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The event was standing room only.

Speaker Events - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Terrorism Expert Riedel Delivers Sober Analysis of Pakistan, Afghanistan

According to terrorism expert Bruce Riedel, the situation in Pakistan is “dire and deteriorating,” and NATO could lose the war in Afghanistan due to a lack of resources and attention, but that could be avoided.

Mr. Riedel delivered this analysis at an IPI event last week, where he also said that Al Qaeda’s core leadership is still alive and remains a deadly threat. Mr. Riedel, a former adviser to four US Presidents and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is the author of, The Search for Al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology and Future, published in 2008 by the Brookings Institution.

Mr. Riedel was tasked this spring by President Obama with a review of the administration’s policies regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is credited with drafting a strategy that advocates a more focused counterinsurgency approach to the conflict in Afghanistan and boosts development assistance to Pakistan.

Among the key points raised by Mr. Riedel at this event were the following:

  • Over the past seven and a half years, the core Al Qaeda leadership has moved from Kandahar, Afghanistan to a location unknown, and remains a deadly threat. Al Qaeda is believed to be somewhere in Pakistan. Also, Al Qaeda’s relationships with other jihad extremists in South Asia, like Lashkar-e-Toiba, are growing stronger.
  • The situation in Pakistan is "dire and deteriorating," in part because Pakistan is trying to move from a military dictatorship toward democracy, and its leaders are fighting internal battles while being confronted with pressing external ones. This is a difficult transition in any country, but especially for Pakistan, which is attempting this transition for the fourth time in 60 years.
  • The US relationship with the Pakistanis is tarnished by Pakistan’s perception of the US as an unreliable ally and an inconsistent source of support over the past 60 years. As a result, there is a desire on the side of Pakistan to hedge its bets in Afghanistan and with the Taliban in case the US abandons their alliance.
  • NATO could lose the war in Afghanistan due to a lack of resources and attention, but that could be avoided. Most Afghans do not want to return to life under Taliban rule, and the Afghan army has some positive aspects. Said Mr. Riedel, “The Afghan army is one bright spot in an otherwise very dismal picture.”
  • Mr. Riedel also said, “To put an Afghan soldier on the battlefield costs $12,000. Let’s double their pay, which means half the Taliban will come over to our side because they’ll want the money, and we’ll still be paying 10% of the cost of an American soldier. This isn’t rocket science. It’s pretty obvious.”
  • In closing, Mr. Riedel noted that a crucial factor in the dynamic between Afghanistan and Pakistan is that “the existential threat to the future of Pakistan’s freedoms and its liberties is not India. It’s from within. And our challenge is how to convince Pakistanis of that.”

The event, which took place on May 12th in the Trygve Lie Center, was moderated by Warren Hoge, IPI Vice President and Director of External Relations.
Slide show: Image 1 of 9
Photo Credits: Alan Rosenberg  
Bruce Riedel (left), terrorism expert and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Warren Hoge, IPI Vice President and Director of External Relations, on the terrace of the Trygve Lie Center.

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