Media Conference Call: A Tougher U.S. Tack on Pakistan

Media Conference Call: A Tougher U.S. Tack on Pakistan

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OPERATOR:  I would now like to turn the conference over to Jayshree Bajoria.  Ms. Bajoria, you may begin.


Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to this Council on Foreign Relations media call.  The topic of discussion is "A Tougher U.S. Tack on Pakistan," in the wake of recent comments by Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen to Congress.

I am Jayshree Bajoria, senior staff writer on Asia for

The trigger for Admiral Mullen's remarks to Congress was the September 13th attack on the U.S. embassy compound in Kabul, which the U.S. officials have blamed on the militant group Haqqani Network, allegedly based in Pakistan.

To understand the implications of this tougher U.S. policy toward Pakistan on counterterrorism cooperation, on the war in Afghanistan and the future of the region, we are joined by two senior CFR fellows:  Daniel Markey and Ed Husain.

Dan Markey is a senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia.  He wrote an op-ed this week for Foreign Policy, titled "The Gloves Come Off," and also did an interview with, which is available on the website.

Ed Husain is the senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies and is -- his blog on, Arab Street, features his new take, where he argues that Pakistan is indispensable to the United States.

Thank you both for joining us.  And let me start with a question to each of you.

Dan, we heard Mullen's remarks where, obviously, he spoke in a more tougher tone than we've heard recently.  But today news reports suggest that there might be an attempt by the administration to sort of walk back from his remarks.  How do you read what's really going on and what that means for U.S. policy toward Pakistan going forward?

DANIEL MARKEY:  Thanks, Jayshree.

Yeah, I'm finding it exceedingly difficult to figure out the answer to that question.  And it's perhaps as of today one of the more troubling aspects of this episode.  When I saw and -- when I read Mullen's testimony and when I saw the images of him testifying before Congress sitting next to Panetta, the secretary of defense, I assumed that anything he would have said would have had the full weight of the U.S. government behind it.  And in his comments, I read a considerably tougher tone, with the implied ultimatum that if Pakistan didn't take significant steps to counter the threat posed by the Haqqani network and sever its long-standing ties with that network, that the United States would be prepared to escalate its own action against Haqqanis, whether they're in Afghanistan, where they were already escalated, or in Pakistan, where probably the United States could do more, but it wouldn't be acceptable to Pakistan at this present time.

Unfortunately, since then, you know, I've been hearing sounds from within the administration, and now they're on the front page of the Washington Post suggesting that not everybody was on board with that tougher tone.  Not everyone is convinced that the best way to address the problem of the Haqqani Network in Pakistan is to publicly chastise the Pakistanis or to focus on their continued links, whatever they may be, to the Haqqanis, and that some suggest that only by -- through a continued partnership with Pakistan are we likely to make progress on this issue and many others.  And that's been the status-quo position for the United States for some time now.

And so the fact that there seems to be both confusion, disarray and some deeper division within the government is troubling, because I can imagine seeing good reasons for taking a coercive and tougher stance now even if it might not have been my first preferred option, but only if you had the full U.S. government unified behind it.  If you don't, then really what you have is sort of a poisonous statement without much to back it up, and the Pakistanis are clearly upset by it but they won't do anything constructive about it.  And so we'll end up in a worse relationship with no positive benefits on the counterterrorism or counter-insurgency side.

BAJORIA:  So Dan -- all right, let me follow up by saying, does this softer tone or an attempt to walk back have anything to do with the fact that you have the Saudis and the Chinese in Pakistan right now, and it seems like at least Pakistan is trying to play to that gallery, to tell the United States, well, we have other friends?

MARKEY:  Well, clearly Pakistan is playing that card, whether it's the China card or the Saudi card.  They would like to show themselves and the United States and the rest of the world that they have other friends if the United States seeks to make trouble with them.

But I actually think that the shift in U.S. tone may have a lot more to do simply with a division that was pre-existing within the U.S. government about how best to handle this problem.  And this division appears to be coming out more and more in public and separating, say, the State Department and some -- at least it sounds -- some elements within the White House apart from Admiral Mullen and perhaps Secretary Panetta.  And I don't know where all the other players stand, but that confusion continues.

BAJORIA:  Ed, the latest events have also raised the tone of anti-Americanism in the Pakistani media, expectedly the broadcast media.  And one of the widespread perceptions in Pakistan that we see being not in the media is that the U.S., with its eyes on the 2012 elections and the 2014 timeline for exit from Afghanistan, is using Pakistan as a scapegoat; if you could talk a bit about how the U.S. war in Afghanistan continues to color the Pakistani perceptions of U.S. foreign policy in the region.

