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U.S. Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan

Speakers: Richard L. Armitage, Task Force Co-Chair, Former Deputy Secretary of State, and President of Armitage International, L.C.;, and Daniel S. Markey, Task Force Director and Senior Fellow For India, Pakistan And South Asia, Council an Foreign Relations (CFR)
Presider: David Ignatius, Columnist for The Washington Post
November 12, 2010
Council on Foreign Relations

DAVID R. IGNATIUS: Good morning. Let me ask you to take your seats and we will begin. I'm David Ignatius. I'm a columnist for The Washington Post, and I'm here to moderate a discussion about a new Council on Foreign Relations task force report -- (audio break).

Here with me to give you a sense of what's in that report -- you have copies and can read it soon enough, but for a catalogue raisonne, we have Richard Armitage, on my -- on my far left, who, as you know, is a former deputy secretary of State, is now president of Armitage International, and Daniel Markey, who is the council's senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia studies, and who was the project director for this report.

We had hoped to have Sandy Berger with us as well, but unfortunately, for personal reasons, he was not able to be with us this morning.

So my hope is that in the -- this first half-hour, we can give you an idea of the report and then ask you to put your own questions to Mr. Armitage and to Dan Markey.

Let me begin by the -- with the usual injunction that you turn off your cell phones. The ISI has been asked to follow this question carefully -- (laughter) -- and intervene immediately.

I note that this session, unlike some, is on the record. So, journalists in the audience and others, feel free to take notes and report.

Let me begin, Mr. Armitage, by asking you the baseline question. What's the headline for this study you've done? What's the big take-away that you'd like us to start with?

RICHARD L. ARMITAGE: Well, after acknowledging that President Obama got a bad lie from the Bush administration regarding Afghanistan, we do salute his attempt at the surge to rectify the situation. But we support him conditionally. We feel that the president and his administration should take the time from December right up through July 2011, if necessary, to have a very deep and clear-eyed review of the situation. And if real progress is not deemed to have been made, we suggest -- a majority of us suggest that we change the mission to a much different mission, one of strict counterterror and continued training of the AN security forces.

I would note that our report has significant dissent in it, something that make Sandy Berger and I quite proud, as we had the kind of debate among ourselves that the Congress should have, the American public should have on a matter that's so important, as it involves the lives of our men and women in service, and civilian organizations.

IGNATIUS: Let me begin with the Pakistan sections of the report. You talk about the need to help Pakistan, devastated by the flood, in addition to all of its other problems, through greater humanitarian assistance. You talk about the need for greater economic engagement and economic development of Pakistan. You talk about seeking a shift in Pakistan's own strategic calculations. And the question that I was left with -- these are things that we're trying to do today. They're elements of American policy as it currently stands.

What leverage do we have to achieve more in this regard? How would you get more out of the policy machine in these ways?

ARMITAGE: Well, one could suggest this is what we're doing now and -- but the question is how effective we are.

For instance, the very excellent Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, which votes $750 billion over five years, is good if we follow through on it and develop big infrastructure projects to really help a lot of the people. But what we're suggesting is a shift in our approach to Pakistan. First of all, rather than focusing on appropriated monies in the U.S. government, we think the most -- single most efficient thing we can do for Pakistan is to give them greater access in the textile industry, which is their largest single industry. It can be done at very limited expense to us and, frankly, no harm to our own textile producers.

Second, I don't believe it's possible to get -- and I'll use the phrase "Pakistan on side" -- unless they have a pretty good understanding of what our end state is. And without understanding that end state, I think it's going to be very difficult to get them to come the distance that we want them to come.

IGNATIUS: Go ahead, Dan.

DANIEL S. MARKEY: Yeah, I would just -- just to add on this, I think Mr. Armitage has it exactly right. We want to accentuate the positive of partnership with the United States, and that includes this opening of greater trade opportunities. But at the same time, the report makes it clear that we need to take a pretty hard line on the negative side, and make some comments about the use of our intelligence apparatus and sending a very clear message about Pakistan's continued relations with some groups in particular that don't get, we believed, enough attention. And that would be Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani Network, which we believe are both extremely dangerous, increasingly dangerous. And unless Pakistan understands that they are out of bounds for the United States, we're unlikely to see shifts there.

So it's not so much just negative leverage in terms of sticks or carrots. I think the report suggests that we can do better on both ends of that spectrum.

IGNATIUS: And let me ask you, in this regard, what would be the evidence that Pakistan on these security issues was on side? Secretary Armitage, you say they're now off side. What would it -- what would it take for them to be, well, on the right side by your calculus? What would they be doing differently with the Haqqani Network, with the LeT? What --

ARMITAGE: Well, I would hope that they would see the Haqqani Network in the same way they see Pakistani Taliban, that this is ultimately a threat to them as well.

On Lashkar-e-Taiba, they have to see this as something that is -- it could be, in a single stroke, something that causes war between India and Pakistan, something that I think would delight al Qaeda no end.

And if we can't be successful in the jawboning, pressuring or sticks-and-carroting them into this, then in the long run, we're dealing with very dangerous situation.

IGNATIUS: So if that effort to encourage, prod Pakistan along the way toward a different strategic approach should fail, you say in the report that we should move away from long-term bilateral cooperation and undertake increasingly aggressive unilateral U.S. military strikes against precisely that list of adversaries. That sounds almost like going to war against Pakistan, and I want you to explain to us what it would be and what the risk would be.

ARMITAGE: Well, first of all, we don't want to go to war with Pakistan, but it's very difficult for me to see much difference between the drone attacks that we're having with some success right now and what we're suggesting.

