Media Conference Call: Osama bin Laden Killed

Media Conference Call: Osama bin Laden Killed

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Terrorism and Counterterrorism


OPERATOR: Excuse me, everyone, and thank you for your patience in holding. We now have our speakers in conference. Please be aware that each of your lines is in a listen-only mode. At the conclusion of the presentation we will open the floor for questions. At that time instructions will be given if you would like to ask a question.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Robert McMahon.

Mr. McMahon, please begin.

ROBERT MCMAHON: Thank you, Operator. And thanks, everyone, for your patience. Welcome to this Council on Foreign Relations media conference call. The topic is the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in Pakistan. And we are very fortunate to have with us today CFR President Richard Haass and Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose to discuss what this means for the struggle against global terrorism, the war in Afghanistan and U.S. relations with the greater Middle East, among other issues.

I'm going to start by asking Richard and Gideon to make some opening remarks about bin Laden's killing, and then we will follow up and get to your questions right away.

Richard, could you lead off, please?

RICHARD N. HAASS: Sure. Thanks, Bob.

I'll keep this short so we can get to the questions pretty quickly.

The killing of bin Laden was important for several reasons, I would suggest, in part because he has become, over the last decade or even longer, a significant icon in the -- in the world for having successfully carried out a strike against the United States. And it's important -- it was important, it is important for this to have happened, for him to have been killed, and may even have something of a positive demonstration effect in the sense that hopefully some existing terrorists may reconsider their line of work. Or it might even persuade or discourage, rather, some would-be terrorists from choosing this as a line of work, because it just reminds them that what goes around can come around.

That said, there's no decapitation, if you will, of the terrorism threat. It's because of the decentralized nature of terrorism. And bin Laden in some ways was almost like a venture capitalist, spreading money around. And the fact that he now is gone doesn't change the reality that there's all sorts of successors within al-Qaida and there's all sorts of other groups in addition to al-Qaida. And as a result, we are still going to face all sorts of challenges in terms of taking on those who are -- who are terrorists, about ways of reducing our vulnerability to terrorism and continuing to prepare for the consequences of terrorism if it should ever be successful.

Indeed, on that last point, it seems to me that we have to be prepared for some efforts to demonstrate that terrorism is still a viable option. So it's almost certainly a good thing that warning and the like will probably be increased.

It's impossible to talk about this and not say one or two things about Pakistan. All along, there's been questions of Pakistani commitment to the struggle against terrorism. I think there's been questions about the willingness of some parts of the Pakistani government to support the effort. Indeed, at times, elements of the Pakistani government appear to have been on the wrong side of this effort, which I would think explains the apparent decision by the U.S. side not to share any operational details with the Pakistanis. And also, there's a lack of capacity in Pakistan, even on those occasions when there is the will to do the right thing.

And the fact that the United States did this essentially unilaterally I think is telling. It comes against the context of years of continuity in our policy in the sense that the importance of carrying out a large counterterrorism strategy is something that now has gone on for longer than a -- longer than a decade. It arguably spans now three presidencies: Clinton, Bush and Obama. But I do think that one of the messages to take away from this is that against that backdrop of continuity is a somewhat greater willingness for the United States to act independently when it is warranted.

And in the case of Pakistan, which is at best a limited partner -- and at times, the emphasis is more on the word "limited" and then "partner" -- I think it is -- it is unfortunately -- it is unfortunately essential.

There was something of a moment of truth with Pakistan after 9/11 when the Bush administration at the time had a heart-to-heart conversation with the Pakistanis. And I would simply say that whatever the results of that, they were incomplete. And I would think that, again, the question of where Pakistan stands in this whole effort has come to the fore. And the Pakistanis traditionally have argued that their shortcomings are largely a reflection of capacity and capability. But again, I think it strains credulity here to say that some Pakistani officials did not know what was going on in the suburbs of Islamabad.

So, again, I think this also raises questions of will and the orientation of elements of the Pakistani government. So it suggests to me that this long, flawed and difficult relationship will be entering yet another difficult phase moving forward.