HUSAIN:  I think most Pakistanis by design or by default take a long view, especially in the hindsight mirror, as to what's going on vis-a-vis U.S. foreign policy in the region, by which I mean if you ask the relatively young Pakistani foreign minister, 34-year-olds in a -- (inaudible) -- or if you ask the average Pakistani student at a younger age on the university campuses about the so-called war on terror and its implications for Pakistan's neighbor Afghanistan, the story and the narrative repeatedly told -- and there's some truth to it -- is that the CIA essentially created the Taliban; the CIA essentially backed the Mujaheddin with some Saudi support; and General Zia's government in Pakistan was merely a funnel for that support against the Soviet Union.

And the Pakistani foreign minister will amplify that narrative where they've now been left with the baggage of history.  In other words, the U.S. walked away, and for 10 years there was no investment in Afghanistan.  And then suddenly after 9/11, there was immediate attention on Afghanistan, and by extension Pakistan by the General Musharraf government.

And, you know, they will throw stats at us -- and by us, here I mean the broader West -- that, you know, before 9/11, there was only one suicide bombing in Pakistan; since 9/11, there's been 311 suicide bombings in Pakistan.  In other words, Pakistan is on the front line of America's war on terror.  They will tell you that 30,000 young Pakistanis have been killed; 6,000 soldiers have been -- in addition to that, 6,000 soldiers have lost their lives; 19,000 soldiers have been wounded in this war on terror and America's foreign policy in Afghanistan and, by extension, what's the blowback on Pakistan; and $68 billion of Pakistani money being spent on the war on terror -- or at least that's their claim.

So what we're having from Pakistan is a huge list of complaints and a huge list of victimhood and grievances -- and some of it justified -- and them being on the front line of the receiving end of America's -- or an American-led war on terror, that leads to, from a Pakistani point of view, Pakistan's not being thanked enough; that it's an ungrateful U.S.

And I'll finish this answer on this point, in that one of the most interesting dynamics, I thought -- and Dan touched on that -- was where the State Department and elements of the White House disagree perhaps with the military/intelligence establishment here.  And that dynamic was alive at the U.N. General Assembly last week and on the fringes, when Hillary Clinton met with the young Pakistani foreign minister, and the foreign minister repeatedly talking about the fact -- and she's amplifying, you know, the Pakistani street here -- in that America is seen increasingly as an ungrateful nation for Pakistan's many efforts; that America is out somehow -- in recent days, there's a feeling that America is out to attack Pakistan, perhaps North Waziristan, as a result of Admiral Mullen's isolating the Haqqani Network.  And there's a feeling, despite America being the largest donor to Pakistan, that somehow Pakistan and Pakistanis aren't welcome, not just in the American mainland, but Pakistan as a nation.  And I think some of that's borne out by the discussions today about whether Pakistan ought to be a pariah state or not.

BAJORIA:  And just one last question before we open it up for you.  This shift that is the -- this division between the State Department and the military, if that actually does translate into (taking us off the tone then ?), what was implied by Admiral Mullen, do you think that is a good thing?

HUSAIN:  For U.S. diplomacy, for U.S.-Pakistani relations, especially state-to-state, that's definitely a good thing.  But I think, sadly, from the media commentary that's coming out in the Pakistani broadcast media, that's going to be interpreted as a weakness.  As late as last night, they were playing war anthems on certain television channels.  Even the Pakistan Peoples Party, supposedly a liberal party, its student wing was on campuses shouting anti-American slogans.  This is their -- the current governing party.

So there is a -- there is -- there's a real tendency, I think, of jumping on this anti-American bandwagon.  And this softening of the tone will be seen as U.S. weakness, and it would have been wiser if Admiral Mullen had not said what was said to start with.

And to be fair to him, you know, his -- if we look at his entire testimony in totum, he was actually advocating aid to Pakistan that took account of economic development, Pakistan's concerns vis-a-vis water and electricity generation.  So he was actually advocating a broader relationship with Pakistan, and not just on counterterrorism.  However, that one phrase about veritable evidence vis-a-vis ISI and Haqqani network undermined his entire broader pitch.

BAJORIA:  OK, thanks, Ed.

Operator, now we would like to open it up for questions.  For our late callers, this is a Council on Foreign Relations media call, and the topic of discussion is "A Tougher U.S. Tack on Pakistan."  On the call with us is Dan Markey, CFR's senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia, and Ed Husain, CFR's senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies.

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

Our first question comes from Chandrika (sic) Pancholi, Overseas India Weekly.

Q:  Hi.  Good afternoon.  My name is Chandrakant Pancholi from Overseas India Weekly.  Dan, if we do not do anything now, wouldn't attack in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region continue?  And what options we have, and whether we have political will to exercise those options because one thing we keep hearing all the time, that Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal, and that is the reason why we cannot do anything.  Isn't taking out -- are we capable of taking out the nuclear arsenal or not, militarily?

MARKEY:  Well, these are -- these are difficult questions.  I think -- let me just focus on that point of the nuclear issue with Pakistan because I think a lot of -- a lot of people, perhaps in India, but certainly in the United States, are concerned about that.