The real difference in what we're suggesting is that we include LeT in this target list, because if the Pakistanis aren't willing to see this as a threat and indeed an existential threat to them, then we see it that way, and we're going to prosecute it.

MARKEY: I would simply add that the report does not advocate a shift in this direction. I think what it does is, it recognizes the fundamental potential for instability in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship; that there is a question of how sustainable such a relationship can be if the United States either sees, over a period of time and effort, that it's not getting progress with Pakistan, or if in one fell swoop if we were to suffer an attack from Pakistan, we would be forced to, I think, take a very different line.

And so it's a recognition of that reality, that political reality, that leads us to look at what those alternatives would have to be. It's not a desire to go there, and it's not an inherent threat or anything that we're trying to level against the Pakistanis. It's a recognition of the strategic reality that we both face and how uncomfortable that is for both sides.

IGNATIUS: Let me ask about one subsidiary issue that's been just outside the discussion about Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last two years. And that is Kashmir and whether, in some kind of ambitious regional diplomacy, the U.S. could more actively encourage the kind of dialogue between India and Pakistan over Kashmir that seems to have taken place during the Musharraf years.

And I'd ask whether you think that's realistic, whether you think India's ambition and our -- with our support to join the United Nations Security Council gives us any particular leverage on that question. But that's the three-cushion shot that gets political/military people excited. Is there any -- anything to it --

ARMITAGE: I'm starting to sweat already. (Laughter.)

IGNATIUS: (Chuckles.) Well, talk us through what the -- whether that's possible or thinkable.

ARMITAGE: Well, I'll be glad to. I think my colleagues may have some thoughts of their own, some of those who participated in this endeavor.

First of all, there's no question, in our view, that we need to be more regionally focused -- that is, to bring in the Central Asia states and China and Saudi Arabia and others, who have influence on the situation. And we haven't done that as well as we should.

On the specific question of Kashmir, I think, during the time of President Musharraf, there was some -- it was very close. It was a close thing, and the reason why I think the United States was not seen publicly as pushing one way or the other, but talking and without prejudging the outcome with both sides of the equation -- I know, because I was doing it. And I think that's the best way to encourage movement. It's possible, and I think President Musharraf showed that it was possible. But I think a public pressure on Kashmir, in my view, would have negative repercussions.

But I defer to those who are much closer. (Inaudible) -- Bob Grenier --

(Off-mike exchange.)

IGNATIUS: Ms. Schaffer, if you'd -- if you'd be willing to address this, since that's something you obviously have thought about in some detail.

TERESITA SCHAFFER (director, South Asia program, Center for Strategic and International Studies): Thanks. I'd be happy to. I really agree with what Mr. Armitage just said.

The key thing if you want a breakthrough on Kashmir is that you have to have strong governments in both India and Pakistan that are in a position to take a deal public. That is the principal ingredient that was missing during the otherwise quite successful back-channel talks during the latter part of Musharraf's time in power, which narrowed the gap but did not eliminate it. So let's not assume that the job was essentially all done.

The other issue which Mr. Armitage alluded to a bit delicately -- and I'll be less delicate -- is, if the U.S. is going to have a diplomatic role encouraging India and Pakistan to talk, they both have to be prepared to play along, which effectively means that it has to be an invisible diplomatic role; otherwise, you lose India. And India has to be part of this game.

Since then, of course, the situation has gotten much more complicated, with a whole summer of riots in Kashmir, but that, you know, opens up a different issue.

IGNATIUS: Just -- Ambassador Schaffer, as you read Indian behavior, they've had a rougher time dealing with Kashmir and a kind of intifada within Kashmir, less externally generated than sometimes in the past. Do you think that worries them enough that they would be more amenable to broader diplomatic options and perhaps U.S. assistance?

SCHAFFER: India has had periods of talks with Kashmiri separatists and periods of talks with Pakistan, and they've never happened at the same time. That's what's going on now. Insofar as the summer of trouble in Kashmir has galvanized Indian decision makers, it has been towards reopening channels to the separatists. That is, frankly, not going terribly well. But there's no inclination to bring these two processes together.

IGNATIUS: Let me now turn our discussion to the Afghanistan recommendations of this report, which are really, if anything, even starker -- and the ones on Pakistan are pretty much that way. You focus properly on the December review of policy, and you go into some detail. And I'm just going to read briefly from what the report says are the issues that the president is going to need to resolve in this review process. You say if he can't finish it December, he should keep going with it; this shouldn't be an artificial end point. But you say it should mark the start of a clear-eyed assessment of whether there is sufficient overall progress to conclude that the strategy is working. It should address some fundamental questions, including has there been a significant improvement in the capabilities of the ANSF, the Afghan national security forces?

Is momentum shifting against the insurgency in contested areas? Once NATO operations have taken place, is normal life starting to return? Is progress being made in building local security and civilian capabilities? Has the government in Kabul taken serious steps to combat corruption?

Those are the issues, obviously, the review will focus on. And I think we'd all be interested in your sense of -- based on what you know, of initial judgments and thoughts about those issues.

ARMITAGE: Well, first of all, on the training of the ANSF, I think Lieutenant General Bill Caldwell and his colleagues have done a magnificent job. And they've certainly encouraged greater recruitment, and they've got people trained at higher levels. So you have more people trained. The question is, what are they going to do with that training? Will they stand and do their job, or will they walk away when things get tough? That's a judgment I'll leave to people in the field.

The question of our erratic partnership with the Karzai government is a -- is a real one. Does the president and do his colleagues feel that we can actually get a commitment from the Karzai government to be more helpful in this endeavor?

