C. Christine Fair
The RAND Corporation
Assassination, Instability, and the Future of U.S. Policy
Before the Foreign Affairs Committee
Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
United States House of Representatives
January 16, 2008
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting me to participate in today's hearing about Pakistan. Pakistan is perhaps the most important U.S. partner in the war on terrorism. Not only has Pakistan lost more personnel in this conflict than any other ally, critical fuel for vehicles and aircraft used in the war effort in Afghanistan moves through Pakistan without problem. Without this logistical support, both Operation Enduring Freedom and NATO operations in Afghanistan would prove very difficult to sustain without interruption. While there is no doubt that Pakistan is a crucial ally of the United States, it is a state mired in instability and uncertainty. This raises questions about the will and capacity of Pakistan's leadership to remain engaged in the war on terrorism.
Both Washington and Islamabad have made decisions that have precipitated this current crisis. For Washington's part, by focusing upon President and former Chief of Army Staff Pervez Musharraf and by acquiescing to his various extra-constitutional moves, it has alienated further the Pakistani polity who harbor various suspicions about the United States and its intentions. As is well known, the bulk of $10 billion in U.S. monies to Pakistan since 9/11 has been comprised of coalition support funds and other forms of military assistance. Indeed, there is an implicit assumption that President Musharraf and his purportedly secular army can help secure Pakistan's future as a moderate Islamic state as encapsulated in President Musharraf's much-lauded notion of Enlightened Moderation. Relatively little of this assistance has been enjoyed by ordinary Pakistanis who increasingly doubt the U.S. commitment to Pakistan and Pakistanis and perilously few resources have been devoted to strengthening Pakistan's emaciated civilian institutions.
These "emaciated civilian institutions" need to be kept in mind. As we saw in our previous post, Pakistani families may feel they have little option for educating their children but to send them to madrassas, many (but not all) of which teach militant extremism and are essentially recruiting depots for feeding jihadi-wannabes into mujahideen training camps, which in turn supply Islamic terrorist recruits to the Taliban, to groups in Kashmir, and to Al Qaeda.
If some of the resources fed into Pakistan's military machine were instead diverted into a workable, more secular public school system, perhaps these young people could learn something other than venomous militant hatred. There are other things that could be done with that $10 billion of US taxpayer money, as well; the point is, as we shall see, that the return we are getting on our billions is questionable, to say the least.
For Islamabad's part, President Musharraf has increasingly sought to secure his political position and has imposed excessive constraints upon an ever-more mobilized civil society, who should be important partners in fighting extremism in Pakistan. At the same time, Musharraf has shown his incapacity to both control the Islamist violence that is roiling his country and to lead his country to fight it. Inept, ill-prepared and heavy-handed military operations in the tribal areas and adjacent Pashtun localities have spawned seething resentment towards the Pakistani state and animated a wider Islamist cum Pashtun militancy which has been exacerbated by infrequent but deadly U.S. unilateral military strikes. It is worth mentioning that the Pakistani armed forces undertook these operations under immense U.S. pressure. U.S. expectations about the timing of the operations and their potential outcome relied upon a number of erroneous assumptions about Pakistan's capabilities. This should occasion reflection about U.S. expectations and how well it understands the capacities of this important partner.
"At the same time, Musharraf has shown his incapacity to both control the Islamist violence that is roiling his country and to lead his country to fight it."
In our previous post, Pakistan's Madrassas, Part 3, we found good reason to question which side Musharraf is even on. Naturally, when called out, he will plead incompetence, in the hopes of keeping those billions of dollars of free aid coming, but we have reason to question where the sympathies truly lie of a man who has been characterized as "a hardliner on Kashmir, a man some feared was determined to humble India once and for all."
In recent years the chasm between American interests and those of President Musharraf has dramatically expanded. Specifically, the United States would like to see stability, consistent action against al Qaeda and Taliban forces operating in and from Pakistan, greater efforts to curb a wide array of Islamist militant groups in the country and most recently greater moves towards at the least the procedures of democracy if not the substance. It has become clear in recent years that President Musharraf, while he may share some of these concerns, has increasingly become focused upon securing his personal future—not that of Pakistan. This has compelled him to pursue policies of appeasement towards Islamists and militants alike while marginally satisfying the United States with respect to war on terrorism. By late 2004, Musharraf's ability to crackdown upon Islamist militants operating throughout the country seemed suspect and remains so. In recent years, journalists, military and intelligence officials and some analysts have increasingly noted with dismay the sanctuary that al Qaeda, Taliban and Kashmir-focused militant organizations enjoy and some analysts have even accused the state of active support of the of these organizations.
Let me offer a different take on this. The picture I painted in Pakistan's Madrassas, Part 3 was one of a Musharraf who began hostilities with India in the winter of 1999, then oversaw the preparation for use of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. When finally compelled to withdraw Pakistani forces -- excuse me, these "Kashmiri militants", whom Pakistan could not control -- from territory on India's side of the Line of Control, Musharraf was not happy. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif erred in his subsequent dealings with Musharraf, causing the military to get behind Musharraf and place him in power to replace Sharif in the October, 1999, coup.