The United States -- my sense -- has a capacity to deal with Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, but only in the worst, ugliest and most costly imaginable way.  That is, we do not have easy access.  We cannot send in commandos like we did with the bin Laden raid and sweep out their nuclear warheads.  We do not necessarily have the degree of intelligence to know precisely where they are at any given moment, particularly in a crisis, where -- when Pakistan has been prone to take them out and put them on mobile vehicles and distribute them around the country.  So we lack the capacity to do -- to manage Pakistan's nuclear problem easily or at low cost.

We do have other options, including significant bombing campaigns and so on.  But to me, that looks like declaring war on a country of 180 million people, and it would be incredibly ugly.  So I can't possibly advocate that.  And so the -- and the implication has been and, I think, continues to be, for most people handling policy toward Pakistan -- is that we are looking for ways to avoid that kind of a crisis and that kind of conflict.

At the same time, you know, we have some immediate counterterrorism needs and counterinsurgency needs like this issue of the Haqqani network that put us very much in conflict with Pakistan.  And so the question has always been whether we had kind of a -- medium-sized coercive tools that wouldn't put us essentially at war with Pakistan but might still convince them that we were serious about the need for them to change their approach.  And so far the answer has essentially been no, that they haven't changed their approach and that we have been frustrated, but that we haven't been willing or able to up the ante in ways that would get them to change their approach.

Ed, I would say, made some good points about the fact that Mullen's commentary included a need to broaden U.S. engagement with Pakistan well beyond the military.  And I think that's about -- that's true that if we had over the past 10 years been better at convincing a wide array of Pakistanis that we could be helpful to them, then we would perhaps have more popular support there to allow us to help them target groups that we think are threatening.  Perhaps not.  But we didn't do a very good job at that.  I don't think we're doing a particularly good job at that.  And however we do on those issues, we're not going to see change especially quickly.  We've done -- dug a deep hole.  It's going to be difficult to get out.

Q:  Just a follow-up:  We have been giving military aid since a long, long time to the military establishment there.  How much influence we have there and whether we can just stop military aid, and if so, what happens?

MARKEY:  Yeah.  Briefly, the most likely outcome from the Mullen statement would be that the U.S. Congress will hold firm in passing legislation that would condition U.S. military assistance on Pakistan's taking steps against the Haqqani Network and perhaps several other groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, LeT, and the Quetta Shura Taliban.  And if that's the case it will be, I think, nearly impossible for the Clinton State Department or the Obama administration as a whole to certify that Pakistan has taken firm steps of those sorts.  And as a consequence, you would see U.S. military assistance to Pakistan dry up.

The consequence of that wouldn't necessarily be entirely all bad.  It would show that we -- you know, that we mean business.  It would show that our concern is less maintaining a relationship with the military and more attempting to build a relationship with the public of Pakistan.  But my sense is that the Pakistani military would respond very poorly, and because they continue to enjoy incredible influence and power within Pakistan society, that it would accelerate what you're already seeing in terms of a rupture -- a broader rupture between our two countries.  And it's not hard for me to imagine that that breakdown would go well beyond simply a military-to-military relationship.  It would put us at odds with Pakistan across the board, and again, it would be even -- it would be very hard to dig out of that if we'd wanted to change course in the future.

So, you know, be careful what you wish for.  We could cut off military assistance, and it would hurt the Pakistani military, but it would also hurt the bilateral relationship pretty significantly.

BAJORIA:  Thanks, Dan.

Could we have the next caller, please?

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Iftikhar Hussain, Voice of America.

Q:  Yes.  Thank you very much.  My question is, what wider option the United States have in terms of policy to move on -- move forward with Pakistan in such circumstances, in the situation?  And the second question is, what implications do you think it would have on the region, particularly on the insurgency against the United States from the Pakistani border regions vis-a-vis Haqqani Network and other local groups from Pakistan?

MARKEY:  Ed, do you want to pick this one up?

HUSAIN:  What was the second question?  The insurgency against America from Haqqani Network and else where --

Q:  Yeah, the question is that -- this broken relationship implications on the war against terror --

HUSAIN:  Ah.  Yeah.

Q:  -- and the U.S. interest in the region.

HUSAIN:  Yeah.  I wouldn't go as far as terming it in those terms yet.  Yes, you know, several congressmen have tried to move towards freezing aid, and most of it will most likely be frozen for some time.  I think there are some caveats vis-a-vis the issue of the nuclear arms.  I think there's some caveat there.

But in terms of not just the Haqqani Network but also the Lashkar-e-Taiba, al-Qaida elements, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and others who operate in Pakistan, this breakdown will be seen in two ways, I think.  One, it will be seen as the United States not being able to hold its nerve at difficult moments and therefore abandoning Pakistan at a critical juncture.