The development of human capital: This is the biggest single lack, I think, that we face in Afghanistan. It's fine to have an operation in Marja, for instance, and our troops can clear and hold and do all of that. But the question is, can anyone govern? To make an assessment that would simply be based on something like: We can turn "X" province over to the Afghan security forces is insufficient, in my view. And it's insufficient because it begs the question of whether, after we've turned it over, the Taliban can be kept out and governance can step in. Or will people again start to prefer the swift justice of the Taliban?

And there's one thing that we always seem to overlook. We mention it in our report. And this is what I'd call, in shorthand, sustainability. We estimate that, and I think it was estimated by our administration, that it's $320 million annually that was contributed by the government of Mr. Karzai to the training of the ANSF. We estimate that the annual money needed for that and to sustain it is about 6 (billion dollars) or $7 billion. Where is it going to come from? It's not going to come from international pockets forever, so we have to really develop the internal economy. And this is something that I think ought to be part of a judgment that the president and his colleagues make as they look towards the July 2011 date.

IGNATIUS: In the runup to this December review, we've had some reporting out of Afghanistan, on occasion quoting the commander there, General Petraeus, saying that significant progress is being made in the Kandahar area as a result of our new offensive. What's your own judgment about these positive reports, based on your contacts with people and your visits to the region?

ARMITAGE: Well, I suspect we're going to get before too long an NIE on the whole question of Afghanistan. I'd be very surprised if one wasn't in preparation right now; that would be unlike our government. And I suspect it will be a little more negative than some of the public reporting -- or comments, let me put it that way -- that we've seen.

On the particular question of Kandahar, I'm, frankly, delighted that we haven't had greater loss of life. I hope it is the case that the Talibs are being whipped and I -- but I fear it's the case they might be just putting their weapons away and going away, and perhaps becoming more robust in another part of the country where we're not so active. I don't have the answer to those questions. I've got the questions. And I'm sure that these are the type questions that'll be answered by an NIE.

MARKEY: Yeah, I would just add that the timelines here are critical. I mean, this task force, remember, concluded its final version of this report about a month ago, to get ready for publication. A lot of the questions that we're asking now about the state of progress in Kandahar depend -- the answers depend a lot on how well we're deploying forces and resources that have just completed their flow into the country by the end of the summer.

So for the group to judge seemed too early, but for the group to identify what was critical -- and this issue of sustainability was absolutely essential; that it's not enough to make incremental progress, but we have to see incremental progress that turns the tide and then can be set into place for the longer term. If we don't see that, if the review does not identify that, that's where we start to have serious questions about the very basics of the strategy.

IGNATIUS: You also in your Afghanistan recommendations urged that the United States seize the political initiative in Afghanistan -- the implication is seize it from Karzai, if he's not prepared to take the political initiative himself.

This obviously is one of the toughest nuts to crack in this whole story. We have a very difficult partner in President Karzai. Could you address this question of how we go about seizing the political initiative in a -- in a country where the government appears to be so unpopular?

ARMITAGE: Yes, sir. Well, clearly there are several routes, none of them very attractive but all doable.

One is to work to a much higher degree with minority politicians. We, of course, met with minority politicians when we made our trip to Afghanistan.

One is to continue to work at a much higher level with local tribal elders. I don't mean to totally forget the role of the central government, but to at least lessen it.

And finally, I think to seize the initiative, we ought to be more involved in a discussion of reconciliation. We found reconciliation to be a very loaded word when we went to Kabul and Kandahar, because it depends what you mean by "reconciliation." If, on the one hand, the Taliban were going to reconcile to a functioning central government, that's something that I would give at least some confidence to women's groups and NGOs and minority politicians.

But on the other hand, by reconciliation, the central government is going to reconcile with the Taliban, that's quite a different issue, and it's one that scares the pants off most people, the minority, NGOs et cetera. I think we need to be more definitive about what we mean by reconciliation and more involved in that process.

MARKEY: Just on the specific point of reconciliation, I mean, what we found and what we heard repeatedly and what we've heard since is that the process of reconciliation, as it currently stands, is a very Karzai-centric process whereby he has selected those who will be involved on the Afghan side, and those who have been left out -- many of whom would be natural partners to what the United States is trying to do in Afghanistan. They feel very concerned about what the prospects for that process may be. And so you see reconciliation without a firmer U.S. hand, as it stands right now, potentially veering toward something that will be more divisive in the broader Afghan context than more inclusive. And that's something that the reports suggests that's very disconcerting.

IGNATIUS: And finally, on this question of broad recommendations -- the most important, in some ways -- what if we judge -- the president judges for the nation that the strategy is not working effectively enough by the metrics that we've discussed? You recommend an alternative approach that could be chosen in Afghanistan, if that judgment is made. And perhaps you could -- you could lay that out for us in a little bit of detail.

ARMITAGE: As we offer up a strategy -- an alternative strategy, which is with risks, and we acknowledge this. The president's strategy has risks and our proposed strategy of more concentrating on counterterror and continued training has risks associated with it.

It also has a few benefits. For instance, we'll -- one way or the other, we're going to have a somewhat smaller footprint with the president. If the president judges the strategy is working, then he can begin in July to withdraw on a conditions-based situation as some of his lieutenants have suggested.

If on the other hand it's -- he judges it's not working, I would hope that he'd make a more significant drawdown and change our presence to one of counterterror and use the drones and use our more limited force to be effective in these counterterror operations. And one of the benefits of this is we would actually be less dependent on Pakistan, because our logistics needs would be smaller. And I think this is not a bad thing if we, as I say, can't get Pakistan on side.

And be clear. We cannot be successful in Afghanistan if we can't get a changed attitude from Pakistan. At least that's my view. I won't attribute that to everybody. I think Bob Grenier is certainly there.

