Spearhead Analysis - 02.06.2011
A US-Pakistan Security Agreement
The final phase of the War on Terror in the South Asian theater will be lost to both these strategic partners unless they learn how to work together and promote such functional mechanisms
It is clear that we are now entering another defining phase in the struggle against terrorists and for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan. Our engagement with regional states and major powers has intensified.
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Addressing the Defence Committee of the Cabinet
May 25, 2011
The Abbottabad operation on May 2 shows that despite being allied to each other on-and-off since the 1950, and especially after 2001, Pakistan and the United States have had to face a lot of internal pressure because of 'cordial bilateral relations' that do not translate into effective security for either country. The reason for local political disdain in either country for the other is because of deeply embedded misconceptions, media propaganda, and most importantly, the absence of a legally codified strategic engagement procedure for both the "strategic partners".
It is all the more evident that Pakistan and the United States need to formulate a formal, legal and diplomatic pact that attends to the common security requirements of both countries (and the region at large) and also allows for transparency and accountability in this relationship, should a citizen of either country have doubts or grievances. It is time to step back, review the strategic relationship, cast aside the ambiguities of the past and evolve a ‘status agreement’ that clearly defines future covert presence and operations as well as drone operations.
Much recently, General Kiyani expressed his concern over the absence of a legal accord in matters related to intelligence sharing since 2001. It is reported that DG ISI General Pasha had made a similar concern apparent to the government as early as January 2010. This issue simmered, but came to the forefront after the Raymond Davis case, where it is believed that the US did not take the government of Pakistan and the Pakistan Army into full confidence before executing certain covert operations.
Pakistan still wants to be viewed positively as a responsible member of the international community, and wants to successfully integrate itself with the globalized world — the relationship with the US has far reaching significance for it. Duplicity, if any, would go away if strategies and the end results sought by both parties are clarified and mutually agreed upon in a transparent atmosphere. Pakistan definitely wants to move towards this kind of threat reduction on the western as well as eastern border so that it can recalibrate its defence expenditure and focus on its economy and human capital.
Can the US-Pakistan Strategic Relationship continue like this? Or do significant points of international law, bilateral necessity and public interest need to be ascertained, codified and mutually agreed upon?
Eliminating Mistrust and Suspicion
US policy towards Pakistan has always been dictated by its own geo-strategic interests, not by the quality or (military or civilian) nature of Pakistan's leadership. Pakistani's do not believe in the coincidence that 'it just so happens' that our military regimes have always been more in sync with American geo-strategic interests, or the notion that perhaps both have been 'at the right place at the right time'. While it is true that Pakistan has experienced military rule mostly when Republicans were in the White House, it is evident that military leaders of Pakistan were not able to truly channel the political will of the people of Pakistan in any agreement with the United States. It is fundamentally important that the people of Pakistan - as well as the people of the United States - are considered stakeholders in any and every bilateral agreement between their governments, so that public interest is supreme and common security becomes a realistic goal rather than a pursuit made blurry by suspicion and conspiracy.
Since the start of 2011, the mistrust between both the countries has grown and both have seen sides of each other’s intelligence agencies which they had never seen before. Both the CIA and ISI co-operate with each other, blame each other for mistakes, and target each other for being in bed with the enemy. The United States also worries about statistically significant chances of 'leaks' whenever sensitive information regarding terrorists was shared with the ISI. The CIA also blames the ISI for being in contact with terrorist groups like the Haqqani network, the Lashkar e Taiba, etc. but the ISI has responded by saying that it is only 'in contact' with elements in these groups to gather information and intelligence, not - as the CIA alleges - to support and guide the terrorists in their designs. This however did not deter the US from listing the ISI as a terrorist organization in their interrogation and designation process of inmates at Guantanamo Bay.
A common handicap of the new US-Pakistan strategic relationship is lingering mistrust between the security establishments and intelligence communities of the two countries. By no means is this a one-way relationship; Pakistan's officials and people do not hide their suspicion and concern over US activities in Afghanistan or their extension into Pakistan either. Continued suspicion from both sides does not cancel each other out; in fact, it multiplies mistrust and makes effective functioning of bilateral relations difficult if not impossible.