Last point, and then I'll turn it over to Gideon, is this does demonstrate the value of counterterrorism operations in the tactical sense. And I believe it raises then questions about our strategy in Afghanistan. To me, it shows the continued promise of tactical counterterrorism operations, and it reinforces also the question of whether the course we're on, which has a large element of nation building and capacity building and counterinsurgency with Afghanistan, whether that can succeed given, again, the willingness of Pakistan to provide sanctuary for at least the Afghan Taliban, not to mention others.

So my sense is that this will very much play into a growing debate as we move towards July 1 about the proper trajectory of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and in general, but more specifically about the rate of drawdown in U.S. forces beginning July 1.

I'm sorry. One last point. I apologize.

I think this is -- and coming back to where I began, it's an important accomplishment in what the United States was able to do here. And I think -- you know, I'll leave the politics to others, but I do think that this is something that could potentially have positive repercussions, if you will, that go beyond the narrow consideration or concerns of simply terrorism and counterterrorism.

So why don't I leave it with that, and turn to Gideon Rose.

MCMAHON: Thanks, Richard.

Gideon, lots of threads to pick up, or your own separate vector? Please go ahead.

GIDEON ROSE: Well, I want to get to questions too, so I'll just -- I'll just hit and -- chip in a couple of points.

With regard to the counterterrorism/counterinsurgency debate that Richard was talking about and how large a footprint has to be and so forth, one of the things the counterinsurgency or the larger footprint people keeping telling the counterterrorist types is, well, you need the larger footprint in order to get the intelligence to make the counterterrorism things work.

So I think that one of the things that'll be very interesting to follow as we go forward is to try and see what we learn about where the intelligence came from that made this strike possible, because if it turns out that the intelligence that allowed this strike to succeed didn't have anything to do with the larger presence, then yeah, I think Richard's point is valid, which is this seems like a good victory for the -- a smaller footprint, lighter footprint counterterrorism approach.

If on the other hand, you know, there's some case that can be made that it's the product of a much larger set of operations, then it doesn't necessarily answer that long-running debate.

I guess the only thing I would add before turning it over to questions is I think this is a huge accomplishment, obviously a very significant day; but I think it actually is more important symbolically than practically. There are not going to be that many fewer terrorists tomorrow than there were yesterday. The challenges aren't going to be dramatically different tomorrow than they were yesterday, in terms of actual counterterrorism/war on terror strategy. And also, that it's actually much more important for us than it is for the enemy. In other words, bin Laden was a symbolic leader. He was the figurehead of the movement. He will go to being a martyr, where he will still inspire some people.

And what it really does is in some ways allow many Americans some degree of closure and give us a chance to move slightly past the incredibly fraught, incredibly strange and heated decade that we have just gone through in which the specter of 9/11 and terrorism and follow-on attacks and -- has dominated basically everything the United States has done in the world over the last decade. And given how many other challenges there are and given how many issues have nothing to do with the greater Middle East, let alone the war on terror, I think that this gives, in effect, some license for American foreign policy and American opinion to close the chapter a little bit and move on to other things and start acting seriously as a power in the world in other ways that have nothing to do with everything being brought back to terrorism and so forth.

In that sense, I think it actually might open space for the Obama administration to ease its way out of Afghanistan, if it so chooses, not because the threat will be dramatically less, but because they'll be able to in the old phrase -- I think it was Senator Aiken in Vietnam -- declare victory and go home, if they want to. We'll see whether they want to. But that's what I would say. And at this point let's throw it open to all of you for your questions.

MCMAHON: Richard and Gideon, thank you both for the comprehensive laying out of the issues. Just a reminder to those on the call, this is a Council on Foreign Relations media conference call on the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in Pakistan. And Operator, we're ready to open up to questions from the line.

OPERATOR: Thank you, sir. At this time we will open the floor for questions. (Gives queuing instructions.)