IGNATIUS: Dan, do you want to --

MARKEY: Yeah, I would just say this was an issue upon which we had a number of dissents. And as Mr. Armitage has said, that was, by our estimate, a strength of the process. And if I could take the liberty of opening it to one of our other members in the front row, is that --

IGNATIUS: I'd like to do that. I thought as a -- as a preface perhaps Rich Armitage would like to just speak a bit more about the dissent process and then perhaps Bob Grenier could voice his own dissent, which is quite an interesting one.

ARMITAGE: Well, let me start with Ambassador Schaffer. She generally concurred with the report but made an excellent point about the need to have the private sector much more involved. And this is something that we have overlooked certainly in Pakistan, and we need to be better on that.

Bob Grenier has said, which he can speak to himself, was one, I think, probably based on his own experience. He thinks that -- if I can paraphrase -- we're not -- this strategy is not going to succeed, and we're not succeeding right now, and we need to go to counterterror. And we'll be to you in just a minute, Bob.

You know, Mike Krepon (ph) didn't agree with almost anything in the report, but it was because of something that you alluded to: He thought that Pakistan -- if they didn't come to an understanding of the situation and their need to be on side from their own self-interest, then we couldn't coerce them into it or push them into it or carrot them into it.

And finally, the first and leading dissent was one on prejudging what the president should do in July. Several of our members thought that if things were not more positive in July, that was a very negative indicator, but that we shouldn't be in the business of prejudging what the president does or doesn't do. And that's fair up to a point, but the fact is we are all citizens, we're all watching this, and it's -- there is a real question how sustainable this is, absent, after 10 years, being able to show some signs of progress.

IGNATIUS: Bob Grenier, former senior CIA officer with a lot of experience in that part of the world, I gather that you have fundamental questions about the viability of what we're doing in Afghanistan. Perhaps you could lay those out and then your thought about an alternative.

ROBERT GRENIER (former CIA officer): Yes, and I do have very serious reservations about the -- particularly about the sustainability of what we're doing. I think it really comes down to a point that Mr. Armitage made very eloquently, and that really has to do with sustainability, both on the U.S. and the Afghan side.

I think that the U.S. effort has focused primarily on a top-down approach, building up -- focusing on the Karzai government, building up the institutions of a strong central government, particularly the Afghan National Army. For the reasons that Mr. Armitage just pointed out, I don't think that that's sustainable. The Afghan government does not have, will not have the resources to maintain this effort or to sustain such progress as we make in building up a huge national army.

Similarly, the U.S. effort, which I think needs to continue on, cannot continue on at this level of material and human resources. It's very clear that the current approach is not going to be able to succeed on the timeline that we've given it. I think we've seen enough and we need to shift, in essence, to plan B.

IGNATIUS: And do you want to say a bit more about what plan B should be, in your judgment, or what's doable?

GRENIER: Well, in our recommendation we really haven't dotted Is and crossed Ts in terms of what that alternative strategy would actually look like. And again, as Mr. Armitage has pointed out, many of these judgments really need to be made by people in the field. It's very difficult for us to come to those sorts of detailed conclusions from this remove.

That said, I think that we need to be focused, yes, on continuing to train an Afghan National Army, but a much smaller, hopefully more capable but still much smaller Afghan army, one which can actually be sustained by an Afghan economy that we could conceivably see in the out years.

I think that our effort therefore needs to be shifted much more to a bottom-up approach. We need to be focusing on tribal leaders who have real weight in their -- in their districts and their provinces. That is primarily a special-forces mission, not a conventional-forces mission. And therefore I think that we can make slow, incremental process (sic) over time with a much smaller U.S. footprint, much lower investment in U.S. human and material resources.

It's going to take many, many years, and therefore the U.S. effort needs to be resourced at a level that we can actually maintain for many years. If we're not willing to do that, it's better for us to fold our tent and leave now.

IGNATIUS: So thanks to all four of you for that introduction to the report. It is a very thoughtful, careful and, I must say, painful report to read, because these are really tough choices.

I want to turn now to the audience for your questions. Please wait for the microphone; identify yourself and any affiliation. And we'll look for hands. Yes, that gentleman there.

QUESTIONER: Good morning. My name is Knox Thames. I'm with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

In your presentation and a quick perusal of your report, I don't see much mention of human rights and how the U.S. can be promoting this effectively as part of our strategy in both countries. And secondly, another question. Considering the dynamic of religion and how it animates many of the actors that we're confronting, did the task force consider ways the United States could engage the religious dynamic to help promote our long-term goals?

Thank you.

ARMITAGE: Well, we certainly in our conversations and in our report acknowledged the role of NGOs that they have, and the -- I think I've mentioned already the fear of women's rights groups to sacrifice the small gains they've already made in the reconciliation proces. And that's -- at heart, that's a human right. So from my point of view, this is very much part of our report. I didn't quite catch the second half. Perhaps you did, Dan.

MARKEY: The extent to which religion plays into the broader dynamic in the region.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

MARKEY: Yeah, that -- you're right, that wasn't a central element of the report. I mean, I think that we all come into this with -- we all, as group members, came into this with an understanding of the context in which we're playing in this environment. But I don't think that -- since the report is primarily based on a question of what can the U.S. government do -- and that's the fundamental question that we ask, what should our strategy be -- for better or for worse, the United States government is not well-positioned to play on religious issues. I think that was probably driving a lot of this. It's -- it may not be the right tool, and it wasn't something that was central to the argument that we had. But this debate will continue.

IGNATIUS: Yes, please.

QUESTIONER: Bill Courtney, retired diplomat.

