Thank you for this opportunity
to testify about the effects of U.S.
policy in Afghanistan on the
stability and political evolution of Pakistan.
It seems useful to begin with
an assessment of where U.S.
interests in Pakistan
are located. The success of Pakistan - that is, its emergence as a stable,
modernizing, prosperous, pluralistic country, at peace with its neighbors and
within its borders, and integrated economically in South and Central Asia - is
important, even vital, not only to the United States but to the broader
international community. The nuclear danger in South Asia alone argues for
risk-taking investments in Pakistan's
success. In addition, any durable American "exit strategy" from Afghanistan will depend upon the emergence of a
stable Pakistan that is
moving toward normalization with India and the reduction of extremism
within its borders.
For nearly four decades, Pakistan's struggle to achieve its
constitutional and founding ideals of democracy, pluralism, and a culture
rooted in a modernizing Islam have been impeded in part by the spillover
effects of continual warfare in Afghanistan.
These spillover effects have influenced the militarization of Pakistanis
politics, encouraged the development of a "paranoid style" in Pakistani
security doctrines, and more recently, helped to radicalize sections of the
The United States today is a catalyzing
power in this same, continual Afghan warfare. U.S.
actions in Afghanistan since
2001 have amplified the debilitating spillover effects of the Afghan war on Pakistan. To
name a few examples: The lightly resourced, complacent U.S. approach to
Afghanistan following the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001 effectively chased
Islamist insurgents into Pakistan, contributing to its destabilization.
Dormant, often directionless U.S.
diplomacy in the region failed to bridge the deepening mistrust among the Kabul, Islamabad, and New Delhi governments
after 2001, or to challenge successfully the Pakistani military's tolerance of
Islamist extremist groups, including the Afghan Taliban. In Pakistan itself, the U.S. relied for too long and too
exclusively on former President Pervez Musharraf and failed to challenge his
marginalization of political opponents or his coddling of Islamist extremists.
During these years, narrowly conceived, transparently self-interested U.S. policies
caused many Pakistanis to conclude, to some extent correctly, that the American
presence in their region was narrowly conceived, self-interested, and
recent poll of Pakistani public opinion carried out by the Pew Global Attitudes
Project found that only sixteen percent of Pakistanis have a favorable view of
the United States.1 That discouraging number has been more or less consistent
since 2001; the only time it spiked, to just above twenty-five percent, was in
2006, after the United States pledged $500 million in aid to Pakistan and after
it played a visible and significant role in an earthquake relief effort in
Pakistani-held Kashmir. The Senate's recent unanimous passage of the
Kerry-Lugar bill, providing $1.5 billion in aid to Pakistan
for each of the next five years, offers a foothold to begin shifting U.S. policy in
a more rewarding direction. However, it would be a mistake to underestimate the
depth of the resentments and sources of instability in Pakistan that now confront the United States.
A poll carried out by Gallup and Al Jazeera in
July asked a sample of Pakistanis what constituted the biggest threat to Pakistan's
security. Fifty-nine percent answered that it was the United States, followed by eighteen percent who
and only eleven percent who named the Taliban.2
The measure of American policy
in Pakistan, of course, is
not American popularity but Pakistan's
own durable stability and peaceful evolution. However, the dismal view of the
United States held across so many constituencies in Pakistan today -
particularly the widespread view that U.S. policy in Afghanistan and along the
Pakistan-Afghan border constitutes a grave threat to Pakistan - is a sign that
U.S. policymakers must think much more deeply, as this Committee is doing,
about how the U.S.-led campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban will
reverberate in Pakistan during the next five to ten years.
There is no unitary,
homogenized Pakistan for the
United States to effect by
its actions in Afghanistan.
Instead, there are distinct Pakistani constituencies, some in competition with
each other, which will be impacted in different ways by the choices the United States now makes in Afghanistan.
These include the Pakistani military and security services; the country's
civilian political leadership; its business communities and civil society; and
the Pakistani public.
