Testimony

Pakistan

in Program

PAKISTAN

TESTIMONY OF MICHAEL KREPON

CO-FOUNDER, THE STIMSON CENTER

BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS

MAY 5, 2011

MR. CHAIRMAN, MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE: THANK YOU FOR INVITING ME TO TESTIFY ABOUT PAKISTAN.  I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES RELATING TO PAKISTAN AT THE STIMSON CENTER FOR ALMOST TWENTY YEARS.  PAKISTAN IS A VERY CONFUSING PLACE, BUT ONE THING IS UNMISTAKABLY CLEAR: THERE ARE NO SIMPLE SOLUTIONS TO WHAT AILS PAKISTAN OR U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONS. 

 

OSAMA BIN LADEN’S DEATH IS A LANDMARK IN U.S. COUNTER-TERRORISM EFFORTS.  THE FAILURE OF THIS OPERATION WOULD LIKELY HAVE HAD HORRIFIC CONSEQUENCES FOR U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONS.  INSTEAD, ITS SUCCESS WILL RESULT IN AN EVEN MORE TRYING BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP, BUT NOT A DIVORCE.   

 

PAKISTAN’S LEADERS HAD LITTLE CHOICE BUT TO PUT A POSITIVE GLOSS ON BIN LADEN’S DEATH, AS WASHINGTON HAD PUT THEM ON NOTICE MANY TIMES THAT MILITARY ACTION WOULD RESULT IF WE HAD STRONG INTELLIGENCE OF HIS WHEREABOUTS.  THAT PAKISTAN’S SECURITY APPARATUS WAS KEPT IN THE DARK ABOUT THIS OPERATION SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT THE GROWING DIFFICULTIES OF THIS PARTNERSHIP.

 

LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AGO, THE PAKISTANI CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF, GENERAL ASHFAQ KAYANI, VISITED PAKISTAN’S PREMIER MILITARY ACADEMY TO CONGRATULATE THE CADETS.  GENERAL KAYANI CLAIMED THAT PAKISTANI SECURITY FORCES “HAVE BROKEN THE BACK OF TERRORISTS” AND THAT THE PAKISTAN ARMY “WAS COMPLETELY AWARE OF INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL THREATS TO THE COUNTRY.”  OSAMA BIN LADEN’S COMPOUND WAS A MILE AWAY FROM THE PARADE GROUND WHERE KAYANI SPOKE.

 

GENERAL KAYANI AND THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF INTER-SERVICES INTELLIGENCE, GENERAL AHMAD SHUJA PASHA, WERE REWARDED WITH TERM EXTENSIONS BY THE CURRENT PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT BECAUSE OF THEIR COMPETENCE IN DEALING PAKISTAN’S PROFOUND INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL THREATS.  THE PRESENCE OF OSAMA BIN LADEN IN PAKISTAN REFLECTS VERY POORLY ON BOTH OF THESE OFFICERS.  THE NUMBER TWO RANKING AL-QAEDA FIGURE, AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI AND THE WORST OFFENDERS OF THE TALIBAN REGIME IN AFGHANISTAN ARE ALSO WIDELY BELIEVED TO BE ON PAKISTANI TERRITORY. 

 

HARD TIMES LIE AHEAD FOR U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONS.  THE INTERESTS OF OUR TWO COUNTRIES IN AFGHANISTAN DIVERGE AS WELL AS CONVERGE.  GROUPS THAT ENGAGE IN VIOLENT ACTS AGAINST U.S. AND ALLIED FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN AND AGAINST TARGETS IN INDIA ARE BASED, TRAINED AND EQUIPPED ON PAKISTANI SOIL, WITHOUT SERIOUS INTERFERENCE BY PAKISTAN’S SECURITY APPARATUS.  