Countries to the north and especially Russia have expressed concern about narcotics flowing to the north. What do you think is the right balance in terms of the emphasis to a counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan, and what would you like to see to the north in terms of counternarcotics cooperation facilitated by the EU, NATO, OSE and others?

ARMITAGE: Thank you. Ambassador Courtney, the -- is asking a question the answer to which he fully knows, having served in Central Asia and having some, I'm sure, strong views. I don't know what the balance is in terms of how much of our effort, but we have to have an effort directed against narcotics, in my view. We did see a bit of a blowback when we had the Russian participation because the narcotic flow that I think you're referring to, Bill, what comes up through Tajikistan and right into Moscow at the end of the day. So they've got a -- they've got skin in the game.

Now, how much effort we ought to put on it, I would defer to General Petraeus and his colleagues right now, see how much that detracts from other areas of endeavor.

MARKEY: Yeah, I would say the report may be interesting on the counternarcotics angle to the extent that it really folds that into the question of counterinsurgency. The fundamental thrust of the report is that narcotics is a flow of corruption, a flow of money, and something that has to be treated within the larger question of how do you address this raging insurgency in Afghanistan, not something that could be addressed apart from that. But there are, as I think you've identified, great opportunities for cooperation in the region -- to the north, but also potentially, I think members of the group mentioned Iran -- this is an area of convergence in our interests -- and certainly with respect to Pakistan.

So there are things that we can do in the region, but we should not lose sight of how narcotics needs to be -- or counternarcotics needs to be fitted into our broader counterinsurgency effort.

IGNATIUS: I want to call on this gentleman here, and then the lady after -- (inaudible).

QUESTIONER: Hi, Dennis Kux from the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Turning to your comments on what if things -- put it this way. What if Pakistan doesn't get onside? And I take it your response is that we ought to unilaterally start drone attacks against the LeT. You didn't mention the Afghan Taliban. Should that be included also? There's a question mark. And then, what do we do if we cross a Pak red line and they shut down the transport link, the transit route across Pakistan?

ARMITAGE: They -- if they shut down the transit route again?


ARMITAGE: Yes. Just to make a point. We -- it's not totally necessary that drone strikes are the only weapon you have against LeT or, for that matter, the Haqqani network.

The Afghan Taliban and the Quetta shura and all of that, my own view is we ought to use all means necessary to root them out if we can't get assistance from Pakistan.

And why do I say this? LeT is trouble. As I've already indicated, if they have one more strike, another Mumbai-type attack, I do not think the Indian government can be held back. But they're also in Afghanistan. They're killing us. I take it personally.

IGNATIUS: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTIONER: Hi, I'm Julia Fromholz with Human Rights First. I have a question. I don't know -- I haven't even had a chance to skim this or I don't know if it's covered in here. But one of the -- one of the problems I see with -- or one of the challenges to dramatically changing a strategy is how it plays at home, because we've already spent nine years there, there are thousands of much lives lost, much treasure spent.

And how -- did you cover at all, or consider how you -- how you introduce this to a domestic audience, and get -- and how the administration would be able to get people to back this without thinking that the past nine years have been for naught?

ARMITAGE: Well, we started with the hand we were dealt. I mean, if you'd ask us individually whether we liked a July 2011 date to start withdrawing, I think my answer would no. I don't want to give the enemy any more information than they need, which is zero. But we didn't have that luxury to go second-guess that. That was already given to us.

But it has led to a perception of perhaps some shortness of breath on the part of the United States in the region. And I think this is one of the things that we needed to discuss even more greatly with the Pakistanis, though we have done it in the last -- as I understand it, in the last couple of strategic dialogues.

We're not and should not be in the business of winning domestic support. We acknowledge the importance of it, and we acknowledge the unsustainability, as Bob has just said, of the present course, absent being able to show some progress. And I think that's just common sense. We have a lot of problems.

And there's also a backdrop to all of this, and that is thank God we've been successful and the international community has been somewhat successful in stopping about a dozen attempted terrorist attacks. And we've done it with law enforcement, and we've done it with intelligence, and we certainly have disrupted with our military. We think that in that there is the ability to fashion something that will meet the approval of the Congress and the people. But we didn't specifically enumerate all the different elements.

MARKEY: Yeah, I would only add that it -- to draw your attention to the conclusion of the report where I think it addresses the question of the need for public support, the acknowledgement that this has been a long war and a long struggle. And it -- instead of cutting into it as we would need to reshape public opinion, it is working in a democratic society we need to be responsive to public opinion. We need to recognize what the constraints are on U.S. foreign policy and defense policy and respond to those.

But it also calls for a certain amount of leadership and a -- and a demonstration that if we can succeed, we need to keep at this. I think the report -- we shouldn't short-change the fact that the report suggests that it supports an approach, if it shows signs of progress.

IGNATIUS: Let me intervene with a question of my own, and then I'll turn back to you in the audience. In recent days, senior U.S. officials, military and civilian, have been speaking about a 2014 time frame for the deployment of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in part, one assumes, to deal with this perception of shortness of breath in the region and the corresponding actions that people have taken.

Do you think that's wise and appropriate; 2014 obviously is the time frame that Karzai himself has established for transition to Afghan control and the departure of foreign forces. Is it -- do you think it's appropriate for us to be endorsing that and saying, "Yeah, we'll be on the ground until 2014?"

ARMITAGE: Well, I think we're a bit pregnant on this issue because our NATO allies are involved. We've had discussions with them, and I think this is more of a consensus -- as I understand it, a consensus date. And it does key off the president of Afghanistan's own comments that the security situation should be in such state that Afghan forces can take that over. So I think it's a better part of wisdom to just embrace it. And it does get to that shortness of breath question, Mr. Ignatius.