Broadly, the purpose of U.S.
policy in the region, including in Afghanistan, should be to strengthen
Pakistani constitutional politics and pluralism; to invest in the Pakistani
people and civil society; to enable the Pakistani military to secure the
country while preserving and enhancing civilian rule; and most critically of
all, to persuade the Pakistani military and intelligence services that it is in
Pakistan's national interest to pursue normalization and economic integration
with India and to abandon its support for proxy Islamist groups such as the
Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and others.
This is the strategic prism
through which U.S. policy
choices in Afghanistan
today should be evaluated.
One obstacle to the achievement
of these goals is the deeply held view within the Pakistani security services
that the United States
will abandon the region once it has defeated or disabled Al Qaeda. Pakistani
generals correctly fear that a precipitous American withdrawal from Afghanistan
would be destabilizing, and that it would
Islamist radical networks, including but not limited to the Taliban, who are
today destabilizing Pakistan
as well as the wider region.
Alternatively or concurrently,
sections of the Pakistani military and civilian elite also fear that the United
States may collaborate with India, naively or deliberately, to weaken Pakistan,
by supporting governments in Kabul that at best are hostile to Pakistani
interests or at worst facilitate Indian efforts to destabilize, disarm or even
destroy the Pakistani state.
The presence and depth of these
fears among the Pakistani elites implies that the United
States should avoid taking actions in Afghanistan
that reinforce this debilitating, self-defeating belief system within the
Pakistani security services. It implies that Washington
should, on the other hand, embrace those policies that are most likely to
ameliorate or subdue such policies within Pakistan over time.
Pakistan's historical, self-defeating support for the Taliban
and similar groups is rooted in the belief that Pakistan
requires unconventional forces, as well as a nuclear deterrent, to offset India's
conventional military and industrial might. This logic of existential
insecurity has informed Pakistan's
policies in Afghanistan
because Pakistani generals have seen an Indian hand in Kabul since the days of the Soviet invasion.
They interpret India's goals
in Afghanistan as a strategy
of encirclement of Pakistan,
punctuated by the tactic of promoting instability among Pakistan's
restive, independence-minded Pashtun, Baluch and Sindhi populations.
Pakistan has countered this perceived Indian strategy by
developing Islamist militias such as the predominantly Pashtun Taliban as
proxies for Pakistan and as
a means to destabilize India.
As for the U.S. role, Pakistani generals see it as inconstant and unreliable,
based on the pattern of here-and-gone U.S. engagement in the past, and they
also tend to believe that the U.S. is today lashing itself, deliberately or
naively, to Indian strategy in the region.
This paranoid style in
Pakistani security doctrine has been reinforced in several ways by U.S. actions in
the region since 2001. As noted above, U.S.
diplomacy has made an insufficient priority, until recently, of attempting to
build constructive links between Kabul and Islamabad and to take pragmatic steps to persuade the
Pakistani military that it has a stake in a stable Afghanistan free from the threat of
Taliban rule. U.S. policy in
Afghanistan has failed to
develop a robust strategy of political negotiation, reconciliation, and
national reintegration that would provide a platform for Pakistan's
genuine security concerns. Then, too, the failure of the U.S. to invest deeply
and broadly in Pakistani society, but to concentrate its aid in a narrowly
based military government during the Musharraf period, only reinforced the
assumption that the United States had once again hired out Pakistan as a
regional "sherrif" and intended to disengage from South and Central Asia as
soon as its mission against Al Qaeda was complete - just as the United States
has done at comparable intersections in the past, including after the Soviet
withdrawal from Afghanistan.
does this analysis suggest about the specific policy choices facing the Obama
Administration in Afghanistan
If the United States signals to
Pakistan's military command that it intends to abandon efforts to stabilize
Afghanistan, or that it has set a short clock running on the project of
pursuing Afghan stability, or that it intends to undertake its regional policy
primarily through a strategic partnership with India, then it will only
reinforce the beliefs of those in the Pakistani security establishment who
argue that nursing the Taliban is in the country's national interests.