Our first question comes from Aziz Haniffa with India Abroad.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Richard. Hi, Gideon. This question is for both of you. I'm Aziz Haniffa with India Abroad. In following up on some of the things Richard said about Pakistan, it seems to be almost a no-brainer and the consensus seems to be that it's incredulous that Pakistani military and Pakistani intelligence couldn't have known or had a whiff that Osama bin Laden was there, particularly considering that this is a place where a lot of retired military officers, et cetera, live.

In addition to some of the mistrust in terms of U.S.-Pakistani intelligence and the fact that India has also been saying that this is sort of a haven for terrorist groups, et cetera, what does this essentially do to the sort of follow-up Pakistani-U.S. intelligence cooperation, as well as the relationship as a whole, vis-a-vis mistrust?

HAASS: Let me start with that, because I'm -- again, I'm reminded of the conversations that we had with the Pakistani government after 9/11 at the time I was in the State Department. And the United States did have something of a moment of truth and essentially said, you are going to have to fundamentally your relationship with the Taliban or you will end up with a fundamentally changed relationship with us.


HAASS: And the Pakistanis essentially said we are prepared to change our relationship with the Taliban.

And what we've seen over the last decade is some elements of progress but also considerable elements of backsliding. And the fact that you have this kind of -- what appears to be a willingness to look the other way at a minimum, I think in some ways you'll end up with another moment of truth with U.S.-Pakistani relations. It will be very hard to justify aid, you know, flows that are generous and to certain parts of the Pakistani government unless there is confidence that, again, Pakistan is a -- is a partner.

So I think this will, you know, raise some important questions for the overall relationship. I also think that essentially the Pakistanis have a choice. They either increase their willingness and ability to act as a partner against terrorist groups or they have to accept the reality that the United States will view Pakistan as a sovereign government unable or unwilling to meet its sovereign obligations under international law to make sure that its territory is not exploited by terrorists and that outsiders like the United States will then act independently when they see their national interests at stake and threatened.

So I really -- I really believe that Pakistan essentially has a choice and either partners with the United States much more completely or it has to be prepared for the United States, again, to act independently.

It's far preferable, to say the least, that Pakistan partners with the -- with the -- with the United States, but the decision -- the decision is there. And I think American tolerance for what you might call Pakistani hedging or having it both ways, to be what you might call a limited partner -- I think you're going to see American tolerance for that dry up.

ROSE: Yeah, I --

MCMAHON: Gideon?

ROSE: I agree with what Richard said. As for the question about the intelligence telling us something we didn't know, I mean, I'm shocked -- shocked! -- to find that there is some tacit help provided to bin Laden in keeping himself quiet by the Pakistani security and military services. We all knew that, of course.

The real question is, I think, at the end, what Richard said. This is going to bolster the American public and American national security establishment's view about the value of counterterrorist operations. And so whatever Pakistan may think, as Richard said, they will have the choice of either helping to do this with their cooperation or have it be done without their cooperation, because the idea -- this demonstrates that we can go out and find you and get you, and the American public will want to see this kind of thing being done whenever and wherever there are threats that -- to American national security that can indeed be eliminated in this way.

And so I don't -- you know, in some ways, American and Pakistani relations are heading for a very bad stretch. They've already been in a very bad stretch. It's hard to see how they can get worse, but they might well. But this just goes to show that the one thing we know is not going to happen is the United States is now going to return home and never do these kinds of things again.

MCMAHON: Thank you very much for that question.

Operator, do we have another question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, our next question comes form Mary Beth Sheridan, with The Washington Post.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thanks very much for doing this. Dr. Haass, I wondered if I might ask you perhaps a slightly personal question. I mean, for the senior national security officials who were working on 9/11, this obviously was a hugely defining moment for you, for the administration. And I was just wondering, how did you hear the news last night? What was your reaction? Was it relief, was it something else?

HAASS: I heard the news when I got a phone call from Tom Brokaw --

QUESTIONER: Oh. (Chuckles.)

HAASS: -- of all people, and saying -- and this is probably -- I don't know -- fairly early on in the evening, when he said this -- but the story is going around. I hope I haven't just blown a source.