QUESTIONER: So should we understand the Council on Foreign Relation to be recommending in its report that U.S. forces, in whatever configuration, should remain until 2014?

ARMITAGE: We didn't address that. There's certainly a -- we've discussed in the counterterror the need to continue training ANSF, and that would necessitate a certain amount of both force protection and trainers. So I guess implicitly we do, but I don't remember explicitly putting it in.

IGNATIUS: Let me turn back to the audience. Yes, please.

QUESTIONER: Phil Auerswald -- Phil Auerswald, George Mason University and the Kennedy School's Belfer Center.

When you're holding a tiger by the tail, one thing you might try to do rather than strengthen the tiger is give it something else to do. So in the case of Pakistan in particular, we have a situation where yesterday in Karachi, as we know, 18 people were killed in the latest bomb attack. Eighteen million people weren't. And there's really a -- never -- there's no country in the world that's developed with aid and military assistance as a pathway to democracy. What has worked is entrepreneurship and private-sector development.

So I'm wondering why a U.S. strategy for development in Pakistan doesn't reflect what's worked in the United States and what's worked elsewhere in the world, which is the sort of thing we're doing with OPIC in seeding an entrepreneurial support fund, and why that isn't points one, two and three in our strategy in Pakistan.

ARMITAGE: I think it's not one, two or three because people, as I've suggested, are trying to kill us from Pakistan, but it certainly is a point well worth including. In fact, Ambassador Schaffer's excellent observation was that we need to develop this more and more and more.

Let's look at what we've got in Pakistan. You have a nation of 177 million or so people who are extraordinarily young, 20, 21 years of age, the average age or median age, who, whether under martial law or under democracy, have not gotten the governance they need. And the entrepreneurs, primarily in Karachi, who have succeeded have done it in spite of successive governments.

So we're starting from way behind -- or let's put it this way: Our Pakistani friends are starting way behind in terms of the length of the journey they have to go. But you're pushing on an open door with us.

MARKEY: Yeah, I would simply add -- I mean, the report does, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, make a case for emphasis on supporting and driving public -- private-sector activity as being fundamental to development there, both political development and economic development. You're not going to see it otherwise. I think there's a line in there about how U.S. assistance, whatever it is for Pakistan, a billion and a half a year, could be better used, but it will never be enough to fundamentally turn the tide unless you see millions of Pakistanis taking advantage of it and then turning it to the private side.

ARMITAGE: We had a rather robust discussion of the following. Given the growth rate of Pakistan, if they enjoyed the 2-percent growth rate the United States enjoyed, it would be a death sentence for Pakistan. That's the enormity of the problem.

IGNATIUS: Yes -- yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: Good morning. Christopher Swift, Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia. The report does a very good job, I think, of summarizing the state-centric challenges we face, both here in the United States in terms of our policy with respect to Pakistan and with respect to Afghanistan.

The thing I haven't seen in the report is a deep dive into the non-state actors, specifically the Taliban. I'm wondering, given the emphasis on counterinsurgency and the proposed alternative of the lighter-footprint counterterrorism approach, which Taliban are we talking about? How do we tell the difference between them? And most importantly, what criteria should the United States and its allies be using in distinguishing limited spoilers, in dollar-a-day Taliban, from the total spoilers in the Quetta shura?

ARMITAGE: Well, I think that -- I'll take a run at it. I think what General Petraeus -- as I understand, what his strategy is directed at is to get the rent-a-Talibans out of the business; otherwise employ them, otherwise occupy them, direct their attention elsewhere. I think it's pretty hard, however, because I think most of us, most Americans, would acknowledge, notwithstanding how much experience we might have had in South Asia, that we didn't understand entirely what was going on.

So to some extent, we've been playing catch-up ball in understanding the tribal dynamics, to understand the motivations of the Taliban. Now, for me -- I was involved in the beginning of this, and we did approach the Taliban, and we did talk to them about perhaps just getting out of the way, and we were totally rebuffed.

And that's when they came into our target set. And to my knowledge, no significant Taliban has wanted to remove themselves yet from the target set. So I think it's pretty hard to try to figure out who -- which is a good Talib and a bad Talib these days.

MARKEY: Let me add that the report notes -- sounds a significant alarm -- and I think this point was somewhat already made -- but with respect to the increasing coming together of various groups -- including LeT, including Haqqani Network -- in ways that are more internationally threatening than they might have been five years ago or 10 years ago. And that's a shift that I think should be emphasized in the context of this report.

ARMITAGE: It's -- and I won't belabor this, but it's taken us, I think, quite a while to finally realize that we are fighting a flat enemy, not a hierarchical enemy. And flat enemies take a different approach. And I think General Petraeus and General McMaster and others have got it now, and that we get it. But it took us a long time to get to that point.


QUESTIONER: Thank you. Peter Rosenblatt, Heller and Rosenblatt.

It seems that General Musharraf is back again. Any comments? (Laughter.)

ARMITAGE: Well, I would like to answer you at 1:30, because I'm having lunch with him today at 12:00. (Laughs, laughter.)

Yes, he's back. He's been speaking out on "Larry King" and other things. He -- I guess, in most endeavors there are second lives, and perhaps in political life there's a second act. But I'll look forward to seeing what he has to say.

