Argument

Pakistan's Alternate Universe

What possible motive does Islamabad have for supporting Afghanistan's bloody insurgency?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headed to Islamabad this week for what U.S. officials are billing as a last-ditch effort to patch up ties with Pakistan and urge the country's ruling generals to crack down on the Haqqani network, an Afghan insurgent group based in Pakistan's tribal areas that Washington is increasingly putting on par with al Qaeda and the Taliban as a threat to the United States.

The recent drumbeat of stories about the Haqqanis began when Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the Haqqanis "a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency." Although less frequently mentioned, the Pakistanis are also providing sanctuary to the other main Afghan Taliban group, Taliban leader Mullah Omar's Quetta Shura, based in Baluchistan province to the south. But very little has been written about why the Pakistanis support these groups. What possible motive, after all, could they have for supporting forces that are engaged in a nasty guerrilla war against their ostensible American allies in Afghanistan? The reason is simple: The Pakistanis fear that if these Taliban forces are defeated, the United States will abandon the country, leaving behind what they believe will be a hostile Afghan government allied to their mortal enemy, India. And if Clinton fails to understand this dynamic, the latest bid to salvage what's left of U.S.-Pakistani ties will end in failure.

Although the United States has tried hard to promote friendly relations between Kabul and Islamabad, it has had little success. The two neighbors are natural adversaries whose long history of mutual hostility predates the Taliban era. There is also bad blood between the Pakistanis and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Karzai blames Islamabad for the death of his father, who was assassinated in Pakistan several years before the 9/11 attacks.

India, for its part, has moved into Afghanistan in a big way since 9/11, opening an embassy and four consulates, sending in thousands of aid workers, and providing almost $2 billion in aid. Just last Tuesday, Oct. 4, Kabul and New Delhi signed a strategic partnership agreement in which India agreed to help train and equip Afghan security forces. The Indians, long angered by Pakistani support for jihadi groups in Kashmir, sense a golden opportunity to threaten Pakistan on its western border and are determined to make the most of it.

Observing these developments, the Pakistanis have become increasingly alarmed at the prospect that they may be encircled by their historic foes. Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban needs to be understood in this light. It is not that the Pakistanis like the Taliban, whose support for al Qaeda prior to 9/11 ended up causing them so much grief, or even that they trust them, since they almost certainly do not. But faced with the alternative of a hostile Afghan government allied to India, supporting the Afghan Taliban is a relatively easy choice for Islamabad.

The United States is well aware of Pakistani concerns about the Indian presence in Afghanistan but has done little to address them. The Indians do not like outsiders meddling in their affairs, and Washington has been unwilling to risk alienating a country it seeks as a partner in countering Chinese influence in Asia. Instead of pressuring India, Washington has tried to buy off the Pakistanis with financial and military assistance and even offered them a strategic partnership of their own. Its message to Islamabad has been that it intends to remain engaged in the region and that, despite the growing Indian presence in Afghanistan, there is really nothing to worry about. This has proved to be a hard sell for Pakistanis, who remember all too well that the United States abandoned the region after working together with Islamabad to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan and then imposed sanctions on them only 18 months later in retaliation for their nuclear program.

With little else to offer and facing a self-imposed deadline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, Washington has begun ratcheting up the pressure. Over the past year, it has dramatically stepped up drone attacks against the Haqqani network and sharply increased clandestine CIA operations in Pakistan, one of which went seriously wrong when a CIA contractor shot and killed two Pakistani informants who were tailing him. The raid on Osama bin Laden in May made clear that the United States no longer trusts Islamabad to cooperate in apprehending senior al Qaeda operatives. Hardly a day goes by when some U.S. official or other does not demand that the Pakistanis get with the program and go after the Haqqani network, often accompanied by a thinly veiled threat to send ground troops into the tribal areas. These actions have outraged Pakistani public opinion and angered the Pakistani authorities, who say they will resist any efforts by Washington to send combat forces onto their territory.

If U.S. and Pakistani troops ever did come to blows, the consequences could be disastrous for both sides. Like it or not, the Pakistan Army is the only force in Pakistani society capable of preventing a jihadi takeover of the state. For the past six years it has been fighting against a determined insurgency led by the Pakistani version of the Taliban, which it turned into an enemy when it sent forces into the tribal areas looking for al Qaeda in response to U.S. pressure. The Pakistani Taliban have been joined by many of the jihadi groups that the Pakistanis once used against the Indians in Kashmir, but that turned against the Pakistanis when Islamabad decided to support the U.S. war on terror. The Pakistani Army has already moved 150,000 troops into the region to hold back this Pakistani Taliban tide.

But even if the Pakistanis were not supporting the Afghan Taliban, it is doubtful they would drop everything just to help the United States in Afghanistan. Given their belief that an Indian alliance with Kabul would constitute an existential threat, there is every reason to believe they will refuse to go after the Afghan Taliban no matter how much pressure Washington brings to bear.