HAASS: And then through the -- you know, in the run-up to the president's actual statement, which as you know was delayed for a solid hour, you know, all sorts of calls and reports started coming in.

My sense was then, and is now -- is it's a mixed one, as you may have sensed from everything I've said. On one sense, it's the satisfaction that it closes something of a chapter, but there's a certain -- it's mixed or tinged with a certain realism or wariness. When I see comparisons to VE Day or VJ Day, I start getting nervous. Plus, it seems to me that it shows a certain misunderstanding of the nature of terrorism, that it has been franchised, it is diffused.

And the analogy I often draw is to disease: that you may be successful in attacking this or that virus, but you don't create a world that's free of disease. So we may have -- you know, we were successful in this case in killing Osama bin Laden, but the disease, the scourge of terrorism remains.

So we have to be prepared for a long haul, in which you don't eliminate it, you don't necessarily -- you don't defeat it in the strategic sense, but at best you defeat it in the tactical sense, like we did over the weekend, but we've got to be prepared for the fact that it's going to continue to constitute a challenge to us, which then makes the case for not simply operations like this but continued intelligence sharing, homeland security, defensive measures, and also more creative work on interrupting recruitment.

I mean the best counterterrorism is getting to people before they make the career choice to become terrorists. And that seems to me the area of potentially largest payoff, and maybe this helps with that, which is, how do you delegitimize the choice in certain communities to become a terrorist and to use force about innocents? How do you delegitimize that choice in the first place? How do you -- going back to another incident -- get more people to act like that Nigerian father who essentially turned in, or tried to turn in his own son before he could cause mayhem. That seems to me at least as much of a challenge as the sort of military intelligence counterterrorism challenge that we've seen played out here over the last few days.

MCMAHON: Mary Beth, thank you for that question.

Operator, do we have another question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes. Our next question comes from Philip Klein with The Washington Examiner.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thank you for having the call. I guess I have a question about -- you know, there was an AP report that came out about the initial strands of the information in terms of, you know, the nickname and the identity of this courier that eventually had led them to bin Laden was gotten in the CIA -- under harsh interrogation in CIA prisons, and if you can talk a bit about how this sort of might affect the ongoing debate over interrogation techniques.

HAASS: I haven't seen that report. But if it does turn out to be true, I think it will reignite a debate that actually hasn't gone away about the positions of not just morality but obviously efficacy of certain techniques. And if that does turn out to be true, then I expect that debate would come back to the floor.

And it potentially poses some awkward questions for this administration and for this country. And it's consistent, if you will, with some of the, you know, issues about the wisdom or ability to close (a ?) Guantanamo and so forth. It's the tension between what might be certain ambitions or ideals, however you want to characterize them on one hand, and certain, at times, realities on the -- on the other. And you've got to ask yourself costs and benefits of certain policies. So if that report again is borne out, then I would expect that sort of tension that you were getting at in your -- in you question will be under the microscope.

MCMAHON: Gideon, do you want to take a crack?

ROSE: Yeah, I'll just say that these -- the forces that got him were out of the Joint Special Operations Command, JSOC. And these are the groups that Stan McChrystal used to command. And I went to ask Stan very directly at a council session what his feeling was about the whole torture question and intelligence.

And he said in his opinion that there was absolutely no reason to rely on torture in order to get the intelligence that he needed to pursue the kinds of operations that under his watch got Zarqawi and that now have gotten bin Laden.

And so, I mean, there are some very, very -- it's not as if everybody who is in the black ops community and everybody who's involved in special operations think that you need to torture people in order to get the intel. And I'll take Stan McChrystal's word on what we can get away without doing. And it seems to me that I don't think this debate will be reignited all that much, even if it does turn out that it was some lead that was gotten in that way.

MCMAHON: Thank you very much for that question.

Operator, is there another question, please?

OPERATOR: We have a question from Marcus Baram with The Huffington Post.

QUESTIONER: Yeah, hi. Thanks again to all you guys for doing this. And just two sort of related questions. First of all, obviously, it has a lot of symbolic import, but how much does, you know, this killing really matter, considering how diffuse al-Qaida has become?