IGNATIUS: Yes, Ambassador Schaffer.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. I was struck by a couple of things that Rich Armitage said, and I wonder if I could persuade him to delve a little bit more deeply. The comment he made was that we can't get Pakistan on-side unless they're comfortable with the end state we're looking at. And yet, there is a clear difference in at least priorities, and perhaps objectives, between ourselves and Pakistan on that score. Their objective is to have what they refer to as a friendly state -- which looks suspiciously like a client state. Is -- and they have shown the will to go after that, among other things, by picking up one of the relatively few senior Taliban figures who looked like he was freelancing in discussions with President Karzai.

So how do we mesh our concept of a happy ending in Afghanistan, of a successful end state, with Pakistan's? Is there -- is there a version that's going to be acceptable to both? It seems to me that both potentially face fairly severe discrepancies from what they'd like to see, and that this is probably the most fundamental problem, political problem, that we face.

ARMITAGE: Well, I certainly can be corrected by those who are smarter on these matters than I, but I felt that we were in a pretty good place -- relatively good place -- with Pakistan from 2001 to 2005. I see Ambassador Nancy Powell there; she was front and center, in charge of these matters at the time. And one of the reasons we did is I think we had a pretty clear dialogue with Pakistan about exactly what we were doing and exactly why we were doing it.

Around, in my view, the 2005 time frame, ISI and others started to think: Well, maybe the coalition isn't going to prevail, or maybe they'll be short of breath, and all this other stuff. And they went back to a more traditional approach: defense in depth, et cetera, et cetera, against India.

Lately, we've been -- as I understand, the United States has been pressuring Pakistan to try to do something about the Haqqani Network. I raised this with visitors from Pakistan during the Strategic Dialogue, when they stopped by to see me. They were very clear that: We're not going to be pressurizing the Haqqani Network until we know exactly what your end state is.

And if your end state is one that's going to leave the place open to civil war at some point in the future -- not tomorrow, but three, four, five years from now -- you're right, Pakistan isn't going to play, because they know that others are going to involve themselves in that civil war. It won't just be Tajik and Pashtun and Hazara and Uzbeks; it'll be others, using them as surrogates.

So I think it starts with making sure they know how far we're going to go in our pressuring of the Haqqani Network. And what we can reasonably expect from them, given if we can get by and into our end state, I don't think we've got that yet. And I think we talk past each other a good bit. That's just my view.

IGNATIUS: Yes. Yes, please.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Tom Lynch from the National Defense University.

First, let me commend the report. As several others in the audience will know, it's a year ago that many of us kind of were coming to the end of a process where we were inside a review of our own, looking at these things. And some of that is reported and some of it's not in Mr. Woodward's book. But I commend the panel here for getting to the majority of the issues that are involved there.

That leads me to a follow-on that was very pregnant last year when this was all being reviewed, and that is highlighted in the last couple of questions, and I think still isn't really resolved in the report in a manner that's clear. So I'd ask for some clarification. When you talk about, as I think, correctly, the Pakistanis (needing ?) to understand the U.S. end-state -- but we talk about in the report a process that may lead us to July of '11, and having to go to a counterterrorist, less-heavy footprint, less engaged, positive approach to the two countries. How does that give the Pakistanis any comfort that we are not going to again leave them, abandon them to an Afghanistan that's going to have civil war? And, more importantly, the report says we would have less exposure to the Pakistanis in that type of environment potentially.

Can you justify or rationalize that against the potential that the ISI would have to say, "Hey, we're going to make it darn difficult for anybody associated with U.S. light footprint in Afghanistan to continue on in that vein if they are going to put us in a position of if not being the enemy, at least being not one that we're calling onside?"

ARMITAGE: Well, we don't call for a cessation of our assistance to Pakistan, or staying away from the entrepreneurship that was brought up by our friend from George Mason. On the contrary, that continues. We do suggest that if we go to a somewhat yet-to-be-defined smaller footprint and we'd concentrate on counterterror, in my view, that's counterterror everywhere, including Haqqani network and LeT.

You know, it's not impossible -- one time the Pakistanis were whistling in the graveyard about Pakistani Taliban, and we were talking to them and talking to them about it. And finally they woke up because it became a threat to the state. The Taliban and the Haqqani network in our view represents an ultimate threat to the state. And I don't think it's beyond the ken of our military and diplomats to bring this home to the Pakistanis.

But key to it all is at least a general understanding in Pakistan that we're not looking at another 10-year divorce. Otherwise, they'll absolutely go their own way. And one of the dissents that we have by Michael Krepon was just that, that if they can't be brought to understand it's in their interest, you can't coerce them, the Pakistanis, into doing something.

IGNATIUS: Yes, all the way in the back, please. Yes, the woman with her hand up.

QUESTIONER: Good morning. I'm Catherine Dale from the Congressional Research Service. And let me first of all congratulate the task force on a great report and some really provocative discussion this morning. And from my perspective, the discussion this morning, like the report, has been very rich in terms of ways and means, current approaches and also potential alternatives.

But it can be difficult to think about what progress really means unless you're measuring against a very clear end-state. And so my question for the -- for the panelists this morning is about those ends, specifically for Afghanistan. How good a job do you think that the U.S. government has done in defining a clear end-state?

And then what -- how ought we think about the end-state in Afghanistan? What are the minimum conditions we would actually have to see on the ground in order for Afghanistan, with some international support, to be ability to sustain stability? Thanks very much.

ARMITAGE: Well, I think the president at least twice to my ears has been very clear about what he considers our mission, which then talks to the end-state, the mission of -- what is it, dismantling, destroying -- what was the other? Disrupting, dismantling and destroying al Qaeda, and unfortunately because we feel, most of us feel that the Talibs have -- are more -- are still more inclined to be hospitable to the Talibs, and we can't be -- to the al Qaeda. We can't be sure that absence (sic) our endeavors in Afghanistan they won't again welcome al Qaeda. We find that disarray there is still a threat to the United States. And that leads me to something short of nation-building as an end-state, but something somewhat north of simply just counterterrorism.