To the extent that U.S. actions
in Afghanistan reinforce this view within the Pakistani security services, it
will contribute to instability in Pakistan and weaken the hand of Pakistani
political parties and civil society in their long, unfinished struggle to build
a more successful, more durable constitutional system, modeled on the
power-sharing systems, formal and informal, that prevail today in previously
coup-riddled or unstable countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, the Philippines,
Argentina and Brazil.
If the United States undertakes
a heavily militarized, increasingly unilateral policy in Afghanistan, whether
in the name of "counterinsurgency," "counterterrorism," or some other abstract
Western doctrine, without also adopting an aggressive political, reconciliation
and diplomatic strategy that more effectively incorporates Pakistan into
efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, then it will also reinforce the beliefs of
those in the Pakistani security establishment that they need the Taliban as a
hedge against the U.S. and India.
If the United States adopts a
"counterterrorism-only" policy in Afghanistan and substantially withdraws from
Afghanistan, it will risk deepening instability along the Pakistan-Afghan
border, and it will reinforce the narrative of its failed, self-interested
policies in Pakistan during the Musharraf period and in earlier periods,
undermining the prospects for a Pakistan that evolves gradually toward internal
stability and a constructive regional role.
On the other hand, if the
United States signals to Pakistan's military command that it intends to pursue
very long-term policies designed to promote stability and prosperity in South
Asia and Central Asia, and that it sees a responsible Pakistan as a
decades-long strategic ally comparable to Turkey and Egypt, then it will have a
reasonable if uncertain chance to persuade the Pakistani security establishment
over time that the costs of succoring the Taliban and like groups outweigh the
Between withdrawal signals and
blind militarization there is a more sustainable strategy, one that I hope the
Obama Administration is the in the process of defining. It would make clear
that the Taliban will never be permitted to take power in Kabul or major cities. It would seek and
enforce stability in Afghan population centers but emphasize politics over
combat, urban stability over rural patrolling, Afghan solutions over Western ones,
and it would incorporate Pakistan
more directly into creative and persistent diplomatic efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and
is the only plausible path to a modernizing, prosperous South
Asia. It is a future within reach and it is a model for
evolutionary political-military success already established in other regions of
the world that recently suffered deep instability rooted in extremism, identity
politics, and fractured civil-military relations, such as Southeast Asia and
The Obama Administration needs
to make an even greater effort than it already has to communicate publicly
about its commitment to Pakistan
and to the broader long-term goal of regional stability and economic
integration. There is in an emerging, bipartisan consensus within the Congress
policy, as evidenced by the Senate's unanimous endorsement of the critically
important Kerry-Lugar legislation. At the Pentagon and within civilian U.S.
policymaking circles there is a much deeper understanding than previously about
the centrality of Pakistan to U.S. interests and regional strategy, and about
the need to engage with Pakistan consistently over the long run, nurturing that
country's economic growth, healthy civil-military relations, civil society,
pluralism, constitutionalism, and normalization with India. On Pakistan policy, Washington
is perhaps on the verge of proving Churchill's quip that the United States
always does the right thing after first trying everything else.
And yet Kerry-Lugar should be
seen as only a beginning. It is essential that the U.S.
national security bureaucracy find ways to act with a greater sense of urgency,
creativity and unity on Pakistan
policy. In Iraq and Afghanistan,
because we are formally at war, American policy is often animated,
appropriately, by a sense of urgency. Too often, this is not the case when it
comes to Pakistan, even
though Pakistan's stability
and success is a central reason that the United
States continues to invest blood and treasure in Afghanistan. As
the Obama Administration and Congress refashion and reinvest in Afghan policy
over the next weeks, there will be an important opportunity to address this
imbalance, in the way that policy is conceived, funded and communicated.
1"Pakistani Public Opinion:
Growing Concerns about Extremism, Continuing Discontent With U.S.," The Pew
Global Attitudes Project, August 13, 2009.
of the Nation," Al Jazeera, August 13, 2009.