And secondly, what will happen to this -- the hierarchy in al- Qaida, if it even, you know, has any importance any more? And who will sort of replace, I guess, bin Laden, if that's even possible to speak about?

MCMAHON: Richard, you mentioned the diffusion of al-Qaida. Do you want to get into the leadership?

HAASS: Well, I mean, to the question of how much it actually matters, you know, as opposed to symbolically or psychologically matters: remains to be seen. I'm pretty skeptical that at this -- I think -- I do not think this is a transformational event. I do not think this fundamentally changes the terrorist dynamic or the terrorist threat that we face. I wish it were otherwise. I'd love to be proven wrong. But my own sense, again, as welcome an event as this is: I do not believe that it transforms the nature of the threat or the challenge that we face.

I would expect in the case of al-Qaida that the possibility of something like this was obviously known for a long time, and I would expect there was all sorts of preparations for it. And whether it's Zawahiri or others who come to the fore, you know, we'll see soon enough.

But my own hunch, again, is that even within al-Qaida you've had a degree of decentralization or diffusion. So I don't see this as fundamentally altering what it can -- what it might do or how it does it.

ROSE: You know, I think that it's a fascinating question to which we really just don't know the answer yet. The most interesting debate in the terrorism studies field or in the counterterrorism field in the last couple of years that I've seen has been this whole question about what exactly the relationship is between what you might call al-Qaida Central and the al-Qaida franchises. Why is there direct operational control? Is there an ideological difference? How much do the franchises owe to the core in terms of their support and inspiration?

And there's -- there are heated debates on this. We've featured some of these in Foreign Affairs. If you take a look on our website now, we have some of those debates up. We've made them available on our website right now, so you can read them for yourselves. You know, smarter, better experts than I are on both sides of this issue, so I'll just suggest that you read those debates.

But what I will say is, this will help settle that, because if it turns out that this operation and any follow-on ones to go after other al-Qaida Central leaders turn out not to have dramatic effects on the franchise operations or on other major terrorist attacks, then the people who believe that decentralization has really occurred will have been proven correct. And if it does have a significant diminishment, then we -- the people who feel that the core was still in charge will be proven right.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

MCMAHON: Thank you for that question. Just a reminder. This is a Council on Foreign Relations media conference call with CFR President Richard Haass and Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose on the bin-Laden killing.

Operator, do we have another question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from Tom Curry with

QUESTIONER: Thank you. This is for either of the gentlemen.

The president's ability to conduct foreign policy, national security policy, depends in some extent on public opinion. And this whole event happens in the context of a big debate over the deficit and spending. You kind of -- both of you kind of alluded to this earlier, about how this might affect the Afghanistan operation.

But can you say anything further about what you think the public might conclude about, you know, if bin Laden is dead, then what's the need for ongoing occupations in -- or deployments in Afghanistan, how the public perception of this need would be affected by this event?

ROSE (?): I hear Donald Trump is asking for a long-form death certificate.

HAASS: The -- it's Richard Haass. I think the more significant political reaction might be that it simply strengthens the president's hand going into the two months of conversation before some compromise would hopefully be reached on the federal debt ceiling legislation. So I would say that, first off.

It may reinforce this sense or create the sense that the world is somehow a less dangerous place, which might ultimately make it more difficult for those who want to say defense spending is off limits to prevail in that -- in that argument. It may, as we talked about a minute ago, somewhat affect the dynamics of the Afghan debates.

But all that said, I don't believe this will change the fundamentals of the -- of either the debt ceiling debate or the more important longer-term question of the fiscal challenge facing this country and our -- either the deficit and the debt. The issues are so deeply ingrained with -- when it comes to taxes or entitlements or defense spending or discretionary domestic spending and the like that the -- that this will be -- this will not have, if you will, a profound lasting effect, I would suggest, on either the substantive or the political dynamics of the -- of the components of the debate over what to do about American fiscal policy.

ROSE: Yeah, I don't think it has any -- this is Gideon. I don't think it has significant impact or lasting impact on domestic political debate.