To correct for the mistrust and suspicion in the security relationship;
- A robust communication mechanism should be developed at all senior levels of the Strategic Dialogue to complement and guide the process;
- Between the US President and Pakistan's Prime Minister as executive heads of government,
- Between the US Secretary of State and Pakistan's Foreign Minister as principals of foreign policy,
- Between the Chairmen of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pakistani Joint Chiefs of Staff as principal advisors to respective heads of state on security matters,
- Between the US Army Chief of Staff and Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff on matters of collective security importance, bilateral security relationship and development of military cooperation in both personnel training and weapons development,
- Between the Director CIA and the Director-General ISI to collaborate on matters of intelligence and information cooperation,
- Between the ISAF Commander and Corps Commander XI Corps Peshawar, who may be assisted by IGFC Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, in matters of cross-border cooperation, border patrolling, territorial security, and economic/customs issues like smuggling, illegal weapons transfers, etc.
- A methodology to develop and codify obligations, responsibilities and deliverables in each of these sub-relationships so as to complement and support the work done at other levels in the relationship
- A mechanism to ensure timely and correct public dissemination of information and developments related to the US-Pakistan security relationship (which may be guided by the US White House Press Department and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of Pakistan)
It is obvious that all the sub-relationships defined above must initially work to consolidate and bolster the relationship and correct for misconceptions and communication asymmetry therein. The appointment of General Martin Dempsey as Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (apparently in addition to his post as Army Chief of Staff) appears to be a welcome sign when it comes to the US-Pakistan military relationship: both General Dempsey and General Kiyani studied at the US Army Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and may re-create the US-Pakistani rapport of yesteryears.
Civilian and Military Aid to Pakistan
As has been argued earlier, the US Congress suspended aid to Pakistan under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill as well as the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) — or at least the disbursements had been stopped — Pakistan was already complaining that these had been slowed. The reason for this was that a single individual — Raymond Davis — was in a Pakistani jail for killing two Pakistanis. Davis was released by a Pakistani court on March 16 after the payment of ‘blood money’ to the heirs of the murdered men as sanctioned by Islamic law. Surprisingly the reaction in Pakistan to the reports of aid suspension were strangely muted — economic and financial experts in Pakistan were not perturbed by the developments in the US Congress and when presented with the idea of such a happening, they said that "Pakistan would manage". America, especially Congress, worries that U.S. aid will be wasted, stolen or simply not be assimilated by Pakistan. Pakistanis resent what is seen as too many strings attached by Washington. And both sides have different opinions of how and where to apply this aid.
Much more needs to be done in the economic and social sphere throughout Pakistan. Aid can only keep the country afloat: it is steps that open up markets, bring in investment and boost local industry that will create employment and transform the economy to generate funds for infrastructure development and social sector reforms. This is where Pakistan needs fast and furious support. One area in which the US excels is farming and agriculture. Plans and priorities for American assistance focusing on replacing wheat crops and growing buffalo numbers must be created as quickly as possible. This must be done on an urgent basis to get the agricultural sector growing. Regarding the power sector, as is well known, the issue is not electrical generation capacity. It is the costs of electricity and the so-called circular debt that causes manufacturers to cut back as payment is not remitted either on time or in sufficient amounts. There needs to be an all hands on deck approach to resolving these dilemmas.
It should be obvious to all participants and stakeholders that the funding provided to Pakistan by the US is indeed critical, but not irreplaceable. It should also be made evident to US policymakers and voting public that financially and militarily aiding Pakistan in its fight against terrorism and Islamic extremism - both of which are evidently pervasive in Pakistan - is in the US's interest. In this regard, the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill requires the US Secretary of State to verify that Pakistan continues to make a "sustained commitment" to defeating terrorism and extremism (the last verification was made in March this year) but it seems pertinent to mention that the conditionality’s of this "sustained commitment" must be revealed to both the US and Pakistani people. This will alleviate the aura of mistrust that exists between US actions and the Pakistani perception thereafter; the people of Pakistan will know exactly why the US is aiding Pakistan, what the US wants from giving aid to Pakistan, and what the people of Pakistan can do in this regard.
Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan
Pakistan has no interest in interfering in Afghanistan - Pakistan wants peace with Afghanistan and Pakistan believes Afghanistan should mainstream its marginalized population, especially the Pakhtun, who are a majority yet have been demonized since the War on Terror and because a majority of Taliban 'freedom fighters' are Pakhtun.
There are several narratives that are worth considering and revisiting;
- In the US — both officialdom and public opinion — the belief is that their ally Pakistan is supportive of the Afghan Taliban personified by the Haqqani network and Lashkar Taiba (LeT) and that Pakistan only battles the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP—that attacks Pakistan).
- The US blames Pakistan — specifically it’s military and intelligence — of duplicity in their policies and does not share Pakistani perception of a threat from India to its security. Periodically, the US media and globalist think tanks roll out fears about ‘Pakistan’s nukes’ not being secured, and radicalization of Pakistani society.