 

OSAMA BIN LADEN’S VIOLENT DEMISE COMES AT A TIME WHEN U.S. EXPENDITURES IN AFGHANISTAN ARE REACHING THE HALF-TRILLION DOLLAR MARK.  IT IS FAR FROM CLEAR THAT THE HARD-EARNED TACTICAL ACHIEVEMENTS OF U.S. FORCES THERE CAN RESULT IN LONG-LASTING GAINS.  IT IS EVEN MORE APPARENT THAT PAKISTAN CAN ONLY LOSE BY BEING A SAFE HAVEN FOR VIOLENT EXTREMISTS.  BIN LADEN’S DEATH PROVIDES AN OPPORTUNITY FOR PAKISTANI AND U.S. AUTHORITIES TO RECONSIDER OUR COMPLICATED AND UNSATISFACTORY RELATIONSHIP.     

 

PAKISTAN IS A WEAK COUNTRY WITH STRONG POWERS TO RESIST U.S. PRESSURES.  PAKISTANI LEADERS USUALLY DO NOT “JUST SAY NO” TO WASHINGTON.  INSTEAD, THEY OFTEN USE CIRCUMLOCUTION, DELAY AND WORK-AROUNDS WHEN THEY BELIEVE THAT U.S. DEMANDS ARE INIMICAL TO PAKISTANI NATIONAL SECURITY AND DOMESTIC POLITICAL INTERESTS.

 

THE VERY LARGE U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE IN AFGHANISTAN WHICH IS DEPENDENT ON PAKISTANI LOGISTICAL SUPPORT IS A GREAT SOURCE OF FRICTION BETWEEN OUR TWO COUNTRIES.  WE ARGUE OVER COMPENSATION, THE EXTENT OF THE U.S. PRESENCE ON PAKISTANI SOIL AND THE GROUND RULES UNDER WHICH U.S. PERSONNEL OPERATE.  U.S. RELIANCE ON PAKISTAN FOR LOGISTICAL SUPPORT PROVIDES RAWALPINDI WITH UNUSUALLY STRONG LEVERAGE TO RESIST U.S. DEMANDS.  BUT EVEN IF THE UNITED STATES GREATLY REDUCES OUR FOOTPRINT IN AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTANI MILITARY LEADERS WOULD STILL BE ABLE TO DEFLECT OUR DEMANDS WHEN THEY RUN COUNTER TO THEIR PERCEIVED INTERESTS. 

 

ONE AREA OF DIVERGENCE RELATES TO AFGHANISTAN.  WE BOTH SEEK A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT THERE, BUT WE ARE BACKING DIFFERENT HORSES.  PAKISTAN’S SECURITY ESTABLISHMENT SEEKS AN OUTCOME THAT MAXIMIZES ITS INFLUENCE IN KABUL AS WELL AS IN AFGHAN PROVINCES ADJACENT TO PAKISTAN AGAINST HOSTILE INFLUENCES, PRIMARILY FROM INDIA.  THIS HELPS TO EXPLAIN WHY PAKISTAN’S SECURITY APPARATUS RETAINS CLOSE LINKS TO THE AFGHAN TALIBAN.

 

THE U.S. –PAKISTAN RELATIONSHIP COULD NOT HAVE SURVIVED THIS LONG WITHOUT THE PRESENCE OF VITAL COMMON INTERESTS.  FOREMOST AMONG THEM IS OUR COMMON GOAL OF A STABLE PAKISTAN THAT IS AT PEACE WITH ITSELF.  WITH U.S. SUPPORT, PAKISTAN’S ARMED FORCES ARE ENGAGED IN SELECTIVE EFFORTS TO INCREASE DOMESTIC SECURITY, AT SIGNIFICANT COST.  WASHINGTON HAS HELPED PAKISTAN INCREASE THE SECURITY OF ITS NUCLEAR ASSETS.  WE ALSO SERVE AS AN ESSENTIAL CRISIS MANAGER AND AS A PROMOTER OF MORE NORMAL TIES WITH INDIA. 