And whatever we think of Pakistan and this part of the world, the Pakistanis -- yes, they've made mistakes; yes, they haven't been the kind of loyal and staunch allies that Washington, D.C. would have liked them to be, but they have gone after the Pakistani -- the Tehreek-e-Taliban -- and by their own admission and evidence that they've provided, you know, 30,000 of their -- of their civilians have been killed by al-Qaida and other elements.

So despite being in its own eyes a loyal ally, for Pakistan to be abandoned, if it is indeed abandoned -- and I caveat this by saying I don't think it'll happen -- if it is indeed abandoned, it will strengthen people such as Ayman al-Zawahri and al-Qaida and also the Haqqani Network and others, who will be able to then adopt a narrative and say:  Look, the U.S. and Pakistan -- and especially the U.S. -- isn't prepared to stand by the Pakistanis, and look, you can't really trust the Americans.  You know, they were -- they were haunted -- hunted out of Afghanistan.  They've been hunted out of Somalia, out of Lebanon, out of Iraq and now out of their involvement via the Pakistani government and its proxies.

So that whole narrative of America not being able to complete its missions becomes stronger, and I don't think that's a healthy thing.  And I don't also think, incidentally, on this case, it's going to be true.

Which leads to my second point, and that is, Pakistan, whether America is there or not, doesn't really have a choice but to fight the scourge on its nation, because Pakistanis, in public and in private, know that they can't attend parks, cinemas, go into hotels, even go into their religious places such as Baba -- Ganj Bakhsh and others in Lahore -- huge, huge spiritual centers over a thousand years old in Pakistan -- without being searched and searched for weapons and in a heavy security presence.

So the point I'm making is, all around Pakistani cities, there is this security presence, and Pakistan as a country knows it's got a serious extremism and terrorism threat.

So with or without American backing, they will have to confront this.  From the words that are coming out of the current Pakistani government, they would much rather continue to do this with full U.S. backing.  And despite Admiral Mullen's comments, it was interesting to hear the Pakistani delegation at the U.N. last week continuing to want to engage and to want to cooperate with the U.S., with or without the money element being involved.

So I think, on balance, those are good signs.  And I stand by what I wrote this morning:  that I don't think Pakistan is dispensable, and I don't think it's an option.  And given the current difficulties and given that the only leverage that the U.S. -- significant leverage that the U.S. has is via economic and military aid, that aid should not only be maintained but strengthened, and the U.S. ought not to be moving away from Pakistan but getting closer, given the difficulties that we face vis-a-vis the terrorist threats from Pakistan.

BAJORIA:  Dan, do you want to add anything?

MARKEY:  Well, the only point I would make is that while I've essentially made points quite similar to those that Ed just made over a period of time, the trajectory of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, which had been sort of a gradually improving one, at least in the sense of improved military-to-military and civilian-to-civilian official cooperation, even if it wasn't improving in terms of public opinion in Pakistan about the United States -- that gradual upsurge in terms of the trajectory in the relationship really took a beating over the past year.  And the Raymond Davis affair, then the bin Laden raid and now this have stepwise brought us down to a very low place.

And what unites each of these events, in my mind, is the sense here in the United States that Pakistan, in very important ways, continues to play this double game and that its ISI is in bed with enemies of the United States.  And that's the fundamental sticking point in this relationship.  And I think the hope had been that over time we could get Pakistan to shift gears, to reconceive its strategy and its behavior in the region.  And what has happened -- and it was always a question of whether that would happen fast enough to keep the benefits of cooperation going or the costs of cooperation -- make the United States continue to be willing to pay them.  And what we've seen is that it didn't happen fast enough, and now we're paying a price for it.

It's hard to figure out -- with such a significant difference on these issues that are of core security interest in the United States, it's hard to figure out how you get back to a more stable equilibrium or one that's even constructive.  I'm just very worried that, you know, things have gotten significantly worse, and they could get still worse from here.

BAJORIA:  Thanks.

Our next question, please.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Yashwant Raj with Hindustsan Times.

Q:  (Inaudible) -- in the morning about how the administration is now trying to pull back from the hard position taken by Admiral Mullen, but in his own interview with The Wall Street Journal today, he's explained why he has come to this conclusion.  He -- the best friend that the Pakistanis had in this city, in this town -- how he -- you know, he really tried to work hard with the Pakistanis to get them to act and how disappointed he was and to -- and that's why he made the -- made the comment that he did at the testimony.  I hope you -- (inaudible) -- chance to see that interview.

Now my question is, is there a -- you know, a difference -- you know, is there a part of the administration which is -- it could be the State Department or the White House -- which is thinking differently on this whole issue about how to deal with Pakistan from the military, which is actually losing patience now that -- and both of you can take a shot at this one.  Thanks.

MARKEY:  Yeah, this is Dan.  As far as I can tell, there does appear to be a difference.  And I'm not certain about that yet, but I think the reality will come out, whether the Washington Post has captured it today or whether we'll see shades of different stories coming out in the days to come.