This does not mean the Pakistanis want to see the Afghan Taliban running the show in Kabul. They do not trust them and have no interest in seeing a return to the status quo that existed before 9/11. As a former senior Army officer told me recently, "A mullah is still a mullah." What the Pakistanis want more than anything else is to keep Taliban forces in the field as a check against Indian ambitions in Afghanistan. Judged from this perspective, the current stalemate in the country suits them just fine. They could probably also live with, and may even prefer, a negotiated settlement that would lock the Afghan Taliban in a coalition government in Kabul. Although the Pakistanis may harbor doubts about their ability to restrain Taliban ambitions over time, such an outcome would offer greater stability and could facilitate the construction of a gas pipeline into Central Asia, a long-standing Pakistani goal. But, ironically, they need American help: Success in sustaining a coalition government in Kabul will probably depend on U.S. success in training an Afghan army capable of keeping Taliban forces in check.

This is an opportunity for Washington. Unless it is prepared to risk the disastrous consequences that could flow from armed confrontation with Pakistan, a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan may be the best outcome it can reasonably hope to achieve. To accomplish this, it will almost certainly need to collaborate with the Pakistanis, who are the only party with any real influence over the Afghan Taliban. But recent U.S. efforts to demonize the Haqqani network work directly against this objective because the Haqqanis are the Afghan Taliban group most favored by Islamabad and over whom it has the most control.

It would be a bitter pill to swallow if the United States were forced to abandon Afghanistan without destroying the group that gave bin Laden sanctuary in the years before 9/11, but there are worse outcomes. Bin Laden is now dead, and even Washington admits that the primary al Qaeda threat to U.S. interests has moved elsewhere. The United States should begin shifting its priorities in the region to promoting a sustainable peace between Pakistan and India. Their decades-old dispute over Kashmir is the reason that the Pakistanis began supporting jihadi groups in the first place, and they are unlikely to sever their final links with them until it is resolved.

ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

Argument

Did Qaddafi's End Justify the Means?

How Libya changed the face of humanitarian intervention -- an FP roundtable.

When international forces struck against Muammar al-Qaddafi's military outside the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in March -- the beginning of the end for the Libyan dictator who was killed on Oct. 20 in his hometown of Sirte -- they were acting on a doctrine called "responsibility to protect," or R2P. The idea, not even a decade old and only embraced by the United Nations in 2005, is that a country's government could be held accountable -- with military force, if necessary -- for failing to ensure the well-being of its citizens. In our November issue, Foreign Policy explores the history of this doctrine -- but what about its future? Was the successful toppling of the Qaddafi regime a new dawn for muscular humanitarianism or a false one? Did the invasion make the world less safe for dictators or for the rest of us? We convened a roundtable of experts to weigh in on what humanitarian intervention in the post-Libya world will look like.

David Bosco: How Libya made humanitarian intervention less likely

Micah Zenko: After Qaddafi, every dictator will want to get his hands on a nuclear weapon

Gareth Evans: Can we stop atrocities without launching an all-out war?

Kyle Matthews: Libya is the beginning of the end for the world's worst villains

 

David Bosco: How Libya made humanitarian intervention less likely

Imagine this alternate reality: In April 1994, thousands of American, British, and French forces seize control of the airport in Kigali, Rwanda, and then fan out across the country to stop what officials describe as an incipient genocide. As they attempt to restore order, the Western troops confront and clash with Hutu extremists. Several American soldiers are killed by snipers and a helicopter crash kills a dozen more. In Washington, Bill Clinton's administration faces outrage over the intervention, which draws immediate comparisons to the failed Somalia mission. Claims by administration officials that they prevented a massive bloodletting are greeted with derision on Capitol Hill, where support for costly humanitarian missions is weak.

All of which is to say that the "responsibility to protect" (R2P), the doctrine that guided this year's international intervention in Libya, has a structural problem, at least insofar as it involves military action to prevent atrocities. Early intervention in Rwanda might have saved as many as 500,000 lives, a stunning achievement. But it's almost certain that such a mission would not have been viewed as a stunning success. The problem is that R2P's successes will always be ambiguous and debatable, dogged by "what if"s. Its costs, meanwhile, will be painfully evident in the form of military expenditures and casualties and in whatever unintended consequences may follow an intervention. For that reason, the doctrine will struggle to build a record of success and cement its place as an international norm.

This dynamic has been apparent in Libya. British, French, and American leaders insist that they averted a massacre in Benghazi, but such claims are impossible to prove and easy to doubt, as many close observers of the situation have. Meanwhile, critics of the operation can without fear of contradiction point to the mission's price tag, the political complexities of post-Qaddafi Libya, and the diplomatic strains that the mission has produced with other U.N. Security Council members and within the NATO alliance. At least in the medium term, Libya has made humanitarian interventions less likely.