 

IT WOULD BE A SERIOUS ERROR, IN MY JUDGMENT, TO CONCLUDE THAT THIS RELATIONSHIP CANNOT BE SALVAGED.  PAKISTANIS HAVE GREAT RESILIENCE, AND THEIR MILITARY LEADERS ARE CAPABLE OF GOOD AS WELL AS BAD DECISIONS.  IN ORDER TO SALVAGE THIS RELATIONSHIP, PAKISTAN NEEDS TO GET ITS HOUSE IN ORDER, AND WE NEED TO BE CLEARER ABOUT WHAT WE CAN AND CANNOT EXPECT FROM PAKISTAN. 

 

U.S. AND PAKISTANI INTERESTS DIVERGE ON NUCLEAR ISSUES, INDIA, AND AFGHANISTAN.  PAKISTAN’S SENSE OF INSECURITY IS GROWING, WHICH TRANSLATES INTO INCREASED RELIANCE ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND CONTINUED LINKS TO GROUPS THAT CARRY OUT DEADLY ATTACKS ACROSS ITS BORDERS. 

 

PAKISTAN’S NATIONAL SECURITY MANAGERS HAVE “JUST SAID NO” WITH RESPECT TO THE INITIATION OF NEGOTIATIONS ON A TREATY TO STOP PRODUCING FISSILE MATERIAL FOR WEAPONS – ONE INDICATOR OF THEIR SENSE OF INSECURITY AND ANGER AT THE U.S. – INDIA CIVIL NUCLEAR DEAL.  THE PUNJAB-BASED LASHKAR-E-TOIBA, WHICH HAS CARRIED OUT MASS CASUALTY ATTACKS IN KASHMIR, NEW DELHI, MUMBAI, AND ELSEWHERE, IS NOT GREATLY INCONVENIENCED BY PAKISTAN’S SECURITY APPARATUS.  THE HAQQANI NETWORK, WHICH CARRIES OUT CROSS-BORDER ATTACKS AGAINST U.S. AND NATO FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN, SEEMS TO HAVE FEW CONSTRAINTS ON ITS OPERATIONS.  THIS TRACK RECORD REFLECTS RAWALPINDI’S PERCEIVED INTERESTS TO COUNTER INDIA’S GROWING CONVENTIONAL MILITARY CAPABILITIES AND TO SECURE PAKISTAN’S INTERESTS IN AFGHANISTAN. 

 

THE UNITED STATES HAS GIVEN PAKISTAN ECONOMIC AND MILITARY ASSISTANCE, ASSUMING THAT THAT PAKISTAN WOULD PAY GREATER HEED TO U.S. INTERESTS.  THIS TRANSACTIONAL RELATIONSHIP HAS BEEN UNSATISFACTORY TO BOTH PARTIES.   FIRST, AS NOTED ABOVE, U.S. AND PAKISTANI SECURITY OBJECTIVES ARE NOT ALWAYS IN ALIGNMENT.  SECOND, PAKISTAN’S SECURITY CULTURE HAS BEEN DEEPLY WEDDED TO POOR DECISIONS.  THERE IS POSITIVE MOVEMENT ON SOME FRONTS – FOR EXAMPLE, SINCE 2002, KASHMIR HAS NOT BEEN A “FLASHPOINT” BETWEEN PAKISTAN AND INDIA — BUT EVEN WHEN THERE IS PRIVATE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF UNWISE CHOICES, IT’S VERY HARD FOR PAKISTANI AUTHORITIES TO CHANGE COURSE.  THIRD, U.S. ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE REMAINS QUITE MODEST COMPARED TO PAKISTAN’S BUDGET OUTLAYS AND DOMESTIC NEEDS.  FOURTH, U.S. MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO INDIA IS GROWING FAR MORE IN QUALITATIVE AND QUANTITATIVE TERMS THAN IS U.S. ASSISTANCE TO PAKISTAN.  CONSEQUENTLY, PAKISTANI GRIEVANCES WITH WHATEVER LEVEL OF MILITARY SUPPORT WE PROVIDE WILL ALSO GROW.