But the point I would make is that it's not that the White House or the State Department view the facts of the case especially differently.  In fact, everybody here who's been engaged on the Pakistan issue has for a long time been very frustrated by the nature of the relationship between the Pakistani state, and that is in particular the ISI, and by extension the military to which it belongs, and then by extension to that the Pakistani government, which may be the friendly face and the civilian face and may have relatively little control over the policies of the military and ISI, but also hasn't run headlong into them, at least not of late.  And when it has, it's failed.

So the sense is that there's -- there is a problem here.  And the only question up until now has been how best to deal with it.  And the answer has I think correctly been better to try and cultivate a better working relationship with Pakistan over time to get them to see why this is -- that is, the help to Haqqani and others -- is dangerous to them as it is dangerous to us, to help them find alternative ways to project a more constructive influence into Afghanistan and to secure themselves and their place in the region in ways that they'll be comfortable with -- do all of these things so that they won't need or feel the need to help out militant proxies in the future.

Mullen jumped off that ship with his comments.  And while that's fine that he felt fed-up, that he felt betrayed, that he has seen Americans die at the hands of the Haqqani Network, and by extension with the active or passive assistance of the Pakistani state and he felt that he could no longer sit silent and watch that happen, that's fine.  But he didn't provide a way ahead.  And as a U.S. government official, my sense is that his greater obligation is not simply truth-telling or calling it as he sees it, but finding a constructive way forward for the United States and its strategy and policy.  And to the extent that that -- that we appear to be in a moment of confusion now rather than unified in a path forward to address the problem of Pakistan, I think the fault lies very much at his feet.  And I'll be curious to see how he justifies that as time goes by.

Q:  Thanks.

HUSAIN:  And in full agreement with Dan there, my only remarks would be that I don't think, as much as the U.S. State Department and elements in the White House would want to continue to maintain civil relations, at least in public, with, say, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry or the executive arm of the Pakistani government in general, the only difficulty is that -- it's that the civilians aren't in control on the key issues of counterterrorism and the issues that interest the U.S. government.  And as Dan alluded earlier, it's the Pakistani military and it's the ISI.

And recent polling data indicates that and also their public statements indicate that their -- and the release of that data indicates that they're already eyeing up alternatives to the Zardari government should the Zardari government fall for whatever reason.  And individuals such as Imran Khan, the former cricket star, now head of -- (inaudible) -- party Pakistan, I think has a popularity of about 61 percent, as opposed to Zardari's 11 percent.  So if Zardari should fall for whatever domestic political consideration -- and these things are difficult to tell in Pakistan -- or should there be another military coup -- again, unpredictable; it could happen in Pakistan, it's happened several times before -- the question is, can -- however dove-like, ostensibly, at least, the White House and the State Department wish to appear, can they do business with whatever is in the wings in Pakistan?  And I doubt it very much if it goes in the direction that the ISI is increasingly wanting to take it.

With that in mind, I think it's healthier to continue to want to maintain the warm relations, at least in public, that someone like Hillary Clinton seems to have with the Pakistani foreign minister, this -- the young lady, Hina Rabbani Khar.  And again last week their meeting lasted several hours and the meetings happened several times.  So at least in the public space, there seems to be decent relations between the two.

BAJORIA:  Thanks, Ed.

Next question, please.

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

Q:  Thanks.  Arguably the question I'm going to pose has already been responded to, but let me try it anyway.  And it has to do with how important -- how important the valence of the relationship between U.S. and Pakistan is in a practical and sort of day-to-day sense.  What I mean by that question is that -- whether we have the kind of relationship that we thought we saw developing, as Dan made reference to, in 2009 and 2010, a kind of thawing and an upswing and better cooperation, et cetera, and then with the Raymond Davis and bin Laden, et cetera, you know, the arc is downward.  In a practical sense, what difference does that make to us in terms of our ability to get what we want done in the region?

MARKEY:  This is Dan.  Well -- and when you say what difference does that make, do you mean what difference does the downturn make or what difference would a more significant rupture make?

Q:  That when the relationship was getting better, what positive results accrued from that that don't accrue when the arc is sort of headed the other way?

MARKEY:  Right.  Well, I think the most -- in some ways the most tangible positives from our perspective had to do with military-to-military cooperation, in particular in support of Pakistan's own counterinsurgency operations along the border.  So, you know, if you talk to U.S. military officials, they will tell you that up until basically the Raymond Davis affair, you had dozens of U.S. trainers providing tactical assistance and training as well as some material assistance, things like night vision goggles and things like that, that were actually helping the Pakistanis.