Coercive intervention is not the entirety of the R2P doctrine, which is fundamentally an attempt to change conceptions of what national sovereignty means. But a government that is clinging to power by violence can usually only be stopped by force. R2P is well on its way to becoming boilerplate in official reports, resolutions, and speeches. As an operational doctrine, however, it will always have to fight for its life.

David Bosco is an assistant professor at American University's School of International Service and writes the Multilateralist blog for FP.

PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images

David Bosco: How Libya made humanitarian intervention less likely

Micah Zenko: After Qaddafi, every dictator will want to get his hands on a nuclear weapon

Gareth Evans: Can we stop atrocities without launching an all-out war?

Kyle Matthews: Libya is the beginning of the end for the world's worst villains

 

Micah Zenko: After Qaddafi, every dictator will want to get his hands on a nuclear weapon

 

The world has entered an era characterized by two contradictory dynamics. The first is the "responsibility to protect" (R2P) doctrine, which states that each government is individually responsible for protecting its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. If a government cannot -- or will not -- meet its R2P obligations, then the international community can use military force to protect that state's populace and, potentially, to ensure the removal of offending regimes -- as has happened in the Ivory Coast and Libya this year.

The second dynamic is the prevention or rolling-back of states' acquisitions of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missiles. As authoritarian governments face escalating international scrutiny over their treatment of their people, they have an increasingly greater incentive to develop WMD programs to deter foreign military interventions enforcing R2P. In short, advocates of R2P may be inadvertently encouraging proliferation, because no government possessing WMD has ever been invaded and overthrown by an outside military force.

Toppled Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi gave up his country's nascent nuclear program in 2003 and 2004, removing the potential capability that would have deterred the NATO-led intervention. When Qaddafi handed uranium-enrichment centrifuge components and nuclear weapons blueprints to the United States, he sealed his own fate. Qaddafi's daughter, Aisha, promised that the lesson to take from Libya is that "every country that has weapons of mass destruction [should] keep them or make more so they will not meet the same fate as Libya."

Policymakers and analysts increasingly use the term "R2P" to describe malevolent state behaviors that fall outside the four specific crimes and violations mentioned above, and sovereign governments are held accountable for them under the obligations of R2P, with evidence immediately provided by citizens using social media, human rights investigators, and journalists. In Libya, for example, only 77 days passed between the country's referral by the U.N. Security Council to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the issuing of indictments and arrest warrants for Qaddafi and two senior officials by ICC prosecutors.

Combined with such scrutinized governmental behavior, the international community likewise increasingly faces R2P obligations to protect vulnerable populations through diplomatic, economic, and coercive military means. In August, U.S. President Barack Obama declared as much for the first time: "Preventing mass atrocities and genocide," he stated, "is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States."

Libya will assuredly not be the final country that faces coercive threats for treating its population poorly. Depending on how you define them, there are between 20 and 45 authoritarian governments in the world. Several are already pursuing WMD and have either never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Chemical Weapons Convention, and Biological Weapons Convention or are suspected to be in violation of treaty obligations.

Qaddafi told then-International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei in 2003 that he did not believe that his nuclear program enhanced Libya's security. He was either lying or wrong. Saddam Hussein, meanwhile, told FBI interrogators that he maintained the perception of having WMDs to not appear weak and to deter another invasion of his country. He was right -- not having nuclear weapons made him weak. Authoritarian governments will have learned lessons from both examples of outside regime change, and those will be applied to their own decisions about whether to pursue the bomb.

Micah Zenko is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He blogs for CFR and is on Twitter at @MicahZenko.

David Bosco: How Libya made humanitarian intervention less likely

Micah Zenko: After Qaddafi, every dictator will want to get his hands on a nuclear weapon

Gareth Evans: Can we stop atrocities without launching an all-out war?

Kyle Matthews: Libya is the beginning of the end for the world's worst villains

 

Gareth Evans:  Can we stop atrocities without launching an all-out war?

Libya was a textbook case for the application of the "responsibility to protect" (R2P) principle, and the U.N. Security Council resolutions in February and March, which paved the way for the military campaign, were textbook responses. After his regime's initial attacks on unarmed protesters, Muammar al-Qaddafi was first warned, censured, sanctioned, and threatened with International Criminal Court prosecution; only when it was clear, three weeks later, that neither persuasion nor nonmilitary coercion would change his course and that a civilian massacre in Benghazi was imminent was selective military action authorized. And the intervention worked -- at the very least in preventing a catastrophe in Benghazi and many more civilian casualties elsewhere than would otherwise have been the case. Equivalently quick and robust responses would have saved 8,000 lives in Srebrenica and 800,000 in Rwanda.