So I don't -- I can't define it any better yet without knowing what the facts on the ground actually are. I'm personally looking forward very much to an NIE on this subject because I think we'll -- given some of the history -- bad history of NIEs in the past that our intelligence agencies are going to pay a lot of attention to this issue. And I happen to know Jim Clapper pretty well, and I can guarantee you he's the type of guy who's going to pay a lot of attention. And he'll call whatever it is whatever it is in straight GI language.

MARKEY: If I could just add on that, the report does have a section on U.S. objectives. It notes that in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, our objectives appear to have waxed and waned over the last decade. And I -- and I think that's useful, because it -- I -- it basically lays out the spectrum of potential objectives that we might have at the maximum, at the minimum.

I think the report concludes specifically on the Afghanistan side at a very relatively low bar, which is essentially, as Mr. Armitage has suggested, a situation on equilibrium in Afghanistan where Afghans with a relatively low level of outside assistance can fend off the prospect of international terrorism -- rerouting itself in the country.

So this is not the expansive view of democracy building and state building, although we would, of course, like that. And the report makes that clear. We would like -- we would all like to see that. But what is the realistic prospect for that, in the near term, is open to great question. So it sets the bar at a -- at a lower level.


QUESTIONER: Jason Murtolmay (ph), United States Air Force. Sir, my question is related to the future. If there was a successful attack that emanated from this region on the -- on U.S. homeland, how would you or the task force see that being a game changer for our current strategy?

ARMITAGE: Well, if it -- if it came from Pakistan -- if it came from Afghanistan, I think we'd be continuing our efforts in Afghanistan. If (it's come ?) from Pakistan -- you saw our leaders speak about this directly -- and the near miss in the Times Square bombing is what precipitated the comments -- that Pakistan's government would be held to account.

Now what the U.S. government then does, I don't know. I don't know. But I think there's no fooling around on this matter of terrorism, at least in the minds of Mr. Gates and Ms. Clinton and certainly the president.

MARKEY: Yeah, the report is clear, that it's not simply a question of whether the attack comes from Pakistan, but what does Pakistan do in response. That's the critical question. So it's not just because there's an attack, it's when we -- if we have confidence that they're not doing what they need to do, then, as Mr. Armitage said, there's no fooling around. That's (exactly right ?).

ARMITAGE: And I think what the secretary of State said, there will be consequences. And I took her at her word. I thought she was serious.

IGNATIUS: We have time for just a couple of more questions. I would recognize this gentleman and this gentleman. Let's get both questions and then let our speakers conclude.

QUESTIONER: I'm Rob Cortel (sp) from Antelecs (ph). I have three of my company on the ground in Karachi, and yesterday they were three blocks from the explosion the gentleman referenced, and we're moving them around to get them to some vision of safety, which we don't know what it is.

But I want to identify with his remarks and Ambassador Schaffer's. Throughout the Middle East, where I've been, in Palestine or Jordan or now Pakistan and Iraq and other places, the business sector is really completely left out of the dialogue. They -- yet they have -- and therefore they have to operate on a totally different track. They work around the governments, and the governments ignore them in return. I just would like to urge you to contemplate an actual strategy about business, which, by the way, is not just entrepreneurial; it's also big business, medium-sized business, existing business, American business. So I don't know what the shape of that would be, but you really need a full strategy.

ARMITAGE: I think we fully agree with you, and you've articulated it very well.

MARKEY: Yeah. There -- one point the report makes in the Pakistan context, it identifies -- there's a section on working with Pakistani partners, and it includes Pakistani businessmen as a central component there, recognizing that our U.S. government outreach to those groups in particular is far less than what it ought to be. So that's -- complements this, but we don't disagree.

IGNATIUS: I would just note as a point of information that to my mind, it is a scandal that a simple piece of legislation aimed at encouraging investment in the tribal areas, the reconstruction opportunity zone bill, has been hung up now for more than two years in what, to my mind, are the pettiest of political differences. You could -- you could -- you could argue that something broader that goes to textiles as a whole is a better idea. But it's just -- it's astonishing, given our national security risks, that this simple piece of legislation is being caught in the gridlock.

Final question from this gentleman.

QUESTIONER: First, thank you for that last comment. I'm told by people who know this field that the exports from Pakistan to the U.S. are things that we don't even make anymore. So it's not as though we're disrupting jobs here if we were to let ROZ go through. Although it's been criticized as being in the -- in the FATA, that's not going to probably work. It probably has to be (someone ?) else.

But that's -- my point -- actually my -- reason I raised my hand was to speak to the other gentleman. And thank you.

What did you mean? Could you please clarify: We will hold Pakistan accountable if there's a New York City Times Square type of thing happening? First of all, how do you draw the line between that and the government? And if you don't mean the government, what do you mean? How do we hold Pakistan accountable? What is the way we do that?

ARMITAGE: I had a poor formulation. Of course it's the government to hold accountable. And I'm simply repeating the words of our -- senior members of our administration, trying to make the point to the government of Pakistan that they, as I said earlier, have skin in this game, and if we get hit from Pakistan, it's their problem. I certainly didn't mean to hold individual citizens of Pakistan to account.

What that accounting is and how deep it goes and what it consists of would be something I would imagine, and in fact know, that the administration would determine at the time. I had a poor formulation.

IGNATIUS: That brings us to the end of our hour. I think you've gotten a good preview of the report. Now you can all go home and read it.

Thank you very much to our speakers. (Applause.)

MR. : And to our moderator.







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