- In Pakistan, there is the perception that the US does not trust Pakistan and operates unilaterally in Afghanistan and Pakistan; drone strikes in FATA and covert operations within Pakistan point to the truth in this notion. Pakistanis are not clear on the US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- The other perception prevailing in Pakistan is that a military victory is not possible in Afghanistan; therefore a political resolution is the only option for the US. The general belief is that the US will never leave Afghanistan, and will only withdraw from active combat by remaining in their bases and pushing the Afghan Security Forces to do the fighting. This may be achieved with a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) similar to the one signed into law by Iraq.
Counter-extremism in South Asia
Counter-extremism is a political mechanism built on providing platforms, addressing concerns, eliminating the sense of marginalization as well as the factors that marginalize citizens, and most importantly, energizing and implementing a sovereign reintegration program that extends to the entire national territory.
Afghan reintegration should also account for the millions of refugees Pakistan has been hosting since the 1980's. If not, then Pakistan should count these Pakhtuns as its citizens and make the necessary public policies thereof. Over the past few years a lot of research has been carried out extremism and its root causes, but up till now no definite answers or factors have been able to provide an overarching explanation for extremism. Some believe it to be a direct result of lack of education, economic underdevelopment and the 'Jihadi' mentality endorsed by certain clerics and self-proclaimed Islamic “visionaries”.
In the past few months, the already ailing relationship between the US and Pakistan has taken another deep dive and one incident after another has led to this point, where the relations with US have hit an all time low. In the light of these circumstances, where the US continues to carry out drone strikes and push Pakistan to do more in the War on Terror, a backlash lurks around in the corner and can have devastating results for the counter-extremism efforts if the US does continues to ignore Pakistan's efforts in the War on Terror. According to certain reports, Hillary Clinton gave a clean chit to Pakistan in the OBL case in return for an offensive operation into the terror hub of North Waziristan. The Armed Forces maintain operational readiness on the eastern border even as they are fighting a low intensity conflict against insurgents in the western border areas. The insurgency has links to Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and banned militant outfits within Pakistan, and it uses the landscape created by the thirty years of conflict in Afghanistan. Thus, a declining economy has implications for security just as poor internal and external security hampers economic turnaround.
Furthermore, given the potentially explosive mix of unemployed young and spreading radicalism in certain areas of Pakistan, an antidote to fundamentalism in the form of powerful strategic communications and educational vocational plans are needed. This will take time. But unless this starts now, even at a relatively modest level, it will be too late. Pakistan does not want to be radicalized — it is committed to being a moderate Islamic country and it is committed to democracy, social reform and to being part of the global world order. It is battling the consequences of policies that create hatred and motivation for radicalization as others pursue their own interests.
It is critical to the War on Terror in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre that both Pakistan and the United States formalize a process for joint operations, joint engagement of the enemy and achievement of common objectives in a multidimensional battle space. Fiercely nationalistic, the presence of foreign troops on Pakistani soil is unacceptable to that public, and the OBL raid became a divisive issue where disdain for US unilateralism could not be differentiated from support for Osama bin Laden’s doctrine and for Al Qaeda. Yet, without greater U.S. support and some presence, Pakistan will be hard pressed to defeat the insurgency.
It has been stated time and again that there is no solitary military strategy to tackle the composite of terrorism and extremism, especially in the tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is also one of the reasons behind the delay exhibited by the Pakistan Armed Forces in launching an operation in North Waziristan. Military strategies can uproot terrorism of course, but need to be complemented by political solutions and further augmented by economic opportunities that form social safety nets around previously ignored populations (who are manipulated by terrorist handlers for their own vested interests). Pakistan has possibly agreed in principle to mount a land operation in North Waziristan, which will follow an Air Force campaign that softens up militant targets and hideouts, but a deteriorating situation in adjoining tribal agencies and Pakistan's urban centers will test the resolve of both the troops and the people in this deadly engagement. The timing is critical. As a starting point the Government of Pakistan must ask all aliens to leave Pakistani soil immediately and this should be formally announced and given wide coverage. Pakistan must also clearly signal a resolve from all quarters that it will not permit acts of terror from its soil.
Political solutions that deal with counter-extremism in Pakistan must focus on making the state more capable, more effective, and more sensitive to public needs; it must also allow political and media space to moderate politicians and religious leaders who can exhort the importance of peace in Islam; it must hold as a supreme rule that all those militants/extremists who lay down their arms and agree to abide by the Constitution of Pakistan will be mainstreamed and granted amnesty, whereas those who continue to use violent means to force their decisions and wishes on others will be dealt with an iron fist (in both legal and military terms). Pakistan's politicians and civilians need to display more courage and leadership capacities, and as a starting point, energize the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) to make it fully functional, and re-enact Pakistan's Anti-Terrorist Act with pertinent modifications and updates.
