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Mar 20th, 2010

A Victory for Obama

How we’re winning in Pakistan

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

By Fareed Zakaria
Newsweek logo
March 12, 2010 (magazine issue dated March 22)

President Obama gets much credit for changing America’s image in the world — he was probably awarded the Nobel Prize for doing so. But if you asked even devoted fans to cite a specific foreign-policy achievement, they would probably hesitate. “It’s too soon for that,” they would say.

But in fact, there is a place where Barack Obama’s foreign policy is working, and one that is crucial to U.S. national security — Pakistan.

There has been a spate of good news coming out of that complicated country, which has long promised to take action against Islamic militants but rarely done so. (The reason: Pakistan has used many of these same militants to destabilize its traditional foe, India, and to gain influence in Afghanistan.)

Over the past few months, the Pakistani military has engaged in serious and successful operations in the militant havens of Swat, Malakand, South Waziristan, and Bajaur. Some of these areas are badlands where no Pakistani government has been able to establish its writ, so the achievement is all the more important.

The Pakistanis have also ramped up their intelligence sharing with the U.S. This latter process led to the arrest a month ago of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban, among other Taliban figures.

Some caveats: most of the Taliban who have been captured are small fish, and the Pakistani military has a history of “catching and releasing” terrorists so that they can impress Americans but still maintain their ties with the militants. But there does seem to be a shift in Pakistani behavior. Why it’s taken place and how it might continue is a case study in the nature and limits of foreign-policy successes.

First, the Obama administration defined the problem correctly. Senior ad-ministration officials stopped referring to America’s efforts in Afghanistan and instead spoke constantly of “AfPak,” to emphasize the notion that success in Afghanistan depended on actions taken in Pakistan. …

Second, the administration used both sticks and carrots. …

Full story


4/3/10 Update

Confused in Kabul: Karzai’s Speech Befuddles Afghan Officials

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks at Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission in Kabul on Thursday, April 1, 2010. (Photo credit: Ahmad Masood / Reuters)

By John Yang

World Blog
April 2, 2010

KABUL — If U.S. officials in Washington are having a hard time figuring out Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s behavior since his tense meeting with President Obama, try Afghan government officials here in the nation’s capital city.

As Kabul was pelted with hailstones Saturday, officials struggled to understand — much less explain — Karzai’s rambling televised speech on Thursday in which he blamed U.N. and European officials for vote fraud in last year’s election that gave him a second term. He also likened the U.S. and coalition troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan to an occupying force.

“Foreigners will make excuses, they do not want us to have a parliamentary election,” a defiant Karzai said during a gathering of election officials Thursday, Reuters reported. “They want parliament to be weakened and battered, and for me to be an ineffective president and for parliament to be ineffective.” …

The White House reacted with an arched eyebrow — Obama’s press secretary Robert Gibbs called the speech “troubling” and “cause for real and genuine concern.”

Karzai called Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Friday to clarify his remarks. He said he intended to criticize western news coverage, not the United States. …

Full story


4/5/10 Update

Karzai to Lawmakers: ‘I might join the Taliban’

Image: Hamid Karzai
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, seen here surrounded by bodyguards in Kandahar on Monday, April 5, 2010 threatened to join the insurgency, lawmakers say. (Photo credit: Allauddin Khan / AP)

April 5, 2010

KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened over the weekend to quit the political process and join the Taliban if he continued to come under outside pressure to reform, several members of parliament said Monday.

Karzai made the unusual statement at a closed-door meeting Saturday with selected lawmakers — just days after kicking up a diplomatic controversy with remarks alleging foreigners were behind fraud in last year’s disputed elections.

Lawmakers dismissed the latest comment as hyperbole, but it will add to the impression the president — who relies on tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO forces to fight the insurgency and prop up his government — is growing increasingly erratic and unable to exert authority without attacking his foreign backers.

“He said that ‘if I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban,'” said Farooq Marenai, who represents the eastern province of Nangarhar.

“He said rebelling would change to resistance,” Marenai said — apparently suggesting that the militant movement would then be redefined as one of resistance against a foreign occupation rather than a rebellion against an elected government.

Marenai said Karzai appeared nervous and repeatedly demanded to know why parliament last week had rejected legal reforms that would have strengthened the president’s authority over the country’s electoral institutions.

Two other lawmakers said Karzai twice raised the threat to join the insurgency.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the reports were troubling. “On behalf of the American people, we’re frustrated with the remarks,” Gibbs told reporters.

The lawmakers, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of political repercussions, said Karzai also dismissed concerns over possible damage his comments had caused to relations with the United States. He told them he had already explained himself in a telephone conversation Saturday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that came after the White House described his comments last week as troubling.

The lawmakers said they felt Karzai was pandering to hard-line or pro-Taliban members of parliament and had no real intention of joining the insurgency.

Nor does the Afghan leader appear concerned that the U.S. might abandon him, having said numerous times that the U.S. would not leave Afghanistan because it perceives a presence here to be in its national interest. …

The comments come against the background of continuing insurgent violence as the U.S. moves to boost troop levels in a push against Taliban strongholds in the south. …


Related reports on this site

Taliban Arrest Angers Karzai (March 15, 2010)

AfPak War: Bombers Strike Lahore (March 12, 2010)

Taliban’s Top Commander Captured (Feb. 17, 2010)

Obama Set to Change Course (Jan. 24, 2010)

Obama Rolls Dice on AfPak War (Dec. 2, 2009)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — March 20, 2009

The American International Building (AIG) in Lower Manhattan, New York City. Financial analysts and federal officials warned that doing nothing to save AIG — or banks or the auto industry — would have led to catastrophe: an economic domino effect of bank losses, stock market chaos, and job cuts. (Photo credit: Timothy A. Clary / AFP — Getty Images)

Should We Turn Our Back on AIG?

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I examined what might have happened if companies deemed “too big to fail” had been allowed to do just that.

5 Responses to “AfPak Foreign Policy Success”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Palin Flaunts Policy Prowess Says:

    […] Palin criticized Obama on foreign policy … arguing, as conservative commentator Liz Cheney did the night before, that his administration shunned Afghanistan President Karzai (even though Karzai threatened to join the Taliban). […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » America’s Longest War Says:

    […] Karzai: “I might join the Taliban” (March 20, 2010) […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Afghan Price Tag = Health Cost Says:

    […] AfPak Foreign Policy Success (March 20, 2010) […]

  4. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Taliban Arrest Angers Karzai Says:

    […] AfPak Foreign Policy Success (March 20, 2010) […]

  5. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Gadhafi Suffers Heavy Losses Says:

    […] AfPak Foreign Policy Success […]

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