That's the good news. But there were also downsides to the action, on which supporters of R2P need to reflect. After the initial strike on Qaddafi's forces surrounding Benghazi, the NATO-led international forces chose to conduct much more than a watching-brief and selective-strike operation, making the judgment that only by supporting the rebels to achieve regime change could all of Libya's civilians really be protected. And in doing so they were widely seen --not just by R2P skeptics waiting to pounce -- as stretching their narrow Security Council mandate to its absolute limit, if not beyond. 

For better or worse, this perception has now given Russia, China, and others an excuse to claim -- in the context of Syria, where regime violence has been if anything worse than in Libya -- that there are risks not only in authorizing, but even foreshadowing, any coercive measures at all, because it cannot be assumed that even the most slender Security Council authority will not be misused. We shouldn't see this as any big setback to the R2P norm itself -- support for it is still overwhelming, as demonstrated by a major General Assembly debate on the issue in July. But systematic and effective implementation will continue to be hard work.

Perhaps the most urgent challenge after Libya and Syria is to change the mindset that any kind of robust response is like stepping on a moving staircase with the first condemnatory step implying a willingness and determination to go all the way to full-scale coercive military force. Policymakers and publics have to be persuaded, all over again, that coercive military action is totally different from other response mechanisms and can only be countenanced in extreme and exceptional circumstances.

This cause would be much helped by getting the Security Council or General Assembly to embrace tough guidelines for the use of military force. Five criteria (seriousness of risk, right intention, last resort, proportionality, and balance of consequences) have been advocated from the start by R2P advocates, not as a guaranteed route to consensus but as an important tool for achieving it in hard cases. We lost the battle to endorse such guidelines at the 2005 World Summit. Six years later, this remains important unfinished business. 

Gareth Evans is a former foreign minister of Australia, former president of the International Crisis Group, and co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which initiated the concept of the responsibility to protect. He is the author of The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All.

David Bosco: How Libya made humanitarian intervention less likely

Micah Zenko: After Qaddafi, every dictator will want to get his hands on a nuclear weapon

Gareth Evans: Can we stop atrocities without launching an all-out war?

Kyle Matthews: Libya is the beginning of the end for the world's worst villains

 

Kyle Matthews: Libya is the beginning of the end for the world's worst villains

Before and after the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi and his cronies in Libya, many pundits and commentators erroneously blamed the "responsibility to protect" (R2P) doctrine for leading NATO into war. Many have gone further in claiming that R2P is headed for the trash heap, painting the doctrine as neocolonialism hiding behind the mask of humanitarianism. Yet none of them touches upon what actually transpired at the earliest stages of the Libyan crisis, nor do they proffer any practical alternatives for protecting civilians from mass atrocity crimes. This is a shame, because R2P is a rising international norm, not a declining one.

Although the Qaddafi regime was hardly the only Arab government to crack down on peaceful protesters amid the political unrest that swept the region early this year, it was the first to immediately apply military force. So violent was Tripoli's response that many Libyan diplomats resigned en masse, sickened by the brutality unleashed back home. The fact that Qaddafi threatened to go house to house to take care of the "rats" -- all who opposed his dictatorial rule -- was most likely the tipping point. All this transpired well before the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1973, authorizing the enforcement of a no-fly zone, imposing a weapons ban, and allowing NATO to take all necessary measures to protect civilians.

Successfully applying R2P, especially the military component, has always been hindered by two general groups. The first are countries that have the power to stop atrocities but are fearful of getting bogged down in a quagmire -- think of the United States circa 1994. The second are countries that block action, purposely, to protect narrow national interests -- think of Russia and China's recent double veto at the U.N. Security Council to protect the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Barack Obama's administration has played a quiet but significant role in reordering this calculus, both by supporting the NATO-led operation in Libya and in its recent decision to deploy 100 troops to Uganda to fight the Lord's Resistance Army. Even Canada, which once championed R2P but has been silent on the doctrine as of late, is now shifting its foreign policy so that the protection of civilians becomes more prominent. Among the countries -- mostly the BRICS -- on the other side of the issue, there is a slow realization that shielding tyrants who abuse their people does not play out well on the international stage or, in some cases, with domestic constituencies. Under the leadership of Jacob Zuma, South Africa in particular has been criticized for standing with dictators rather than with humanity, contrary to the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

Governments that do not uphold their responsibility to protect their own citizens from mass atrocity crimes also face an array of organizations and activists who are much better equipped than before to expose the crimes they commit and the countries that back them with military and political support. In an age of instantaneous electronic communication, governments can no longer hermitically seal their borders to suppress information at home or stop it from leaking to the outside world. Thanks to smartphones and social media platforms, the power of witness is only going to strengthen in the years ahead, robbing oppressive regimes of the one card they have left to play.

Kyle Matthews is senior deputy director of the Will to Intervene Project at Concordia University's Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies.