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Posts Tagged US Pakistan Divide

TWO U.S GENERALS ON U.S – PAKISTAN RELATIONS by General Joseph Votel (Ret.) and Lt. Gen. Michael K. Nagata (Ret.)







The generals have summed up the situation extremely well from the U.S perspective which is not the same as that of Pakistan. The elephant in the room remains China with which the U.S has an adversarial relationship. The U.S objectives in the region are mostly centred on China. Pakistan cannot, and hopefully will not, risk her friendship with the latter for any reason or any country. It is not an issue that is open to argument knowing that if there is ever the need, China is the only country that can and will rescue Pakistan. You can only gamble with national security at your peril.
K. H Zia.
“We believe the time has come for serious policy consideration of whether and how both nations can achieve a more strategically beneficial and sustainable post-intervention relationship between the American and Pakistani governments and their populations.” 

The Future of US Cooperation with Pakistan


This piece by General Joseph Votel (Ret.) and Lt. Gen. Michael K. Nagata (Ret.) and was first published by our friends at the Middle East Institute.
Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael K. Nagata is a distinguished senior fellow on national security at MEI. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2019 after 38 years of active duty, with 34 years in US Special Operations. His final position was director of strategy for the National Counterterrorism Center from 2016 to 2019.
Gen. (ret.) Joseph L. Votel is a distinguished senior fellow on national security at MEI. He retired as a four-star general in the U.S. Army after a nearly 40-year career, during which he held a variety of commands in positions of leadership, including most recently as commander of CENTCOM from March 2016 to March 2019. 

The United States and Pakistan have had a complex and often disappointing “love-hate” relationship since 1947 — one severely tested during the 20-year U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan. We believe the time has come for serious policy consideration of whether and how both nations can achieve a more strategically beneficial and sustainable post-intervention relationship between the American and Pakistani governments and their populations.
As we consider a new policy, the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of leading the international coalition is almost complete. Early indications are that Afghanistan is increasingly likely to descend into significant instability and possibly serious fracture, which will have unwelcome consequences for the Afghan people and all of Afghanistan’s neighbours. It is already clear that international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State-Khorasan Province will continue to enjoy and probably grow their safe-havens.
Whatever U.S. strategic concerns may be about the future of Afghanistan, the course and direction of Pakistan’s strategic choices in coming years will also matter to the United States. There are a variety of reasons for this.

First, Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state. Decades of investments in nuclear weapons by Pakistan and India, compounded by unrelenting and mutual historical, religious, cultural, and political antagonism between them, make this one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.

Second, all of the countries Pakistan borders are consequential for the U.S. Pakistan also has significant religious, cultural, and economic ties to other Muslim states such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In an era of “great power competition,” while Pakistan may not be one of the principal players, its network of relationships can be of strategic benefit to any of the great powers now involved, including the U.S. and China.

Third, despite its significant political and economic difficulties, Pakistan has a growing technology sector. Its youthful population and worldwide diaspora of Pakistani doctors, scientists, academics, and other professionals have become an increasingly important part of the global community.

As long-time veterans of South Asia, both of us understand the sources of “weariness and wariness” that U.S. policymakers, in both Democratic and Republican administrations, often associate with strategic discussions of Pakistan. We have both seen the U.S. government’s reluctance toward undertaking any kind of strategic interaction or rapprochement with Pakistan because of previous disappointments or perceived betrayals. Understanding the enormous complexities of Pakistan’s relationships, influence, and strategic choices in the South Asia milieu can be intellectually challenging and draining.
Yet, we have both concluded that the only thing harder than establishing a functional and mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan is living without one. Given unstable borders, a nuclear standoff with India, the continued presence of terrorist organizations, and the high potential for all of this to further disrupt our interests, there is no better alternative.
Among those areas that we believe worth exploring with the Pakistanis are these:
First, the possibility of planning, along with other like-minded international actors (both state and non-state), to manage the consequences of significant political instability and human suffering emerging from Afghanistan, including the possibility of substantial refugee flight into Pakistan. Indeed, the Pakistanis have long and miserable memories of the surge of Afghan refugees after the Kabul government collapsed in the 1990s and have consistently expressed deep concerns about a possible repeat resulting from the U.S. withdrawal now nearing its completion.
Second, the possibility of counterterrorism cooperation against any terrorist threat that emerges from Afghanistan and prevents it from sowing further instability across the region. We do not consider it likely that Pakistan will allow any positioning of U.S. intelligence or counterterrorism elements within its borders. Still, there may be other ways (e.g., working groups, forums, or exchanges) to foster better cooperation if a threat emerges from Afghanistan that is of concern to our mutual interests.