Fair's words -- "compelled him to pursue policies of appeasement towards Islamists and militants" -- thus need to be questioned; perhaps Mushy's sympathies have been with the Islamists and militants all along.
I also question this: "President Musharraf ... has increasingly become focused upon securing his personal future—not that of Pakistan."
It is understandable why it would appear that way. But, my take on this is that Musharraf may be a very smart man, a leader who has dedicated his life to serving Pakistan, and who may be doing what he thinks is best for Pakistan in a very complicated situation. I will save my explanation as to why I suggest that for another post.
With Bhutto's assassination, the clarion need for a stable Pakistan is ever more apparent as is the realization that President Musharraf is increasingly unable to bring such stability to Pakistan on his own. Moreover, even if Pakistan's security elites were to recognize that Pakistan's future is imperiled by the militant groups menacing Pakistan and embrace the war on terror as its own and take decisive action against all militant groups active in the country, the current government enjoys little legitimacy among Pakistanis. Without popular legitimacy and support, Musharraf will be unable to convince his country that Pakistan is struggling for its own survival-not his.
So, even if Musharraf is sincerely on "our" side in the "War on Terror" -- which I don't believe he is, exactly -- he's still goofing this up. Not only have we bet on a losing horse, but it is a horse that got into the race via a military coup, deposing a guy who was actually working with us.
Add to that the following: the coup was a result of a train of events that began when "Kashmiri militants" under Musharraf's control invaded Indian-occupied territory, in violation of the agreement arrived at via diplomacy at Lahore that Pakistan and India would work towards a peaceful solution to their issues.
The icing on the cake is that Musharraf's ISI is implicated in supporting the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But wait, there's more!
Thus there is urgent need to reconsider the lineaments of the U.S-Pakistan relationship and the reciprocal expectations that each state holds of the other. I concede that it is difficult to re-imagine the terms of the relationship given the tendency to assume that stasis is tantamount to stability. However, pursuit of the status quo will likely put the United States and Pakistan on a course of greater conflict not less and will undermine, not buttress, the prospects for a stable and prosperous Pakistan which is in the supreme interest of Pakistanis and Americans.
(Emphasis in original; "lineaments" means characteristics -- I know, because I had to look it up.)
Before we throw out this status quo that has been so precious to the Bush Administration, let's take a look at what this "stasis" really means.
We now consider an excerpt from a 2007 paper by Seth G. Jones entitled Pakistan's Dangerous Game. Included in the research Jones did for this work are many interviews with officials in Afghanistan:
I conducted extensive interviews with United States, NATO, United Nations and Afghan officials in Afghanistan in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The conclusions are stark. There is significant evidence that the Taliban, Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), al-Qaeda, and other insurgent groups use Pakistan as a sanctuary for recruitment and support. In addition, there is virtual unanimity that Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has continued to provide assistance to Afghan insurgent groups.
Farther on in the paper, here's what Jones had to say (again, numerals in [brackets] are footnotes; please see the original):
There is virtual unanimity among United States, NATO, UN and Afghan officials that Pakistani assistance is significant. The ISI has reportedly provided weapons and ammunition to the Taliban, and paid the medical bills of some wounded Taliban fighters. The ISI has reportedly helped train Taliban and other insurgents destined for Afghanistan and Kashmir in Quetta, Mansehra, Shamshattu, Parachinar and other areas in Pakistan. In order to minimise detectability, the ISI has also supplied indirect assistance – including financial assistance – to Taliban training camps. United States and NATO officials have uncovered several instances in which the ISI has provided intelligence to Taliban insurgents at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. ISI agents have reportedly tipped off Taliban forces about the location and movement of Afghan and coalition forces, which has undermined several anti-Taliban military operations. Some Pakistan intelligence officials appear to be involved in directing suicide operatives into the Afghan theatre. Most of the assistance appears to come directly from individuals at the mid- and lower-levels of the ISI. But there is evidence that senior officials of the ISI and Pakistan government are aware of the ISI's role and may be actively encouraging it.
Retired Pakistani Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul and Colonel Sultan Amir Imam, pro-Taliban and pro-al-Qaeda former leaders, have given widely reported speeches at Pakistani government and military institutions calling for jihad against the United States and the Afghan government. This assistance is consistent with the Pakistan government's past behaviour, especially the ISI’s. Throughout the 1990s, Pakistan's military and intelligence service provided arms, ammunition, supplies, financial aid and training to the Taliban and Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Pakistan also helped recruit fighters for the Taliban, sometimes working with domestic religious associations.
In my previous post, Pakistan's Madrassas, Part 3, I implicated Musharraf and Pakistan's ISI in 9/11.
Why would they do that? What would Musharraf and others in Pakistan have to gain by not just allowing but actually supporting a proxy attack on the United States, especially one of such magnitude?
We will most certainly explore those questions, and many more, in upcoming posts.
However, for the astute reader who can /read between the lines/, those two questions are already answered above; it's a "perfect storm" of Islamic jihadism, and it benefits select elements at the considerable expense of rank-and-file Muslims.
Happy Valentine's Day (belated, for many of my readers -- I should have said that yesterday)!