And that was helpful to us, not because -- it obviously wasn't helpful enough.  They weren't going after -- as we're seeing now, they weren't doing enough against Haqqani, they weren't going after some of the other groups that are hitting us in Afghanistan, but they were going after some pretty nasty groups who were indirectly threatening to us and in some ways fairly directly threatening; that is, that they were sympathetic to al-Qaida.  So they were going after the Pakistani Taliban, the TTP, and they went into South Waziristan and they've gone into other places, which they hadn't been doing previously.  So the level of military operations undertaken, the aggressive operations taken by the Pakistani military and actually continuing to this day in parts of the FATA were significant and beneficial to us.

And as the Pakistanis say, they've suffered quite a lot.  And that shouldn't be discounted.  It's just they weren't doing everything they -- that we wanted, and they weren't hitting the groups that we actually think are the most threatening to us first.  They were hitting, as you might imagine, the groups that they were threatened by first.  So there was a fairly tangible military side.

Just on some of the softer things, the U.S. ability to engage with Pakistan, to have more officials there, to be working on developing assistance programming and things like that, had the prospect, at least, of improving the broader Pakistani public impression of the United States and enhancing the capacity of their government and the capacity of their economy, which at least indirectly serve our interests by stabilizing what is a relatively -- unfortunately, a relatively fragile but very big state.  So those things were helpful too in a somewhat perhaps longer-term sense.

And then finally, although it's hard to know exactly the nature of it, our nuclear assistance to help secure and provide safety to their nuclear program, while I think it is still limited, at least that has also -- according to those in the United States government who are allowed to say anything about it, they believe that it's been helpful in providing better support to the Pakistani nuclear program to make it less vulnerable than it might otherwise be.

So those are sort of some tangible ways that I think our engagement with Pakistan was helpful; not to mention the fact that we were still able to fly drones and get supplies and troops into Afghanistan, which is not nothing, for the war there.

Q:  Can I just do a quick follow-up?

MARKEY:  Uh-huh.

Q:  (Inaudible) -- question is, so are you saying that because the arc has -- is now downward, that those positive things have come to a halt, or that they are coming less frequently, or that they're being done but sort of begrudgingly?

MARKEY:  Some have come to a -- to a halt.  U.S. special forces who were engaged in training, many of them have been kicked -- simply kicked out of the country.  And that's linked -- you maybe reported on the $800 million suspension of military assistance to Pakistan; which was largely Pakistan kicking out our guys who were providing various forms of assistance and, since they weren't there to provide the assistance, the money was put in suspension by the U.S. military.

So that stuff's dried up.  Some of the -- but some things haven't.  Drones continue; U.S. supplies and NATO supplies into Afghanistan continue.  So although -- and apparently, according to U.S. intelligence, cooperation on al-Qaida efforts have not completely blown up.  They have continued as well.

So in spite of the fact that we took some serious steps back diplomatically and in terms of military assistance since the bin Laden raid, we hadn't completely fallen off the cliff yet in the relationship.

Q:  OK.  Thanks.

MARKEY:  Yeah.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  (Gives queuing instructions.)

Our next question comes from Suman Mazumdar, India Abroad.

Q:  Hi.  Mr. Markey, good afternoon.  I had a quick question.  I listened to this conversation.  There has been a talk in the recently passed two weeks or so about the changing of the U.S. foreign policy towards Pakistan in terms of giving military aid.  And Ambassador Blackwell (ph) -- I think two weeks ago, they were talking about the conditioning the U.S. military aid to Pakistan.  The question is, given the U.S. strategic interest with Pakistan, is it feasible, practical, to have a changed U.S. foreign policy towards Pakistan?  Is it possible?  Secondly, is it possible to engage Pakistan with U.S., despite all these things that have been happening in the past two weeks or so?

MARKEY:  Well -- Ed, you should feel free to jump in again on this --

HUSAIN:  Go ahead.

MARKEY:  -- but I would -- I would just say, yes and yes, it's possible.  We're already seeing it.  We're already seeing the U.S. Congress take tangible steps to either severely condition or even turn off military assistance to Pakistan.  Whether or not this is a good thing from a broader strategic perspective is almost immaterial.  There are individual congressmen and senators who are quite angry about what they understand to be Pakistan's behavior with respect to the United States, and they mean to turn things off.  It is difficult on Capitol Hill to argue against the observation that if Pakistan is in any way helping terrorists who are killing Americans, that we shouldn't be in the business of providing them money.

Now, whether or not that will serve our purposes, as both Ed and I were saying earlier, it's not at all clear that this will be helpful.  And the implication of it is that if we turn off military assistance, as I said earlier, then it's quite likely that the Pakistani military will sort of take reciprocal steps to move away from us, and make it even more difficult.

It's not as if we can -- I think it's going to be very, very, very hard for us -- and I can't overstate it -- to maintain a good working relationship with the civilians or the so-called -- the people of Pakistan, if the Pakistani military doesn't want us to.  They have a lot of controls over our behavior, our actions, our personnel and everything else inside of their country, and they can make it very difficult for politicians to cooperate with us if we're not cooperating with the military.