I think, on foreign policy, it gives Obama slightly more room to maneuver and slightly greater credibility and shelter from attacks for being weak and so forth, because it -- you know, he benefits from the -- this having happened on his watch, however much he may or may not have been involved. I mean, I don't think it's -- we shouldn't -- he doesn't deserve -- Bush didn't deserve blame for not getting bin Laden and Osama (sic) doesn't necessarily deserve praise for getting him, but you -- but each will reap that, because that's just the way of the world.

And that means, again, if he doesn't want to change course, he won't have to because of this, but if he does want to change some course and retreat a little bit, he may be able to sell it more easily now because he won't have to worry about being told, oh, there's bin Laden still out there waiting to take advantage.

MCMAHON: Thank you, Richard and Gideon.

Operator, do you have another question, please?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from Joe Stroll (sp) with New York Daily News.

QUESTIONER: Thanks a lot, guys. Do either of you gentlemen have a sense how many -- how much resource, in terms of the military and intelligence capabilities, this victory frees up to pursue other assets? And then, who do you think should be the new most-wanted terrorist, or number two or number three in terms of threats that they pose in terms of operational value or public relations?

HAASS: I'm not sure you're asking -- if you're asking from a tactical point if view, I don't have an answer about how much intelligence or planning resources were devoted to going after bin Laden. But I would simply say, and in some ways it gets to your second question, I don't think it changes any of the basics. The terrorism threat is arguably of a similar scale. In no way was or is it dependent on a single individual.

So if I were involved on these questions, if I were still in government, I would simply say let's keep going. And you continue to train your intelligence resources as you have on this, the same proportion, I don't think that goes down. I don't think we have the luxury of focusing on individuals so much. I would say you want to -- you know, there's a whole range of threats.

So I really don't think from a U.S. government intelligence or resource question, this changes a lot of the -- a lot of the basics, if you will, of what's been going on now for some time.

MORE And if anything, I would think in the short run, I'm a little bit concerned that there will be the desire on the part of some terrorists to do a sort of demonstration attack just to prove that they are not weaker as a result of the killing of bin Laden.

So at least from a homeland security point of view, I would expect resource demands, if anything -- and at least in the short run -- to go up rather than down as a result of this.

ROSE: Yeah, I agree with everything Richard just said, but I would add that Zawahiri now rises to the top of the list. I mean, one way to think about this is terrorists aren't going to attack local monuments that no one's ever heard of. They're going to attack places that have been high symbolic content featured in movies, major national monuments, in the same way the public cares not about the operational importance of particular terrorists, because they don't necessarily know that, but about names they've come to hate and know.

And I think Zawahiri at this point is the -- far and away the most important terrorist that the American public cares about, knows about and would consider a major named prize. And that's why I think he would -- you know, going after him and following this up and seeing, you know, how much they can roll up on top of this would be, the major next target.

HAASS: If I could say one other thing here, one of the things I don't know the answer to is how much the Special Forces team that went into the compound there -- how much they were able to get in the way of information. I expect they, for example, vacuumed everything they could have out of any hard drive or any other piece of communications equipment.

So one of the most important things, indeed conceivably even more important in the long run than the killing of bin Laden, in terms of actual capability as opposed to symbolism, might be what kind of an intelligence harvest we got out of this and to what extent are we able to then exploit that as a government to go after things that we simply didn't know about in anything like the detail we might now know about.

ROSE: Perhaps similar to what was harvested after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, I would think.

HAASS: (Inaudible) -- again, I just don't know -- I -- know the answer, but in terms of actual capabilities and, if you will, real-world consequences, that could prove as important, if not more important, in the long run than the actual killing of bin Laden.

MCMAHON: Thank you for that question.

We're going to take one more question, please. Operator, is there another question?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. We have a question from Ben Shuda (ph) with ABC News.

QUESTIONER: Hi, guys. Thanks very much for doing this.