Third, the possibility of enlisting Pakistan cooperation, and that of India, toward some type of partial de-escalation of tensions along their common border and, with it, even a slight amelioration of the nuclear weapons threat. It is instructive to recall that, before 9/11, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee initiated a dialogue about the de-escalation of tensions that included the highly emotional issue of Kashmir. However, talks broke down without significant agreement. While we recognize this is an extraordinarily complex and fraught issue for the U.S. to embrace, given all of its other strategic challenges, the spectre of a potential nuclear conflict in South Asia should at a minimum prompt us to ask ourselves, “why not at least try?” Indeed, U.S. antagonists such as China would probably take a dim view of such efforts, and we believe that might be a reason for doing so rather than a reason to flinch from it.

We have long heard U.S. policy and operational practitioners cite phrases such as “never underestimate the Pakistanis’ ability to disappoint us.” But, unfortunately, most American policymakers do not understand how often we have heard the Pakistanis say the same thing about Americans. Thus, both sides have longstanding “neuralgias” about the other. As we end our Afghan campaign, now is the time to move beyond our neuralgias and carefully weigh the strategic costs of whether trying to somehow partner with Pakistan is more, or less, than the cost of failing to do so. We believe, in the long run, it is likely to be less costly.

The Cipher Brief – Experts on National Security
Experts on National Security  


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Glenn Greewald, The Guardian :Obama, The US And The Muslim World: The Animosity Deepens

images-189Another new poll, this one of Pakistan, shows: a central promise of Obama for improving US security is an utter failure 


Pakistani protesters burn a representation of an American flag during a rally to condemn US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal belt of Waziristan on Thursday, July 7, 2011 in Mutan, Pakistan. Photograph: AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer

In his first inaugural address, back in 2009, Barack Obama announced: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Improving how the US was perceived among the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims was not about winning an international popularity contest but was deemed as vital to US national security. Even the Pentagon has long recognized that the primary cause of anti-American Terrorism is the “negative attitude” toward the US: obviously, the reason people in that part of the world want to attack the US — as opposed to Peru or South Africa or China — is because they perceive a reason to do so.

Obama’s most devoted supporters have long hailed his supposedly unique ability to improve America’s standing in that part of the world. In his first of what would be many paeans to Obama, Andrew Sullivan wrote back in 2007 that among Obama’s countless assets, “first and foremost [is] his face,” which would provide “the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan.” Sullivan specifically imagined a “young Pakistani Muslim” seeing Obama as “the new face of America”; instantly, proclaimed Sullivan, “America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm.” Obama would be “the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology” because it “proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.” Sullivan made clear why this matters so much: “such a re-branding is not trivial — it’s central to an effective war strategy.”

None of that has happened. In fact, the opposite has taken place: although it seemed impossible to achieve, Obama has presided over an America that, in many respects, is now even more unpopular in the Muslim world than it was under George Bush and Dick Cheney.

That is simply a fact. Poll after poll has proven it. In July, 2011, the Washington Post reported: “The hope that the Arab world had not long ago put in the United States and President Obama has all but evaporated.” Citing a poll of numerous Middle East countries that had just been released, the Post explained: “In most countries surveyed, favorable attitudes toward the United States dropped to levels lower than they were during the last year of the Bush administration.”

Egypt poll

A 2011 Arab American Institute poll found that “US favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted. In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush Administration, and lower than Iran’s favorable ratings.” The same year, a poll of public opinion in Egypt — arguably the most strategically important nation in the region and the site of Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech — found pervasively unfavorable views of the US at or even below the levels of the Bush years. A 2012 Pew poll of six predominantly Muslim nations found not only similar or worse perceptions of the US as compared to the Bush years, but also documented that China is vastly more popular in that part of the world than the US. In that region, the US and Israel are still considered, by far, to be the two greatest threats to peace.

Unknown-8In sum, while Europeans still adore Obama, the US is more unpopular than ever in the Muslim world. A newly released Gallup poll from Thursday, this one surveying public opinion in Pakistan, provides yet more powerful evidence of this dangerous trend. As Gallup summarized: “more than nine in 10 Pakistanis (92%) disapprove of US leadership and 4% approve, the lowest approval rating Pakistanis have ever given.” Worse, “a majority (55%) say interaction between Muslim and Western societies is ‘more of a threat’ [than a benefit], up significantly from 39% in 2011.” Disapproval of the US in this nuclear-armed nation has exploded under Obama to record highs:

gallup pakistan

It is not hard to understand why this is happening. Indeed, the slightest capacity for empathy makes it easy. It is not — as self-loving westerners like to tell themselves — because there is some engrained, inherent, primitive anti-Americanism in these cultures. To the contrary, there is substantial affection for US culture and “the American people” in these same countries, especially among the young.

