefer that India and Pakistan resolve it on their own. And that's not going to change, regardless of what Nawaz Sharif suggests to the White House.

MCMAHON: Thanks for that question. Operator, do we have another question, please?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Mala Alarain (ph) with Al Jazeera English.

MCMAHON: Yes, please. Go ahead? I think they might have dropped off the call. Operator, is there another question, please?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Ayesha...

QUESTION: Hello, I'm here.

MCMAHON: Oh, I'm sorry. We do have the caller. Can you please go ahead with your question?

QUESTION: Sure. Thank you so much for your insights. My question is, what do you think is the role of civilian casualties from drone attacks and increasing anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and even increasing radicalization and support for some of the militant groups he's been discussing?

MCMAHON: OK. Ambassador Munter, we're back on the drone question again. Did you want to take a little stab at this one?

MUNTER: Sure, I'm happy to. Look, I think that the way that the question has been stated is a little bit brash, and I would put it more in this sense. There is a public debate about this. People are trying to get to the facts, and they're trying to find out what exactly has happened when you read the reports that are in the newspapers. People are interested in what -- how would the drone -- has the drone campaign worked? What have been the civilian casualties, et cetera?

But I think in the broader sense, the way in which this issue must be addressed is in the broader context of the war on terror and the work that both sides are doing to try to find where common ground is. The way it's been handled up until now hasn't allowed us to come to that consensus. It's emphasized, rather, the problems about uncertainty about drone warfare, about the difficulties we've had in agreeing on targets, these kinds of issues.

I think that the -- and this has led to dissatisfaction on both sides. But I think that the whole point about coming to a -- a more mature discussion between our two countries about the fight against terrorism, acknowledging that this is the greatest threat to the stability of a country that's very important to the United States, is the healthy way in which we can build a better understanding, both in private and in public, about how you fight terrorism and what the tools are that you use in the best way to make that happen. When that's not done skillfully, yes, you run into civilian dissatisfaction and anger about the way things are being handled.

MCMAHON: Dan, anything to add at this point?

MARKEY: Not too much, but I would just say, civilian casualties is certainly one of the hot-button issues in Pakistani politics. Look to Imran Khan as the individual who has sort of profited most politically by seizing upon this issue. It's instructive that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while he has certainly raised the drone issue, has not been as eager to push that particular agenda.

And civilian casualties is one piece of it, the other being the violation of Pakistan's territorial sovereignty. Together, they create a potent reason for opposition to the United States' continued use of that tactic, but they don't resolve the problem of how to address the very real threat that is international terrorism based inside of Pakistan's territory along the Afghan border. And that leaves the United States with -- in a tough bind.

So politically dangerous and difficult, and that's why we need these kind of conversations, but it doesn't in and of itself resolve the conundrum, the reason why we got into using drones in the first place.

MCMAHON: Dan, I wanted to follow on that and just ask a little bit about -- maybe Ambassador Munter could also join in -- on the ability of the Pakistani state to express -- to control this region, which has been often called the Pakistani badlands in its west and northwest area. To what extent is there Pakistani control there? And what -- what can you say about sort of the general situation on the ground?

MARKEY: Well, this is Dan Markey. I would just say, I think there was a very useful report in the New York Times that ran today describing the state of affairs in Miranshah, north Waziristan, and the discussion was basically -- the depiction of it was a heavy Taliban control in that town, and while there is a military presence nearby, it is not a military presence that actually, you know, holds the capacity to really get out and patrol and to bring order to that place.

And one of the -- one of the places that I've had a chance to visit several years ago in Bajaur agency, also in the Pakistani tribal belt, in Khar, the district headquarters, was an area which had been several months before I got there cleared of Taliban presence, but up until that point had seen Pakistani state security forces, Frontier Corps, sort of living very much walled in their compound and surrounded by heavy Taliban presence.

And so that's not the extent -- extending, really, the writ of the state. And unfortunately, that's -- that's still the reality in important parts of that tribal belt.

MCMAHON: Yeah, Ambassador Munter, anything to add?

MUNTER: Yeah, I would just add that, you know, the issue about sovereignty is a very touchy one and one that really goes to the heart of Pakistan and the confidence that Pakistan's leaders and its people have about their own legitimacy and their own viability.

But I would say this question that Dan Markey has raised is, extending the writ of the laws of your country throughout the territory of that country is in many ways the definition of sovereignty. America is in that sense, I think, a great supporter of Pakistani sovereignty. We want to see the Pakistani army, the Pakistani judiciary, those elements of the Pakistani state exercising the power that they should.

And if there's anyone who's really brazenly going past or breaking the sovereignty of Pakistan, it's the terrorists who are living openly in Miranshah, and those people are the ones who are demonstrating -- as the New York Times article said -- that this is a country that really needs to extend the writ of its own power throughout its own country. And I believe and believed during the time that I was ambassador that what America wants to do is nothing more than to see Pakistan exercise that power of its institutions throughout its own country.

MCMAHON: Thank you. I think we have time to take one more question. Operator, do we have another question on the line, please?

OPERATOR: There are no more questions at this time.

MCMAHON: All right, well, thank you. I would like to conclude this CFR on-the-record media call at this point. We've been extremely fortunate to have Cameron Munter, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, and Daniel Markey, CFR's senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia, helping to kind of walk us through the visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Washington and talk about the significance of the visit and of U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Again, this is a CFR on-the-record media call. We're concluding at this time. And thanks -- thanks to all of you for being on the line.

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