LTG (Ret.) David Barno, Matt Irvine and I have published a new report (.pdf) with the Center for a New American Security that attempts to identify the components of a successful U.S. strategy for Central and South Asia. Our research began in the fall of 2010 and included research trips to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. We also assembled several working groups comprised of both area specialists as well as functional area specialists to help us identify planning assumptions, U.S. interests, and policy options. In the end, we recommend the United States:
UPDATE: Joshuas Kucera and Foust have written thoughtful critiques of the report worth your time. I want to thank both for taking the time to read the report and offer their own analysis. Both analysts lament, in their own ways, how little priority we give to Central Asia in this report. Let me briefly respond by assuring our readers this was a deliberate decision made after much thought and discussion about limited U.S. resources available as well as other, competing priorities. Within Central and South Asia, the U.S. relationship with India dominates our long-term interests, and the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan dominates our near-term interests. Pakistan, meanwhile, the central focus of our report, has the potential to decisively affect both. (This much, I think, is somewhat obvious, yes?) So again, given limited resources and competing priorities, we made a deliberate decision to de-emphasize the importance of Central Asia for U.S. policy makers. Every region of the globe is important, of course, and the United States has at least some interests everywhere. But in deciding where the United States should allot its limited resources and focus the energies of its policy-makers, departments and agencies, we make the case the United States should spend the most time thinking through the problems of Pakistan. Again, I think our logic makes sense even if you disagree. Just starting from an assumptions-and-interests analysis, we did not conclude Central Asia to be as important to the United States and its interests going forward as the three states -- Afghanistan, India, Pakistan -- to which we devote the most time in our report.
A couple of people have made the point that I skipped over India in my overview of Pakistan-US relations. It's a fair point. India is a post by itself (hence the new post). India does of course come into the equation in any discussions about Pakistan and the US, and that's likely to increase in the future. I don't mean to downplay the India angle, but from the point of view of US-Pak relations, it still boils down to the issue of Pakistan's political and economic independence, which itself comes down to building a stable political system internally.
But yes, there's more to Pakistan's relationship with India than just that... India is special because it is intrinsically linked to Pakistan's self image.
A Pakistani diplomat I met in Jordan once asked me, "You've worked in the Middle East. Tell me, how is it that the Arabs are so much better at building a long-term relationship with the US than us."
The question troubled me on a number of levels. I know the diplomat is thinking about the aid Egypt has received since 1982, and continual political and diplomatic support that has allowed the Egyptian state to become a disfigured behemoth. Jordan is propped up by military aid and free trade agreements while Saudi Arabia (and other Gulf states) find excuses to push their cash towards America so they get the big-power umbrella they need to survive. The main threat to these countries is that the ruling family will be deposed by their own people. I'd never worked in Pakistan at that point, and I found it worrying that from what I knew about the place. The fact that Pakistan isn't a centralised one-party/family state is a strength. Did the Pakistani establishment really think becoming Egypt or Jordan was the best direction for their country?
Whereas Arab countries are fearful for their ruling families (probably rightly so), Pakistan's fear is India. And whereas America's relationship - individually - with each of those states is more important to the smaller country than to America, as a whole it represents the foreign policy strategy that America uses to maintain its economy and position in the world.
For the Arab states mentioned above (apart from Egypt) their present form is largely based around a ruling family. So their narrow ruling classes are right in seeing a threat to the rulers as a threat to the country as a whole. Pakistan is based on an idea rather than a ruling family. That idea is a vague political conceptualisation of Islam. The threat to that idea is personified by India. An India that includes a peaceful Muslim-majority Kashmir knocks the most basic sense of the idea behind Pakistan; that Muslims would risk being wiped out physically and culturally while also removed from the history books if they were subsumed by the Hindu masses. An India at war with itself (in Kashmir and other non-Muslim provinces) proves the idea that Pakistan's founders were right to push for self determination and escape the "clutches of the conceited Hindu rulers of India" (as they would have put it).
This doesn't mean India is totally blameless. Historical evidence suggests that Pakistan's founders didn't expect to have the kind of relationship with India the country has today. It's speculated that Pakistan's founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, left some of his family and property in India at the time of partition because he thought he'd be able to travel between the two new Commonwealth states that both retained the Queen as their head of state and senior British Army officers heading their armed forces. In the early days Pakistan and India briefly talked about common defence agreements even while Kashmir lay unresolved.