 

  SOMETIMES WASHINGTON CAN QUIETLY ENCOURAGE HELPFUL CHANGES AT THE MARGINS OF PAKISTANI POLICIES.  OVER TIME, COURSE CORRECTIONS CAN BECOME INCREASINGLY SIGNIFICANT WITH QUIET U.S. ENCOURAGEMENT AND PAKISTANI RECOGNITION OF UNWISE POLICIES.  BUT THIS ONGOING PROCESS IS FRUSTRATING, TIME CONSUMING, AND BECOMING MORE DIFFICULT AS OUR ESTRANGEMENT GROWS.

 

THE ENLARGED U.S. MILITARY COMMITMENT TO FACILITATE A POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN GREATLY INCREASES FRICTION WITH PAKISTAN.   I HAVE RELUCTANTLY CONCLUDED THAT GREATER U.S. EFFORTS IN AFGHANISTAN ARE UNLIKELY TO RESULT IN LONG-LASTING GAINS.  OUR MILITARY FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN – GOD BLESS THEM — ARE PERFORMING IN AN EXCEPTIONAL MANNER.  BUT WE ALL KNOW THAT THEIR SACRIFICES WILL BE IN VAIN UNLESS TACTICAL GAINS CAN BE HANDED OVER TO COMPETENT AFGHAN POLITICAL LEADERS AND MILITARY UNITS. 

 

IF A LASTING POLITICAL SETTLEMENT CAN BE FOUND IN AFGHANISTAN, IT WILL REQUIRE EXTRAORDINARILY DIFFICULT INTERNAL AND REGIONAL DEAL MAKING.  I DOUBT WHETHER THIS HEROIC UNDERTAKING IS WORTHY OF AN ANNUAL U.S. MILITARY COMMITMENT IN EXCESS OF $100 BILLION DOLLARS.  DEAL MAKING WILL CONTINUE TO BE PURSUED AT A FRACTION OF THIS COST AND SACRIFICE.  THE RESULTS MAY WELL BE MODEST OR EPHEMERAL, NO MATTER HOW MUCH WE SPEND THERE.      

 

THE FUTURE OF PAKISTAN MATTERS FAR MORE THAN THE FUTURE OF AFGHANISTAN.  FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE, MILITANT GROUPS WITH GLOBAL REACH ARE LIKELY TO RESIDE IN FAR GREATER NUMBER IN PAKISTAN THAN IN AFGHANISTAN.  PAKISTAN HAS A GROWING NUCLEAR ARSENAL AND PRODUCTION CAPACITY FOR WEAPONS-GRADE FISSILE MATERIAL.  PAKISTAN, UNLIKE AFGHANISTAN, IS A HINGE STATE IN THE MUSLIM WORLD.   U.S. MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC INVESTMENTS DO NOT REMOTELY CORRESPOND TO THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN TO VITAL U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY INTERESTS.  SOME U.S. POLICIES ARE ALSO INCREASING STRESS FRACTURES IN PAKISTANI SOCIETY.

 

TAKE, FOR EXAMPLE, THE HIGHLY EMOTIVE ISSUE OF U.S. DRONE STRIKES ON PAKISTANI SOIL.  I AM OBVIOUSLY NOT PRIVY TO THE PROFILES OF THOSE TARGETED.  ACCORDING TO WHAT LIMITED INFORMATION IS PUBLICLY AVAILABLE, MOST OF THE TARGETS OF U.S. DRONE ATTACKS ARE APPARENTLY NOT BIG DIFFERENCE MAKERS IN THE REGION’S STRATEGIC CALCULUS.  I TRUST THAT THESE ATTACKS OFFER TACTICAL GAINS, BUT THEY HAVE VERY SIGNIFICANT DOWNSIDE COSTS. 

 

THAT PAKISTANI AUTHORITIES HAVE REPORTEDLY CONSENTED PRIVATELY IN THE PAST TO SOME ATTACKS UNDER SOME CRITERIA IS NOT PARTICULARLY REASSURING, SINCE THESE PRACTICES HAVE SERVED TO DISTANCE PAKISTANI CITIZENS FROM THEIR GOVERNMENT AS WELL AS FROM THE UNITED STATES.  IT IS PARTICULARLY UPSETTING FOR MOST PAKISTANIS TO BEAR WITNESS TO AERIAL ATTACKS ON THEIR SOVEREIGN TERRITORY, WHETHER BY THE SOVIET UNION DURING THE 1980s OR BY THE UNITED STATES A QUARTER-CENTURY LATER.   

