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Archive for the ‘Pakistan’ Category

China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal

Posted by K.E. White on June 6, 2010

Fall-out from the U.S.-India nuclear deal?  Foreign Policy offers this article by Mark Hibbs.

Posted in China, Nuclear Deal, Pakistan | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Pakistan and the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review

Posted by K.E. White on April 8, 2010

Two pieces in today’s Dawn reveal the Pakistani viewpoint on Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and their own ambiguous nuclear status—a nation possessing nuclear weapons, but still unrecognized as such by the international community.

While most US coverage has focused on the impact of the NPR on America’s nuclear arsenal and security, these two articles illustrate the NPR’s impact within foreign nations.

In short, both articles paint the picture of a nuclear armed nation that remains stuck between the categories of nuclear rogue and “recognized and respected nuclear power”.

Dawn reviews the recently released NPR, pointing out its silence on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.  From the article (appropriately titled ‘US nuclear policy makes exceptions for Pakistan’):

The new US policy is also critical of “additional countries” who desire to acquire nuclear weapons, “especially those at odds with the United States, its allies and partners, and the broader international community”.

This condition creates room for Pakistan as a country which is not only allied to the US and its partners but also is playing a key role in their efforts to defeat terrorism.

The document, however, makes no such exception for Iran and North Korea, and points out that in pursuit of their nuclear ambitions, the two countries have “violated non-proliferation obligations, defied directives of the United Nations Security Council, pursued missile delivery capabilities, and resisted international efforts to resolve through diplomatic means the crises they have created”.

And a Dawn editorial pushes for Pakistan to remain a prudent nuclear power, dangling the prospect of an eventual US-Pakistan nuclear deal.

But the possibility of a deal being reached even at some relatively distant point in the future will also remain a non-starter if Pakistan, terrorism/militancy and proliferation are always put in the same basket. Pakistanis should never be complacent about the country’s nuclear programme but neither do they deserve to be forever condemned for past mistakes and by exaggerated suspicions. The road to becoming a recognised and respected nuclear power is still a long way off, but at least the journey should be allowed to commence.

The message is clear:  Continuing to partner with the United States—whatever its difficulties—provides Pakistan a pathway towards acceptance from and prestige within the international community.

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Pakistan and America Cozy Up During Strategic Dialogue

Posted by K.E. White on March 25, 2010

The United States and Pakistan have closed out two major meetings, wrapping up highlights of their week-long strategic dialogue.  NPR offers a good summary of the meetings and their trust-building importance, and the current status of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

Earlier this week, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.  And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi conducted a ministerial meeting yesterday.

A apparent results of the meetings are not breath-taking.  Yesterday’s meeting brought new American pledges for development aid.

From The Australian:

“It is the start of something new. Our countries have had our misunderstandings and disagreements in the past and there are sure to be more disagreements in the future, as there are between any friends or family members,” she said. “But this is a new day. For the past year, the Obama administration has shown in our words and deeds a different approach and attitude toward Pakistan.”

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Richard Holbrooke Shakes Up U.S. Aid to Pakistan

Posted by K.E. White on March 18, 2010

Bordering Afghanistan, possessing nuclear weapons, and boasting its own pernicious extremist population, Pakistan personifies the ideal candidate for U.S. military and development aid.

Indeed, it’s estimates place America’s 2010 aid expenditure at $2.6 billion.  And it’s for the long-haul: 2009 legislation expends this aid over 5 years.  (The Islamabad Policy institute offers an in-depth report on the legislative history and Pakistani reaction to the 2009 bill)

But does the aid 1) achieve its tailored purposes and 2) serve U.S. interests in the country more broadly?

Well, Pakistan isn’t ecstatic.  And, it seems, neither is Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke.

Foreign Policy reviews ideas to better implement U.S. aid to Pakistan.  The article’s final two paragraphs reveal the key conflict:  ensuring U.S. aid both 1) improves the American image to ordinary Pakistanis and 2) actually shores up Pakistan’s precarious regime.  From the article:

Whatever the United States was doing before didn’t work for Pakistan, and didn’t work for America. Clearly, it’s time to try something else. The danger, though, is that Holbrooke will find a way of helping the U.S. image in Pakistan, and thus advance key national security goals, without really producing change inside the country. Perhaps, therefore, Pakistan should force the United States to re-evaluate aid policy even further. Wendy Chamberlin, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, argued in a recent op-ed that aid will continue to fortify Pakistan’s deeply entrenched elites unless the United States finds an entirely new way of delivering it; she proposed inviting a wide array of groups and individuals to bid for aid projects, much as the Obama administration is now doing in the education world with its $4.3 billion grant program known as Race to the Top.