Just curious about the best analysis of how this affects the U.S. relationship with Pakistan. We have had many stumbles just in recent weeks and going back months and years over the nuclear program -- cooperation, you name it. Here you have such a glaring example, so close to their "West Point," right under their noses. It really is that kind of proof, hard proof that critics of Pakistan's cooperation have been talking about. They've been talking about indications of this for some time. Now you see it here.

How do the U.S. and Pakistan go forward? Can they go forward? What happens now?

HAASS: Based on my own experience, I think it's going to be extraordinarily difficult. I would think that for Pakistan it puts them in a terribly difficult position, as you might think. Either they knew about some of these things or some -- let me rephrase that.

Either some people in the government knew about some of these things, in which case they are to a degree complicit, or they did not know about these things, in which case they are extraordinarily unaware of what is going on in their backyard. Neither one of those conclusions is a reassuring one to begin with.

I also think there will be -- it will be extraordinarily tricky or awkward for the Pakistani government in deciding how to react to this publicly. There's a degree of humiliation here over the fact that, one, this was going on, and two, that the United States acted independently.

I also think, as you know, that -- you begin with the reality that anti-Americanism in Pakistan is quite powerful, and I would think that this will do nothing to diminish it.

And one last thing is, I don't see signs that Pakistan is willing to give up its historic involvement with terrorist groups. It has been something of a strategic instrument for Pakistan, certainly in regards to its relation with India, and vis-a-vis either Kashmir or Afghanistan.

In the past, whenever we've had these kinds of quote-unquote "moments of truth" with Pakistan, any resolution has been both temporary and incomplete. And I've been involved in several, whether it was the post-9/11 one or when the United States was no longer able to certify that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device under the Pressler amendment and so forth. So if history's any guide, the shakeout from this will be both temporary and incomplete, that this will -- it'll be awkward. This will add to the narrative that each side has as to the imperfections, shall we say, in this bilateral relationship. There will be some change in what the Pakistanis say and what the Pakistanis do, but I don't think, at the end of the day, you are going to get to the point where we have a fully functional working relationship where there is a deep degree of either trust or cooperation.

Now, cooperation, I think this is -- this has been, is and will remain one of the most fraught and complicated and difficult bilateral relationships, literally, that exists in the world today.

QUESTIONER: You say -- just if I could follow up, you say, Richard, that it will remain fraught. For sure. Does it get damaged beyond repair? Is there a breaking point? Or is it just too necessary?

HAASS: My own sense is this is less of a switch than it is a dial or a rheostat, and that you will -- you don't break, in a sense, but you are -- any more than the relationship totally broke after the United States suspended aid in the context of the Pressler amendment.

You'll have -- this will at best be a relationship that will have selective areas of limited cooperation. We'll have areas where we simply don't confide in each other or we don't work with each other. There might be areas where we actually work against one another.

And my hunch is that will continue. This will be almost a relationship with multiple personalities. And what makes it even more complicated is that when you deal with Pakistan, you're not dealing with a single entity. You're dealing with, you know, obviously, intelligence agencies, the military, various civilians and so forth. So it's very hard to fashion or carry out a single relationship, simply because it's not a government in the traditional single sense where you know where authority is.

So my hunch is you don't have a total breakdown; you have areas, again, of growing friction and you have areas of probably some limited cooperation. But all things being equal, I think it becomes more, not less, difficult moving forward.

MCMAHON: Sorry, that's actually going to be our wrapping-up point on that note. We are out of time on this conference call.

But I want to thank everyone for taking part. I want especially to thank CFR President Richard Haass and Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose for their discussion, for leading this discussion.

And I would also like to point out to all on the line that there are more resources and analysis on this topic, on the bin Laden killing and aftermath, on and

Thanks again for everyone for taking part in this call.











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Committed global action at every level of government, the economy, and society is needed to tackle such a complex, multifaceted challenge, and a growing awareness that time is running out should help to foster it at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai. But the real test will come after, when promises must be kept.

United States

As 2023 comes to a close, here are ten notable historical anniversaries to mark in 2024.

South Korea

In seventy years, the U.S.-South Korea alliance has evolved from a patron-client relationship to a global comprehensive strategic alliance.