Hillary Clinton’s Afghanistan-Pakistan Plan

Hillary Rodham Clinton, an aspirant for the Democratic presidential nomination, released today her plan for Afghanistan-Pakistan, which she describes as the “forgotten front line” in the war on terror.  The New York senator called for the appointment of a special envoy to Pakistan-Afghanistan “to develop a regional strategy to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda.” She stressed on the linked fates of both countries:

“Providing security to Afghanistan cannot be accomplished without greater security on the Afghan-Pakistan border and greater stability within Pakistan.”

The plan leans toward viewing Pakistan within the prism of Afghan stability.  In doing so, it reflects a prevailing weakness with the U.S. foreign policy establishment — namely, subsuming a pivotal country of 165 million population country under a critical, but more peripheral nation of 30 million.  A substantive Pakistan policy would require an appreciation of the country on its own right and not simply how it pertains to the challenges, real as they may be, in Afghanistan.  It necessitates a paradigmatic shift that gives greater weight to Pakistan in the Pak-Afghan equation.  For long, U.S. policymakers have overly prioritized the Afghan side of the border.  Active consideration must also be given to how policies in and toward Kabul impact Islamabad.

Clinton’s plan does offer four Pakistan-specific proposals:

  • moving beyond a Musharraf-centric policy and toward a broader engagement of political and civil society actors in Pakistan;
  • increasing non-military assistance to the country (“aid should be targeted at strengthening democratic institutions, building civil society, and improving economic and educational opportunities. A stable and democratic Pakistan will be a stronger security partner for the United States in the years ahead.”);
  • making military assistance more accountable (no explanation of how);
  • improving Pakistan-India relations (no specifics; did not mention the “K”-word).

This plan follows her January statement calling for the joint British-American oversight of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.  Also, in recent weeks, Clinton has appropriated the Republican talking points accusing Obama of threatening to attack Pakistan.

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Bhutto Was to Give U.S. Senator “Secret” Document on Day She Was Slain

CNN reports that Benazir Bhutto was to give U.S. officials a “secret” document on the day she was killed. The document details measures by which Pakistan’s intelligence services would allegedly rig the elections. Bhutto intended to give the dossier first to Sen. Arlen Specter then to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The choice of these American politicians is interesting. It suggests that Bhutto believed they would be more effective than elements in the Bush administration. Specter, who was in Islamabad ready to visit Bhutto later Thursday evening, often diverges with the Bush administration despite being a Republican. Clinton and Obama are leading Democratic contenders who would relish an opportunity to throw a blow at the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Pakistan provides such an opportunity given the perceived success of the Iraq surge and its integrality to the Afghanistan problem — the primordial post-9/11 U.S. national security issue.

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Pakistan in the Nevada Democratic Presidential Debate

There was an exchange about Pakistan in tonight’s Democratic presidential debate in Nevada. Here’s a summary:

Joe Biden, the only candidate who’s offered a substantive Pakistan policy, said that he opposed maintaining aid at same levels to Pakistan if Musharraf does not take off his uniform and hold free and fair elections. After noting that he spoke to both Bhutto and Musharraf prior to Bush did the same, Biden — as he stated on CNN’s Late Edition on Sunday — called for the cessation of F-16 and P-3 assistance to Pakistan if Musharraf fails to meet the basic demands above. He said that Musharraf is not a sole player in Pakistan; he needs to keep his military happy. He called for a move from a Musharraf policy to a Pakistan policy, reaching out to Pakistan’s middle class by, for example, increasing education aid.

Bill Richardson said that he is worried that cutting off military aid could undermine U.S. relations with Pakistan’s military. He argued that the problem with U.S. policy toward Pakistan is that “we got our principles wrong.” The U.S., he claims, sent the message to Musharraf that it values security more than human rights. Richardson stated that he would make U.S. aid to Pakistan conditional. He would call on Musharraf to end the state of emergency, permit Bhutto to run in elections, resign from the army, hold free and fair elections, and restore the deposed Supreme Court justices. He added that Islamic parties only get 15% of the vote in Pakistan. In free and fair elections, he believes that moderates can win. Human rights, says Richardson, are at times more important than national security; America’s strengths aren’t just its military and economy, but also its values.

John Edwards listed some “basic goals” with respect to Pakistan. They are: make sure that extremists in Pakistan’s northwest are under control; support democratic reformers; elections take place in January; the country’s nuclear weapons are under control. He added that Pakistan is a “living, breathing example” of how the Bush administration’s nuclear policy won’t work in the long-term. The only way to keep the world safe, says Edwards, is to lead a long-term international effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Barack Obama described Pakistan as a “great example” of how human rights and defense of U.S. national security are “complementary.” Pakistan’s democracy, he says, would strengthen the battle against extremists; greater repression would worsen the situation. Obama said that propping up anti-democratic elements with make the U.S. less safe. He also mentioned Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, stating that he would do everything in his capacity as president to ensure that its nukes don’t get in the hands of extremists.

Christopher Dodd distinguished himself from the pack — in his ignorance of Pakistan’s political-security predicament. In a sweeping generalization that countered historical precedent in Pakistan and current opinion polls, Dodd said that in free and fair elections “in these countries” — i.e. Pakistan and the other 50+ Muslim majority countries — “the Islamic Jihad or Islamic Brotherhood” would win 85% of the vote. The odds of Islamists sweeping elections in Pakistan are as low as Dodd’s chances of winning a Democratic primary. Firstly, there is no organization such as the Islamic Jihad or Islamic Brotherhood in Pakistan. The Islamic Jihad is in Egypt and Palestine; the Islamic Brotherhood — a non-existent group, but presumably a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood — is restricted to the Arab world. The handful of Islamist parties managed their best performance ever in the 2003 elections; with the assistance of intelligence services, they formed the Muttahida Majlis-e Amal (MMA) and got 16.8% of National Assembly seats. Dodd’s 85% nightmare is just that — a nightmare; a scary dream — not reality. In the end, national security trumps human rights in Dodd’s view.

Hillary Clinton offered a discordant perspective on the Pakistan ‘problem’. After stating that national security outweighs human rights, she reverted to her ‘blame it on Bush’ strategy, and stated that the American president failed in capitalizing on the post-9/11 opportunity to achieve democracy in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Clinton noted she would inform Musharraf that his recent actions are not in his interest. She also said that she asked the Pakistani president earlier in the year if he wanted a special envoy for his country — presumably to negotiate a deal with Benazir Bhutto — and that despite his reply in the affirmative, the White House had not appointed such a person. Clinton seems to be unaware of Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher’s intimate — and perhaps excessive — role in the Bhutto-Musharraf negotiations.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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