 

TO MY WAY OF THINKING, THE TARGETS FOR THESE ATTACKS NEED TO MATTER A GREAT DEAL IN ORDER TO MERIT THE ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES THEY ENGENDER.  I WOULD NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE RESULTING DAMAGE TO U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONS FROM U.S. DRONE STRIKES — DAMAGE FAR GREATER THAN THE TACTICAL GAINS WE SEEK ALONG THE AFGHAN BORDER.          

 

IT WILL REQUIRE A FOUR-CORNERED BANK SHOT TO LEAVE AFGHANISTAN AS A REASONABLY FUNCTIONING COUNTRY.  ASSUMING THIS IS POSSIBLE, IS THIS EFFORT WORTH THE HOLLOWING OUT OF U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONS?  GRANTED, THERE ARE MANY REASONS BESIDE AFGHANISTAN FOR PAKISTAN’S CURRENT TRAJECTORY.  AND PAKISTAN MAY BECOME LOST TO ITS OWN PATHOLOGIES REGARDLESS OF U.S. EFFORTS THERE OR IN AFGHANISTAN.  BUT IT WOULD BE IMMENSELY TRAGIC IF THE LOSS OF U.S. BLOOD AND TREASURE IN THIS THEATER RESULTS IN LITTLE BETTER THAN THE USUAL STATE OF AFFAIRS IN AFGHANISTAN ALONGSIDE FAR GREATER DETERIORATION WITHIN PAKISTAN AND IN U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONS.

 

I REALIZE HOW HARD IT IS TO GET U.S. POLICIES TOWARD PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN “RIGHT.”  INDEED, ONE MESSAGE THAT I HAVE TRIED TO CONVEY IN MY TESTIMONY THAT IT MAY WELL BE IMPOSSIBLE TO GET THINGS ANYWHERE NEAR “RIGHT” IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD.  EVEN IF THE UNITED STATES GREATLY REDUCES OUR LEVEL OF EFFORT IN AFGHANISTAN AND REMOVES AFGHAN WAR-RELATED SOURCES OF FRICTION WITH PAKISTAN, I DO NOT EXPECT SIGNIFICANT DIVIDENDS IN U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONS.  THERE WILL BE OTHER IMPORTANT MATTERS ON WHICH WE WILL CONTINUE TO DISAGREE.  

 

NONETHELESS, THE REMOVAL OF SOME SOURCES OF FRICTION IN BILATERAL RELATIONS REMAINS A WORTHY OBJECTIVE, ESPECIALLY WHEN FRICTION WIDENS AND ACCELERATES PAKISTAN’S DOMESTIC FISSURES.  THE REMOVAL OF TACTICAL IRRITANTS IN THE PURSUIT OF IMPROBABLE OBJECTIVES IN AFGHANISTAN COULD ALSO FACILITATE CONSTRUCTIVE CHANGES AT THE MARGINS OF PAKISTAN’S NATIONAL SECURITY POLICIES.   WITH PATIENT AND PERSISTENT ENGAGEMENT, WE CAN HELP RAWALPINDI RECONSIDER POLICIES THAT HAVE MANIFESTLY WEAKENED PAKISTAN.  OUR FOCUS ON AFGHANISTAN IS CROWDING OUT THESE IMPORTANT AGENDA ITEMS.      