In reality, Pakistan's founders, Jinnah in particular, probably saw Pakistan as a largely secular Muslim state with cultural and economic ties to both the UK and India. The point of Pakistan, in his mind, was not that every South Asian Muslim should live under Muslim rule, but that Muslims of the subcontinent would again be able to chart their political and economic destiny on their own terms as they did before the Indian Mutiny (First War of Independence) of 1857. India, he thought, would behave better to its Muslim minority when its regional power was checked by a Muslim neighbour. Also, it's worth remembering that Pakistan's squaring up to India hasn't always seemed like total folly. For many years, Pakistan had higher (but more volatile) economic growth rates and its industrial base and infrastructure was superior. Although Pakistan had the smaller army, it modelled itself on the numerically inferior Western forces designed to face a larger Warsaw Pact opponent. An approach the Israelis have used successfully against their Arab foes. India has surged ahead in the past 15 years, while Pakistan has really struggled in the last five.
The only future for Pakistan is a truly independent one. Relying on China as its patron is not wise. If India and China make common cause, Pakistan will again be out in the cold. China also has a Muslim minority that it doesn't always treat well. The potential for linkages to develop between Pakistan-backed elements working with or influencing Chinese Muslim discontent is high.
The only real future for Pakistan (or any country) is a truly independent one so that it has the confidence to engage the wider world on the basis of mutual interest. Pakistan will need peace with India if it is to stand on its own feet. But peace with India means building some sort of national consensus around Pakistan's identity, which is going to be a seriously tough prospect. There are infinite parallel universes of competing interests and visions. The easier option (which India indirectly encouraged) has been to build an identity around the idea of anti-Indianess and finding a big power patron to support Pakistan enough to avoid having to do any real meaningful country building. The only sort of government that will be able to start that process will be one with popular legitimacy. ie a democratic government that is seen as competent and sincere. That in itself is a huge challenge.
But perhaps this is where US policy can come in useful. By pushing the two countries together and pressuring them to make a real and lasting peace with a solution to Kashmir could kickstart Pakistan's inner conversation about itself. Right now, the only people with a compelling line of argument are extremists.
The Indian military is experimenting with chili grenades for "riot control and counter-insurgency situations." And to scare away elephants.
...then Mumbai could represent something rather different in the history of terrorism, and possibly something far more disturbing even than global jihad.
Perhaps we have come to the point where casually self-radicalised, sociopathic individuals can form a loose organisation, acquire sufficient weapons and equipment for a few thousand dollars, make a basic plan of action and indulge in a violent expression of their generalised disaffection and anomie.
These individuals indulge in terrorism simply because they can, while their audience concocts a rationale on their behalf.
Welcome to the age of celebrity terrorism.
I think India is extremely vulnerable. And the fundamental reason for that is that this is a state that has neglected security for decades. Investment in policing was considered a nondevelopmental—and consequently wasteful—expenditure. We are one of the most under-policed societies in the world. We have a ratio of 126 police per 100,000, whereas the Western ratio is 250-500 plus per 100,000.
Also, our police are under-equipped and under-resourced across the board. There is no really hard counterterrorism core to policing in India, despite our decades of experience as a target of terrorism. Consequently there is absolutely no doubt that India is vulnerable to terrorism and will remain so in the coming years.
I think this government as well as its predecessor has been equally inept and equally neglectful on the issue of terrorism …The principle task of law enforcement and law-and-order management and counterterrorism is the state's under the Indian constitution. It is the responsibility of the state governments that are run by various parties in the country. All major parties have some states under their control. With very rare exceptions, the quality of counterterrorism has been abysmal.
Our usual Afghan watchers (the estimable Kip and Troy) are out of pocket today, so Charlie thought she would throw this one open to our loyal readership.
The fact that the Indian Embassy was attacked raised suspicions among Afghan officials that Pakistani operatives allied with the Taliban had used the bombing to pursue Pakistan’s decades-long power struggle with India.
India said it would send a delegation to Pakistan to investigate what the Indian Foreign Ministry called “this cowardly terrorist attack.”