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Obama’s Afghan Review chief discusses Pakistan at Fletcher

Published: Friday, January 28, 2011

Updated: Monday, January 31, 2011 14:01

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Danai Macridi/Tufts Daily

Former CIA officer and Brookings Institution Fellow Bruce Riedel spoke Wednesday on US-Pakistani relations.

Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Bruce Riedel, who chaired the 2009 White House review to overhaul U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, spoke Wednesday evening about diplomatic relations between the United States and Pakistan at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Riedel discussed his new book, "Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad" (2011).

Riedel characterized Pakistani politics as a perpetual struggle between proponents of democracy and backers of authoritarianism.

"The country currently faces a battle for its soul between those loyal to the vision of democracy and what we could call ‘dark forces' that use extremism, violence and intimidation to achieve their goals," he said.

Riedel said that any U.S. efforts to influence the outcome would have a marginal impact and that most of the $10 billion the Bush administration gave to Pakistan in aid is unaccounted for — labeled only "services rendered" in Pentagon records.

"At the end of the day, any aid we give is fungible," he said. "It's likely that some of that money has gone to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, although the U.S. is certainly not the only donor."

When asked about a proposed natural-gas pipeline linking Pakistan and Iran, Riedel warned against preoccupation with the Iranian threat at the expense of capitalist development that would, he said, strengthen democracy in the region.

"If there's any hope in all this, at the end of the day it's that capitalism will be the engine that brings South Asia together, and the U.S. needs to support that," he said.

Citing the dictatorships, secret projects and unresolved murders that have marked Pakistan's history, Riedel said that the international community often overlooks the constant yearning of Pakistan's civil society for democracy and rule of law.

"Compared to other countries in the Middle East who have suffered under dictatorships, Pakistan is unique for its constant push back for democracy," he said, "which is something the U.S. should build upon."

Riedel said there has been a remarkable degree of bipartisan agreement on U.S. policy toward Pakistan, which has been characterized by both friendship and distrust.

"You could call it a wild love affair, except when the U.S. chooses to chastise Pakistan," he said. "That love affair resumed after 9/11 when the Bush administration began increasing assistance to Pakistan to assist in the war on terror."

Citing close links between Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, and a militant Islamist group active in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Riedel said Pakistan has been both a patron and victim of terrorism.

"The cost to Pakistan has been huge," he said.

Riedel said that unmanned U.S. aerial drones aimed at Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan add to the hostility toward the U.S. in the region, but conceded that the drones are the United States' only tool for exerting pressure on al-Qaeda.

"I'm worried that we have become drone-addicted," he said. "These attacks are tempting because they are quick, but the cost is very hard to calculate."

Riedel chastised the U.S. media for being "Iran-obsessed" and for disregarding more important security challenges in region, such as Pakistan.

"Iran is a nuclear wannabe. Pakistan has the fifth-largest nuclear arsenal with more terrorists per square meter than anywhere in the world besides the Gaza Strip," he said. "Where do you think our focus should be?"

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