They have a lot of power.  And so that's been part of the reason why we've had to work with the military, why it's been advisable to work with the military, often even just as a means to keep channels open to nonmilitary Pakistanis.  So I see rough times.

Q:  Rough times.  Thank you.  Can I ask a small little follow-up question, Mr. Markey?

MARKEY:  Jayshree, is that all right?

Q:  Very, very --

BAJORIA:  (Chuckles.)  Go ahead.  If it's very brief, then yes.

Q:  Yeah, very brief.  Thing is that -- you know, the -- Mullen, say, talked about the terrorism in Pakistan and how the ISI is in cahoots with the terrorists and stuff like that.  At the same time, yesterday the Pakistan foreign minister of the U.N. talked very eloquently about how Pakistan wants to stop terrorism not just in Pakistan, but in the region.  How do you evaluate the statement?

MARKEY:  Ed, do you want to take this?

HUSAIN:  Sure.  I think the Pakistani foreign minister -- you know, she's American in terms of being educated here in the U.S.  She's young.  As you say, she's eloquent.  She's passionate.  She's new in the post.  She's looked at from young Pakistanis as someone who is more or less a hereditary politician because both her uncle and her father were involved in General Musharraf's government.

And I think with all that in the background and having been to the U.S. recently and been interviewed on Wolf Blitzer and on CBS and elsewhere, I think -- and then called back more quickly than expected by Gilani, and also having taken Gilani's space at the U.N. because Gilani was supposed to be here, but then because of the flood, he had to cancel his visit -- all of that has put a certain limelight on her.  And I think having warm relations with Hillary Clinton helped.

So all of that, combined with the fact that she was in town in New York when Mullen was speaking in Washington, D.C., seems to have, you know, put the limelight on her.  And all of that said, she is essentially -- despite all of those credentials that she brings to the table, she is essentially a civilian politician, and she doesn't know the details, if those details are indeed true because this has yet to be put out there, and she's repeatedly asked for that evidence that Mullen was relying on in order to say what he said.

Q:  Mm-hmm.  Thank you, sir.  I really appreciate that.  Thank you very much.

OPERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question comes from Emily Cadei, Congressional Quarterly.

Q:  Hi, this is Emily Cadei.  I had a quick question for you on something that's been raised up on Capitol Hill recently, which is the fact that the U.S. actually has not listed the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization.  The State Department keeps saying they're reviewing that, but they haven't done anything.  And I was just curious how you read that, if that's evidence of this division perhaps between what Mullen has been saying and where the State Department is and what the rationale could be for not actually listing the Haqqani network at this point.

MARKEY:  Yeah, I'll grab that.  This is Dan.  I think there are two reasons.  They're linked.  The first would be that if you list the Haqqanis as a -- as a foreign terrorist organization and you have suggested that the Pakistanis have somehow aided and abetted them, then you have taken two steps forward in saying that Pakistan is itself a state sponsor of terrorism as a -- and designating it in ways that would make it impossible for us to continue any -- I mean, leave aside assistance.  It would essentially invoke a series of sanctions and a downgrading in our diplomatic relationship.  So the concern, I think, at least in part, is that, you know, listing Haqqani means very clear things for the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.  That's one.

Point two -- and here I'm less certain, but you know, we have -- at the same time as all of this drama with Pakistan, we have the drama of Afghanistan and the reconciliation process, that is, the negotiation, so-called reconciliation between the Taliban and -- elements of the Taliban and the Kabul government.  And the question there has been whether or not Haqqani or some piece of Haqqani could conceivably be included in the reconciliation process.  Now, if you declare them an FTO, then it's going to be really hard for anybody, and certainly any American, to have anything to do with them.  They won't be able to talk.  They won't be able to interact.  It'll make -- it'll essentially blacklist them in ways that will make that -- or would make that reconciliation harder at precisely the same time that the U.S. government is trying to make reconciliation easier and even taking some Taliban off a U.N. blacklist so that they can be brought to the table.

So both things are sort of at odds with the listing -- the FTO listing.  But it sounds like they may be forced to go ahead with it anyway, and that may be one of the consequences of Mullen's statement.  But it'll complicate things in both of those ways, and pretty dramatically.

BAJORIA:  Operator, do we have another question at this time?

OPERATOR:  Yes.  Our next question comes from Chandrakant Pancholi, Overseas India Weekly.

Q:  Oh, hi.  About Afghanistan.  Isn't it Pakistan's foreign policy is to have a destabilized Afghanistan and run it by proxy, by Taliban proxy or Haqqani proxies, or do you think we will have a different outcome?

MARKEY:  Ed, do you want this one?

HUSAIN:  Go ahead, Dan.