 

AT BEST, WE WILL HAVE A CHECKERED TRACK RECORD WITH PAKISTAN.  PAKISTAN’S SECURITY APPARATUS WILL SEEK TO INCREASE ITS CHANCES TO INFLUENCE AFGHANSTAN’S FUTURE DISPENSATION NO MATTER WHAT CARROTS OR STICKS WASHINGTON CHOOSES.  WE CAN ALSO FORGET ABOUT CONVINCING PAKISTAN TO GIVE UP ITS NUCLEAR WEAPONS, BUT WE MAY BE ABLE TO PERSUADE RAWALPINDI THAT PAKISTANI SECURITY CAN BE ENHANCED WITH MORE NUCLEAR RISK-REDUCTION MEASURES.  U.S. TIES WITH INDIA WILL CONTINUE TO IMPROVE, REFLECTING OUR SUBSTANTIAL AND GROWING COMMON INTERESTS.  PAKISTAN’S NATIONAL SECURITY ESTABLISHMENT WILL FEEL MORE INSECURE AS A RESULT.  WASHINGTON CAN’T CONVINCE PAKISTAN’S MILITARY LEADERS TO BEFRIEND INDIA, BUT WE CAN PROMOTE MORE NORMAL TIES BETWEEN PAKISTAN AND INDIA, ESPECIALLY IN THE AREAS OF TRADE AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT. 

 

THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING PAKISTAN’S NATIONAL SECURITY ESTABLISHMENT IS TO RECOGNIZE HOW CONTINUING LINKS TO EXTREMIST GROUPS MORTGAGE PAKISTAN’S FUTURE.  OUTFITS LIKE LASHKAR-E-TOIBA, WHICH SOME VIEW AS A STRATEGIC RESERVE IN THE EVENT OF ANOTHER WAR AGAINST INDIA, ARE INSTEAD THE LEADING EDGE OF PAKISTAN’S STRATEGIC DEMISE.  EVERY MASS CASUALTY ATTACK THAT LASHKA- E-TOIBA CARRIES OUT ON INDIAN SOIL BRANDS PAKISTAN AS AN EXPORTER OF TERRORISM.  INDIA REBOUNDS FROM EXTREMIST ATTACKS; PAKISTAN’S ECONOMY AND SOCIAL COHESION DO NOT REBOUND.   IF PAKISTAN’S NATIONAL SECURITY ESTABLISHMENT CANNOT RE-THINK THE FUNDAMENTALS OF ITS ANTI-INDIA POLICY AND ITS INCREASING RELIANCE ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS, IT WILL NEVER KNOW TRUE SECURITY.

 

AS FOR AFGHANISTAN, THE SOONER WE AND PAKISTAN REVISIT PAINFUL QUESTIONS, THE BETTER.  PAKISTAN CANNOT BREAK DAMNING LINKS WITH THE PAST AS LONG AS SENIOR LEADERS OF AL QAEDA AND THE AFGHAN TALIBAN FIND SAFE HAVENS THERE.  I DO NOT EXPECT A CHANGE IN PAKISTAN’S TIES TO THE AFGHAN TALIBAN, BUT RAWALPINDI MAY NOW WISH TO RE-THINK ITS PASSIVE RELATIONSHIP TO WHAT MAY REMAIN OF AL QAEDA’S LEADERESHIP WITHIN THE COUNTRY. 

 

WE MIGHT ALSO RECONSIDER OUR PRESENT COURSE.  OUR AFGHAN POLICIES HURT, RATHER THAN HELP, PAKISTAN TO FIND ITS BALANCE.  IF AUTHORITIES IN AFGHANISTAN ARE UNABLE TO SAFEGUARD OUR MILITARY’S HARD-WON GAINS, WE NEED TO ASK HOW MUCH MORE BLOOD AND TREASURE OUGHT TO BE DEVOTED TO THIS CAUSE.  I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THERE ARE RISKS IN ACCELERATING REDUCTIONS IN THE U.S. LEVEL OF EFFORT IN AFGHANISTAN.  IN MY VIEW, GREATER RISKS AND COSTS ARE INCURRED BY REMAINING ON OUR CURRENT GLIDE PATH.  I THEREFORE SUGGEST THAT THIS COMMITTEE CONSIDER ACCELERATING EFFORTS TO SECURE A POLITICAL SETTLEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN ALONGSIDE STEEPER REDUCTIONS IN OUR LEVEL OF MILITARY EFFORT THERE.

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