A more far-reaching proposal comes from the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank that has proposed (pdf) that funders sign contracts with recipient states in which both sides agree on a specific desired outcome — say, increasing the reach of basic health services by a fixed percentage — and then the donor leaves the government wholly free to reach the outcome in any way it sees fit. The donor begins to pay only when the government begins to show results. (A mutually-agreed-upon third party audits the recipient’s progress.) “Cash on delivery aid,” as authors Nancy Birdsall and William D. Savedoff have dubbed the idea, offers accountability for donors, autonomy for recipients, and transparency for citizens of both countries. A corrupt or incompetent government — Pakistan’s, for example — could fail to hold up its end of the bargain. But are Americans really prepared to hand over scarce resources to such a state — even if doing so helps their image?

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Legal Advice for Pakistan’s President Zardari

Posted by K.E. White on December 19, 2009

Cyril Almeida criticizes President Asif Ali Zardari’s decision to aggressively fight the Supreme Court over an executive order shielding him and others from criminal prosecution.

Enacted by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in 2007, the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) barred politically motivated cases against selected individuals. NRO’s beneficiaries exceed 8,000 individuals, on charges ranging from corruption to murder. Convicted of money-laundering in Switzerland, the NRO shielded Zardari from corruption charges in Pakistani courts. Pakistan’s Supreme Court unanimously overruled the executive order last Wednesday.

The editorial hits Zardari for exposing himself to humiliating, public courtroom proceedings. But, interesting, the article morphs from polemic to legal memo–pointing out that other, though similarly futile, courtroom options would have better served Zardari in this legal battle:

There was, quite frankly, disbelief in legal circles that Zardari opted to give the petitioners and judges an open court, as it were, during the NRO hearings. A first-year law student could tell you that you never, ever go to court without a strategy, without a game plan, without something to say in your defence no matter how hopeless the cause.

The threat to Zardari was obvious: there may have been 8,000 beneficiaries of the NRO, but there was only one Mr NRO — Asif Zardari. Forget the judges, from the comments of the petitioners and their lawyers inside and outside the court it was obvious that the primary target was the president.

And this legal bundle does not only harm Zardari and his political party, but the fabric of Pakistan’s civil society. Almeida’s conclusion:

But the key to a brighter political future, or any political future for that matter, is not about tactics right now for Zardari. It is about understanding that his basic approach needs to change: between all-out aggression and total surrender lies a supple approach that prizes the small wins in big losses and accepts the small losses in big wins.

Posted in Pakistan | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Pakistan: Is Engineering Civic Engagement Needed To Ensure Effective U.S. Military and Humanitarian Aid?

Posted by K.E. White on May 20, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s description of US policy toward Pakistan as “incoherent” caught US airwaves for its frankness–or, perhaps to some, apologist tone. But more importantly, Clinton’s press conference highlights a much tougher question: how does America make a coherent policy towards Pakistan?

Right now the stakes in Pakistan are high, but the mission is clear: help Pakistan’s civilian government beat back the extremist threat and, in so doing, strengthen liberal rule in the country and route dangerous terrorist groups that promise to make mayhem for Pakistan, Afghanistan and, ultimately, the United States.

But completing that is another matter all together. As Clinton laid out in yesterday’s press conference, the United States is increasing aid to Pakistan by $110 million—and reaching out to citizens to make additional $5 pledges via text messages. Here’s the breakdown and how the aid will reach Pakistan:

Despite her warmer words for Pakistan’s government, Mrs. Clinton said little of this aid would flow directly to the Pakistani authorities. Most of it will flow to the United Nations and other international aid organizations. Pakistan has been criticized in the past for squandering American assistance.

The latest influx of aid comes on top of $60 million in humanitarian aid that the United States has sent to Pakistan since last August, and $400 million the administration has requested from Congress to improve the counterinsurgency abilities of the Pakistani military.

While the bulk of the $100 million is coming from the State Department — channeled mainly through the Agency for International Development — the Pentagon will contribute $10 million for water trucks, food and large tents equipped with air-conditioning.

Mrs. Clinton emphasized that $26 million of the package was designated to buy grain from Pakistani farmers, which she said would take advantage of the country’s bumper grain crop this year.

Setting aside the important question whether or not this aid channels successfully to Pakistan, Rick Barton argues that without a mobilized Pakistani public committed against the Taliban no amount of is US military hard power and aid will turn the tide. How can the US assist in keeping the Pakistani public—which has already proven its civic force—mobilized to ensure effective civilian rule in Pakistan? Barton calls for American funding of locally controlled TV and radio stations to broadcast the barbarism of the Taliban and ensure continuous responsiveness of the Pakistani government to its citizens.