I don't think so.  I mean, look, I think if Pakistan had to rank order its priorities in Afghanistan, the highest priority that Pakistan would have is to make sure that Afghanistan is not a base for Indian operations that would encircle Pakistan.  Now, from an Indian perspective this may sound absurd, but from the Pakistani point of view, they are primarily concerned that Afghanistan might prove threatening to them.  So their first order of business is make sure India doesn't have too much influence in Afghanistan.

Now, if you could have a stable Afghanistan that didn't have heavy Indian influence -- and I think Pakistan would be OK with it; it's not that they seek instability for its own sake -- but if they look at the options and they say that the two options are a stable Afghanistan with a heavy  Indian presence or an unstable Afghanistan that doesn't have as much of an Indian presence, they'll choose instability out of fear of India.  That may not seem reasonable or rational at certain levels, because they suffer from that instability -- and that's certainly a point that Americans have made to them many, many times, and they do tend to overstate, at least from an American perspective, the degree of threat that India poses in Afghanistan -- but I'd say that's their rank ordering of preferences and they're sticking with it.  So far they haven't deviated from it over the past 10 years.

BAJORIA:  Thanks, Dan.

Do we have another question at this time?

OPERATOR:  Yes.  We have one more question, and it's from Iftikhar Hussain, Voice of America.

Q:  Yes.  My question is, Pakistan is using the China card, so I just wonder what message it wants to give to the people in Washington, to the military and civilian administration.  Does it want to say that they have a replacement?

BAJORIA:  I think we've covered that, unless, Dan or Ed, you want to take that again?

HUSAIN:  It's Ed.  Just very briefly.  I mean, it's not just  Pakistan.  There are other countries, I think -- Syria comes to mind -- that amidst all this upheaval with the relations with America, there's this tendency that, you know, they feel that they can look elsewhere, they can look further east and look towards China.

That said, yes, there's a strong message on their part they would wish to convey to Washington, D.C., but the Chinese have proven to be wilier than people have thought, in the sense that when Gilani was in Pakistan -- in China most recently, he came back and he said China had promised to build several ports in Pakistan.  And China had not made such a commitment, but Gilani had made that announcement in public and then China was more than forthright in rebuking that and saying that was not the case.

But what Gilani was trying to do is convey a message to the U.S. and to the West in general that somehow they've got new allies and new investors in Pakistan who don't come with issues such as counterterrorism and a human rights agenda at the top of the discussion.  But China was quick, A, to rebuke it, and B, to raise its own concerns vis-a-vis the Chinese Muslim population and terrorism in Kashmir, that China is also worried about.

So I don't think the Pakistani government's perception that China just comes to do business without any precondition and doesn't have counterterrorism concerns is altogether right.  If you speak to the Chinese, they too are engaged with Pakistan on counterterrorism issues. Granted, not as deeply and as wide-ranging as the U.S., but there is a  counterterrorism dimension.  And there is a Kashmir dimension.

So despite what the Pakistanis would wish to convey via the media outlets to the West, the relationship with China is not as deep as or as free-ranging as Pakistan would want us to believe.

BAJORIA:  Very good point, Ed.  Thank you.

Before we wrap, one final question.  Going back to the confusion, Dan, that you alluded to between, say, the White House and State Department on the one hand and the military on the other, do you have a sense of who might likely prevail?  Would we see a tougher policy that was implied by Mullen's remarks?

MARKEY:  Well, to some degree you have to say that the die has been cast.  That is, by making these comments the way that he did, Mullen boxed in the administration, whether they like it or not, to have to respond somehow.  He gave considerable ammunition to people on Capitol Hill who will be looking to constrain, or cut off even, assistance to Pakistan, and put administration officials on the spot who might otherwise have been wanting to come and ask for that assistance in the future.  So at some level, he's changed history simply by taking the steps that he did.

But when it comes down to who will win in what might be an interagency squabble, you know, the White House, to the extent that it might be angry about his comments -- and I don't know that to be true, but assuming it may be true -- can walk him back, and it has the power to do that.  It has the power to enforce its position.

My sense is that, to some degree, there may be some scrambling to figure out exactly how they want to handle it.  They know they're in a tough spot, and if they just walk it back, as Ed noted -- and I think this is absolutely right -- they'll look weak in Pakistan.  They're not in a winning -- there's no winning outcome here for the White House, if it's not happy about what Mullen said.  And so they're going to try to look to mitigate their losses, and I don't quite know how they intend to square that circle yet.  But it doesn't necessarily come with them looking tougher, except in the narrow ways that I've described so far.

BAJORIA:  Uh-huh.  Thank you.

Ed, any final words from you?

HUSAIN:  No, thank you very much.  Thank you.

BAJORIA:  Thank you, everyone, for being on the call today.  And a very special thank you to Dan Markey, CFR's senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia, and Ed Husain, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies.

A reminder that the audio and the transcript of this call will be available later on council's website,  Thank you all.

Thank you, everyone.







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