What accounts for this pervasive hostility toward the US is clear: US actions in their country. As a Rumsfeld-era Pentagon study concluded: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” In particular, it is “American direct intervention in the Muslim world” — justified in the name of stopping Terrorism — that “paradoxically elevate[s] the stature of and support for Islamic radicals.”

Just consider how Americans view their relentless bombing attacks via drone versus how the rest of the world perceives them. It is not hyperbole to say that America is a rogue nation when it comes to its drone wars, standing almost alone in supporting it. The Pew poll from last June documented that “i n nearly all countries, there is considerable opposition to a major component of the Obama administration’s anti-terrorism policy: drone strikes.” The finding was stark: “in 17 of 20 countries, more than half disapprove of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders and groups in nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.” That means that “Americans are the clear outliers on this issue”:

Pew drones

In sum, if you continually bomb another country and kill their civilians, not only the people of that country but the part of the world that identifies with it will increasingly despise the country doing it. That’s the ultimate irony, the most warped paradox, of US discourse on these issues: the very policies that Americans constantly justify by spouting the Terrorism slogan are exactly what causes anti-American hatred and anti-American Terrorism in the first place. The most basic understanding of human nature renders that self-evident, but this polling data indisputably confirms it.

Last month, the Atlantic’s Robert Wright announced that he would cease regularly writing for that magazine in order to finish his book on Buddhism. When doing so, he wrote an extraordinarily (though typically) great essay containing all sorts of thought-provoking observations. Yesterday, the blogger Digby flagged the key passage relating to the issue I’m raising today; please read this:

“[1] The world’s biggest single problem is the failure of people or groups to look at things from the point of view of other people or groups — i.e., to put themselves in the shoes of ‘the other.’ I’m not talking about empathy in the sense of literally sharing people’s emotions — feeling their pain, etc. I’m just talking about the ability to comprehend and appreciate the perspective of the other. So, for Americans, that might mean grasping that if you lived in a country occupied by American troops, or visited by American drone strikes, you might not share the assumption of many Americans that these deployments of force are well-intentioned and for the greater good. You might even get bitterly resentful. You might even start hating America.

“[2] Grass-roots hatred is a much greater threat to the United States — and to nations in general, and hence to world peace and stability — than it used to be. The reasons are in large part technological, and there are two main manifestations: (1) technology has made it easier for grass-roots hatred to morph into the organized deployment (by non-state actors) of massively lethal force; (2) technology has eroded authoritarian power, rendering governments more responsive to popular will, hence making their policies more reflective of grass roots sentiment in their countries. The upshot of these two factors is that public sentiment toward America abroad matters much more (to America’s national security) than it did a few decades ago.

“[3] If the United States doesn’t use its inevitably fading dominance to build a world in which the rule of law is respected, and in which global norms are strong, the United States (and the world) will suffer for it. So when, for example, we do things to other nations that we ourselves have defined as acts of war (like cybersabotage), that is not, in the long run, making us or our allies safer. The same goes for when we invade countries, or bomb them, in clear violation of international law. And at some point we have to get serious about building a truly comprehensive nuclear nonproliferation regime — one that we expect our friends, not just our enemies, to be members-in-good-standing of.”

Whenever I write about how the US is so deeply unpopular in the Muslim world (and getting more unpopular), it invariably prompts tough-talking, swaggering, pseudo-warriors who dismiss the concern as irrelevant: who cares what They think of Us? The reason to care is exactly what Wright explained: even if you dismiss as irrelevant the morality of constantly bombing and killing other people, nothing undermines US interests and security more than spreading anti-US hatred in the world. Put another way, it is precisely those people who support US aggression by invoking the fear-mongering The Terrorists! cliche who do the most to ensure that this threat is maintained and inexorably worsens. And, as Wright says, it is only a complete lack of empathy for other people’s perspectives that can explain this failure to make that connection.

Imagine Ad

Probably the single best ad of the 2012 presidential cycle was this one, entitled “Imagine,” produced independently by supporters of the Paul campaign:


By  (about the author)


For the past 10 years, I was a litigator in NYC specializing in First Amendment challenges, civil rights cases, and corporate and securities fraud matters. I am the author of the New York Times Best-Selling book, more…)

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