Now what Barton actually calls for verses current US efforts at ‘public diplomacy’ requires more digging. This CFR publication reviews current efforts at ‘public diplomacy’ in Afghanistan, illustrating that these operations are comprised of US military-run radio stations in Afghanistan. These stations report news, primarily US military operational updates, to locals before the Taliban can disseminate their own message of US humanitarian misdeeds.

Barton argues for greater scope of such efforts into television and radio, local control of content and less emphasis on American military news-updates. Rather these programs should empower locales to bring attention to social ills and examples of good governance.

Such a shift would see ‘public diplomacy’ shift from a focus on beating back extremist propaganda to  providing an independent avenue for public discourse and mobilization.

Starting such a public diplomacy program in Pakistan has risks.  First, will US funds inadvertently go towards anti-American messaging, entertainment programming of little worth or—most alarmingly—into jihadist controlled stations?

But Barton’s provocative idea has its virtues. Showing images of heinous terrorist acts and allowing Pakistanis to push for responsible governance could go a long way in keeping the Pakistani regime responsive to and credible in the eyes of its citzens.

Yet, there are greater dangers than misspent American funds. Stirring the pot of public mobilization can freeze a regime’s forward motion: fanning legitimate public grievances could place unrealistic demands on a regime making real, if slow, forward motion towards effective governance. End-result: A poor, but improving, regime is rejected and replaced with crippled regime.

In any case, the United States must craft a workable, and not simply a military-run propagandist approach to public diplomacy in Pakistan. As Jeanne Bourgault points out in her article Radio a Sound Salvation for Pakistan?:

One recent survey in the area found that “many of the listeners who tune in to militant or mullah-run stations do so largely out of boredom and for want of a better alternative.” By training journalists and helping to set up new radio stations, America and Pakistan can offer this alternative. Supporting local, independent media is a cheap but effective weapon against instability and terror.

From Bourgault one can glean a less ambitious, but perhaps more attainable public diplomacy approach than offered by Barton. Barton’s prescription to instill large-scale mobilization of the Pakistani public must overcome two significant hurdles. First, will not hard-power attained security permit Pakistanis, themselves, to extend their already existing social networks?  And does not such a hard-power success depend on diplomatic and miliatary coordination between the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan, not to mention agressive counter-insurgency operations in Pakistan more than additional radio stations?

Second, how does one measure the various variable that make-up large-scale social mobilization? The Pakistani public seems very engaged with its regimes current difficulties. Would American aid really produce civic engagement—or merely free-ride on the work of existing Pakistani social networks?

Expanding US jamming operations of extremist media outlets makes sense. And constructing US-controlled radio stations with local staffs that pump out ‘soft propaganda’—exposés on the value of American aid and extremist atrocities—could improve the perception of the United States to Pakistan’s inhabitants. Those two steps are practical steps forward in combatting the Af-Pak terrorist threat; and, furthermore, are preconditions to accessing the value of Barton’s more expansive public diplomacy prescription.

Posted in Pakistan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Pakistan’s Nuclear (In)security: Fact or Fiction?

Posted by K.E. White on May 19, 2009

Fears over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal have flooded the wires. But how real is this threat?

NPR’s May 6th report paints a worrisome, but not catastrophic picture, of Pakistan’s nukes: stating that the arsenal is secure, but as long as extremists operate in and control more of Pakistan, the risk of theft becomes more likely.

Steven R. David considers the nuclear threat from Pakistan more dangerous than the Cuban missile crisis. He views Pakistan’s refusal to add US-manufactured safety devices and divulge, combined with the real possibility that the Pakistani military and government collapse, makes shoring up Pakistan’s civilian government and command-and-control procedures an American foreign policy imperative.

(Note: I believe David’s article betrays a facile reading of history regarding today’s Pakistan vs. yesterday’s Cuba. Vasili Alexandrovich Arkipov’s, Russian submarine B-59’s second captain, voted against the use of nuclear weapons even though in the face of intense U.S. depth-charging. Arkipov’s dissent from his ship’s captain and chief political officer “saved the world from a nuclear cataclysm.” [Michael Krepon’s Better Safe Than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb, page 36])

But Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at Center for American Progress, urges caution. He points to various reasons why the fear of the army collapsing, cooperating with extremists or the Pakistani state collapsing are overblown.

