Pakistan Foreign Minister Mixes Criticism and Praise of US Foreign Policy

The HKS Citizen (Harvard Kennedy School)
October 26, 2010
By Sanjeev Bery

Photo by Martha Stewart

Alternating between criticism and praise, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke about US-Pakistan relations at the Harvard Kennedy School on Monday, October 18th.  Qureshi was at HKS on the eve of a US-Pakistan strategic dialogue with senior US officials in Washington DC.

In his comments, Qureshi offered blunt criticism of the history of US foreign policy towards Pakistan.  “We see half a century of indisputable, empirical evidence of the US dancing with dictators who subverted human rights, using our people and soldiers as surrogates in proxy wars,” he stated.

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“Pretend Secrecy” Shields the White House from a Drone Missile Debate

The Huffington Post
Posted: November 5, 2009
By Sanjeev Bery

It is time to set aside the notion that U.S. drone missile attacks in Pakistan are some kind of secret. The pretense of secrecy has saved Obama Administration officials from having to publicly defend the military tactic.

But when Pakistani college students, think tank scholars, and New York Times reporters are all talking about this issue, U.S. officials should stop pretending that there is anything classified about it. Continue reading

An interview worth reading: “The Real Problem in Afghanistan”

From Tufts Journal, September 23, 2009:

It’s a situation Andrew Wilder, F89, F96, knows all too well. A research director for the Feinstein International Center since early 2007, he managed humanitarian aid and development programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan for 10 years … Born and raised in Pakistan, Wilder came to the United States to attend college.

According to Wilder:

The more money we try to spend in this environment, which has very limited human resources and institutional capacity, inevitably money overflows into the pockets of corrupt officials. Our aid programs are actually fueling the corruption, which is de-legitimizing the government, which is fueling instability.

A response to Mr. Finel

Below is the text of my posted comment at ForeignPolicy.com responding to Bernard I. Finel’s Ten Questions about Afghanistan.

America’s Moral Responsibility in Afghanistan

Mr. Finel,

Thank you for posing some tough questions that deserve deeper discussion. To complicate matters, I would like focus a bit more on your question six — the nature of America’s “moral obligation” to protect, among others, Afghan women from Taliban oppression.

The fear of a return to Taliban misogyny should be weighed against the reality of significant misogyny in the policies being put forward by the Karzai government. After all, it was the Western-backed Afghanistan regime that recently produced legislation allowing husbands to starve sexually unwilling wives.
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Good questions on Afghanistan

Over at ForeignPolicy.com, Bernard I. Finel at the American Security Project asks Ten Questions about Afghanistan that deserve discussion.  Here’s one:

Many proponents of escalation in Afghanistan highlight the American moral obligation to the Afghan people, in particular to Afghan women certain to be oppressed by a Taliban resurgence and the large number of men and women who have worked with American forces who would likely be targeted for retribution. What is the nature of this moral obligation? Is it absolute? Are there steps we could take to mitigate the consequences short of providing a permanent guarantee of human rights in the country?

It isn’t a pleasant question.  In asking it, we must also keep in mind that it was the Western-backed Karzai government that produced legislation allowing husbands to starve sexually unwilling wives. So in considering our moral obligation, we should also remember that U.S.-backed Afghan elites are making their own deals within the same misogynist political culture.  In effect, the U.S. goal of building a stable, non-Taliban Afghan regime may itself result in a perpetuation of misogynist governance and human rights violations.

U.S. soldiers on Afghan troops

The Guardian (UK) has done a video report on how U.S. soldiers feel about the Afghan soldiers they are tasked with building into an army.  The piece hints at a broader reality:  it is a bit difficult to build a national military on another nation’s behalf.

Interesting excerpts:

Supervising Afghan soldier to reporter (translated):

This army is really upsetting me now.  In fact, you can’t really call it an army at all.  I’m just losing interest in it.  But  what can we do?
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The Al Qaeda two-step shuffle

Al Qaeda and the “war on terror” seem to be the ultimate linguistic props.  Now you see them, now you don’t.

First, the disappearance — the Washington Post reports in late March on the new name for the “war on terror”:

In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department’s office of security review noted that “this administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT.] Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’ “

Then, the reappearance — President Obama speaking on Afghanistan at a NATO summit a week later:

“France recognises that having al-Qaeda operate safe havens that can be used to launch attacks is a threat not just to the United States but to Europe…  In fact it is probably more likely that al-Qaeda would be able to launch a serious terrorist attack in Europe than in the United States because of proximity.”

At least we are getting some variety.  Under the Bush Administration, it was all Al Qaeda, all the time.

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“That wasn’t a date…”

Did they shake hands?  Did they chat?  Was there a peck on the cheek?  As with all first dates, it depends on who you talk to.

The New York Times reported that a pair of top diplomats from the U.S. and Iran had a polite chat at an international conference on Afghanistan this Tuesday.  According to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

“It was cordial, unplanned and they agreed to stay in touch,” Mrs. Clinton said to reporters at the end of the conference. “I myself did not have any direct contact with the Iranian delegation.”

But not so fast.  As the BBC later reported, an Iranian government spokesperson denied the whole thing:

“No meeting or talk, be it formal or informal, official or unofficial between Iran and US officials took place on the sideline of this conference…We categorically deny the reports published in this regard.”

One thing is for sure.  The delicate dance has begun.

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McCain’s Simple Narrative

Last Wednesday, U.S. Senator John McCain gave a tough talk at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank.

His topic was Afghanistan.   His message was that the U.S. is losing the war.

The situation in Afghanistan is nowhere near as dire as it was in Iraq just two years ago …  But the same truth that was apparent three years ago in Iraq is apparent today in Afghanistan: when you aren’t winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And, in Afghanistan today, we are not winning. Let us not shy from the truth, but let us not be paralyzed by it either.

Fine.  Let’s not be paralyzed.  But there is a way in which Sen. McCain managed to avoid discussing the same realities on the ground that everyone else seems to be avoiding.

Let’s just take one issue in particular:  there is no such thing as “the” Taliban.  It might make for easy reporting, but the notion of a single opposition force serves to obscure more than it reveals.

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