Peace between India and Pakistan
The US should play a mediating role between India and Pakistan - India does not like it when the US mentions Kashmir, and Pakistan does not like it when the US curries favor with India. The US - especially President Obama - should make US policy in South Asia much more evident, and both India and Pakistan should support positive US efforts. The Obama Administration enjoys unprecedented relations with both India and Pakistan, and this is the opportune time to develop a common South Asian market that has access to goods and to transport mechanisms that lead to the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. This strategic importance of transport routes cannot be realized without a stable and prosperous Pakistan, and the economic might of South Asia cannot be channeled without India's active and holistic participation.
It is the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan and the resolution of disputes that holds the key to moving towards collaborative nuclear security and control measures. The ongoing composite dialogue between India and Pakistan is therefore extremely timely and important not just for them but for the region and the world.
Kashmir is not just a thorn in the side - it is a humanitarian problem with thousands dead and millions missing, where people's rights continue to be downtrodden on a daily basis. The US can ease India towards alleviating the humanitarian situation. The AFSPA and other draconian acts must also go - it is in the interest of India to make this happen. Otherwise, Kashmir will continue to burn and Pakistan will continue to raise this issue everywhere, to the ire of India and to the detriment of the region at large. This status quo must be changed, and President Obama must say 'Yes we can'. It should be noted by all and sundry that once the Kashmir dispute is resolved amicably and fulfills the requirements of India, Pakistan and most importantly, the Kashmiri people, then there will be no need to resort to asymmetric warfare techniques or use of terror as proxy - by state institutions or by private organizations.
The US needs to be a little more assertive and needs to stop this double game where it satisfies both the countries to the minimum level necessary. These statements need to be followed up by concrete actions so that actual results are derived and tensions are diffused. And Pakistan must be given reason to trust India; as Pakistan devotes 140,000 troops on its Western border, India still maintains 500,000 troops in Kashmir alone. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the right man for pushing forward the mantra of Indo-Pak peace, but both sides want peace with honor and dignity; to ask for anything less would be tantamount to continuing the present facade - which created the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Sipah-e-Sahaba, and other proxy groups in the first place.
Pakistan's friendship with China
The issue which seems to nag US from time and time is Pakistan's closeness with China. The fact of the matter is that Pakistan may be trying to contain India with the help of China, just like the US may be trying to contain China with the help of India. Such strategic considerations and need to be re-evaluated and such conspiratorial hypotheses need to be re-framed before an environment of cordiality and friendliness can be developed. The US and India need to stop fearing China, and if they cannot trust China because of her immense wealth and power, they need to trust Pakistan and Pakistan's close links with China.
The US should remember Kissinger trips to Beijing in the 1970's - just after the Fall of Dhaka - after which US President Nixon was able to enact his foreign policy achievement of "opening up China". Despite being the frontline state in the War on Terror, battling deeply unpopular political and economic conditions, and in the midst of a deteriorating state and vanishing national identity, Pakistan is still a responsible member of the international community having cordial relations with both the ascending and descending superpowers - in that position, it can also serve as a middleman between the two, rationalizing and normalizing global tensions in a way which serves in the best interest for world peace and harmony. Concurrently, both the US and China can enable Pakistan to truncate this downward spiral, re-energize its state and security apparatus, and effectively hunt down and neutralize all terrorists using Pakistan as a safe haven - this is in Pakistan's interest, and will also allow the Pakistani people to trust the US more.
Pakistan's referral to China, and even Kuwait and Russia, after Operation Neptune's Spear in Abbottabad on May 2 reveals that Pakistan still has other superpower friends to turn to if relations with the US go sour - or worse, if the US appears poised to invade Pakistan. China has put its foot down when it comes to respecting Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity, with some reports claiming that China will consider a military attack on Islamabad as an attack on Beijing itself.
Peace in South Asia is not a zero-sum game, and it is in the interest of all major global and regional powers to work together and defeat the menace of terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism. Aggravating Muslims all over the world will only exacerbate the divide between “us” and “the other”, and will empower the enemies of peace. When Arab Muslim societies are rising up to demand their legitimate democratic rights and are in the process of removing dictators and usurpers, it should be clear to all and sundry that Muslims have been denied and deprived in the post-colonial age, and rectifying these decade-long problems will take an equal amount of time, and a greater amount of will-power, dedication and consistency.
Spearhead analyses are the result of a collaborative effort and not attributable to a single individual.
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