Korb’s key points:

  • “the Pakistani military, which numbers about 1 million soldiers, has enough brute force to prevent the Taliban from breaking out of the rural areas of the frontier provinces and into the heart of Pakistan
  • “It’s also important to note that Islamabad’s intelligence service, or ISI, which has been a renegade operation for nearly two decades, has been brought under the army’s control.
  • the Pakistani Army is composed mostly of Punjabis, and the Taliban insurgents are entirely Pashtun. Therefore, the army won’t let these insurgents, who they see as outsiders, take control of the heart of Pakistan (as opposed to the frontier areas) or the nuclear weapons.
  • The Pakistani Army jealously guards its reputation. In fact, it places a higher priority on its reputation and its interest than that of the country.”

Posted in Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama On Pakistan: “[W]e need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis”

Posted by K.E. White on April 29, 2009

President Barack Obama just fielded Chuck Todd’s presidential press conference question on Pakistan, and whether or not America could secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal if that government falls. Obama dimisses suggestions that the civilian government is teetering on collapse, and considers Pakistan reacting appropriately (however late) to the terrorist threat in Buner. He highlights America’s commitment to assist Pakistani civilian government to deliver basic services to Pakistanis, and the Pakistani army’s recognition that armed extremists–not India–represent the greatest danger to Pakistan. 

Obama’s full response–minus a small follow-up where he refuses to answer hypotheticals involving Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal:

I’m confident that we can make sure that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is secure. Primarily, initially because the Pakistani army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands. We have strong military to military consultation and cooperation. I am gravely concerned of the situation in Pakistan not because I think they are going to be immediately overrun and the Taliban will take over in Pakistan. [But] more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile, and don’t seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services, school, health care, rule of law—a judicial system that works for the majority of people. So as a consequence, it is very hard for them to gain the support and the loyalty of their people.

So we need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis. And I think that there’s a recognition increasingly on both the part of the civilian government there and army that that is their biggest weakness. On the military side you’re starting to see some recognition just the last few days that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally. And you’re starting to see the Pakistani military take much more seriously the armed threat from militant extremists. We want to continue to encourage Pakistan to move in that direction. And we will provide them all the cooperation that we can. We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don’t end up having a nuclear-armed militant state.

I feel confident that that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.

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Pakistan: Stephen Walt Offers Some Help, U.S. Taps New State Official for South Asian Affairs, TOI Comments on Buner Crisis, and Pakistan’s Limited Counterinsurgency Capabilities

Posted by K.E. White on April 25, 2009

Stephen Walt tackles an issue receiving woefully little attention in the US media–the crisis in Pakistan. I’d also recommend Hassan Abbas’ blog on news and commentary concerning Pakistan. The Times of India also offers up a (rather cynical) rationale the Pakistani military permitting the Buner crisis to grow: pushing America to keep Pakistan-aid no strings attached.

Also Robert Blake has been nominated for U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs.

When considering why the Pakistani military has been slow to react or decisively take down the extremist threat in their country many point to a lack of will, but Steve Coll brings attention to Pakistan’s limited counter-insurgency capabilities

“I would just say on the capacity side, even where the army has shown the will to go into very difficult territory like Bajaur, they lack the tools to conduct effective counter-insurgency. They knock down entire marketplaces and villages and towns and then do little to build in the aftermath and to hold that ground and to create a strategy of politics that’s integrated with military action. That’s the key to successful counterinsurgency—has been true throughout time and thousand different settings. It’s about the people. And the Pakistan army has been to built to fight wars that are not about the people—[instead] that are about the Indian military.”

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Dawn Editorial: “At the moment nothing is more urgent than mobilisation of the instruments of state power and people’s energies to thwart the northern hordes’ drive to turn Pakistan into a forbidding wasteland.”

Posted by K.E. White on April 22, 2009

Will Pakistan’s secular political parties come together and combat the growing extermist threat to their country?

From today’s Dawn editorial by I.A. Rehman:

Today the people of Pakistan need all efforts to be concentrated on the issue of security — security of the state, security of all Muslim sects, security of women and members of minority communities, and the security of the ordinary Pakistani who only wishes to earn a loaf of bread to feed his starving child. 

The whirlwind that has already ravaged the Fata and Malakand Division is unlikely to allow the politicians in Islamabad and Lahore time to quibble over comas and full stops in the constitutional text. Besides the state’s integrity and the democratic system, cultures of all the communities in Pakistan’s federating units, the gains achieved after decades of pursuit of modern knowledge, all of our arts and literature, indeed the entire future of our children are at stake. At the moment nothing is more urgent than mobilisation of the instruments of state power and people’s energies to thwart the northern hordes’ drive to turn Pakistan into a forbidding wasteland. 

However pivotal a role in this all-important fight for survival one may assign Mr Zardari, the responsibility of Mian Nawaz Sharif is not a whit smaller. He may continue firing at the federal authority but it is time he took the field against pseudo-religious militants. Failure to do so will lead to conclusions completely unsavoury for him.

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