Thomas R. Pickering is a member of the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment. He was undersecretary of state for political affairs from 1997 to 2001 and served as ambassador and representative to the United Nations from 1989 to 1992. Ambassador Pickering is also a member of the Partnership for a Secure America Advisory Board. This article was originally published in the Washington Post.
America Must Atone for the Torture it Inflicted
It’s never easy in this volatile world to advance America’s strategic aims. For more than four decades, in the service of Democratic and Republican presidents, it was often my job to persuade foreign governments to adhere to international law and observe the highest standards of conduct in human rights — including the strict prohibition of torture. A report released Tuesday by an independent task force on detainee treatment (to which I contributed) makes it clear that U.S. officials could have used the same advice. (more…)
This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
Putin’s Complicated Foreign Policy
Within weeks of being inaugurated in his third term as the President of Russia in May, Vladimir Putin announced his decisions to skip the G-8 summit at Camp David, and to send Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in his place to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in London, sending commentators in the Western world into a frenzy. Many in the United States proclaimed (and mourned) the end of the Russia reset. This view only increased as Putin appeared to turn his attention to his immediate neighbor, Belarus, making his first international visit with President Alexander Lukashenko, and then attending a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Additionally, Putin has joined China in opposing UN efforts to sanction Syria, a move that has frustrated many, while Russia continues to supply the Assad regime with weapons. Although the Russian reset with the West technically took place during Dmitri Medvedev’s presidency, there is little doubt that then-Prime Minister Putin was heavily involved in this decision (as well as most others). What, then, explains this sudden and drastic shift?
Ambassador Crocker Speaks on Middle East Issues After Leaving State Dept.
On September 17, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, appearing in his first public event since his tour in Kabul. A small audience was given special insight into arguably the most experienced living U.S. Ambassador with assignments in the Middle East. Ambassador Crocker has served in Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and, most recently, Afghanistan. Having returned to civilian life, Crocker often stated to the audience that he was now a “free” man. As such, the audience was privileged to have this opportunity to hear from someone who has spent nearly 40 years abroad and could speak candidly and honestly about situations on the ground and the relationships between states in the region.
This article was written by two Fall 2011 Fellows in PSA’s Congressional Fellowship Program. All CFP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Fellows that were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
For the vast majority of Americans, watching the last American boot leave Iraqi soil is nothing short of good riddance. The numbers have become seared in Americans minds: Nearly nine years. Nearly a trillion dollars spent. Nearly 35,000 US soldiers wounded. Nearly 4,500 US soldiers dead.
The long-term effect of the Iraq War is pretty obvious—a national sentiment for retrenchment—a streak of isolationism that is being espoused by both sides of the political spectrum. It’s hard not to watch Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry warn against “military adventurism” without comparing him to his predecessor.
But despite the desire to go inward, the simple fact is that if there was any hope for the US to go on the sidelines, that’s changed forever with the onset of the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring has reminded the world of the danger of failed states. With long-time dictators losing power, militant Salafists (not solely Al Qaeda) are looking to fill the vacuum.
But the Arab Spring also comes with a new challenge—a new type of interventionism.
William S. Cohen, former Secretary of Defense under Clinton and PSA Advisory Board member, recently wrote an opinion article in Politico discussing the use of drones in modern warfare. Cohen has always supported bipartisan action on issues of national security and as a member of Congress (R-Maine) took a nonpartisan stance on security policy. Since leaving the pentagon, Cohen has penned numerous articles and books and even appeared on the Daily Show. In his most recent article, Cohen focuses on the critical role drones have played in Afghanistan and their place at the center of counter-insurgency vs. counter-terrorism debate.
Among the many issues that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta must ponder in the coming months will likely be whether to recommend shifting U.S. strategy in Afghanistan from counterinsurgency to counterterrorism.
Some critics argue that our current policy of deploying large numbers of ground troops puts more of our men and women at risk for questionable gain and even encourages more Afghans to join the Taliban, fighting against what they claim is an invasion force. Yet the recent gains in clearing out Taliban strongholds and helping to build schools, medical facilities and other civic institutions argue, instead, for staying the course for several more years.
President Obama’s address Wednesday night regarding U.S. troop withdrawals in Afghanistan will make few people happy. Many in the military wanted a smaller withdrawal than the 10,000 he announced will come out this year, with another 23,000 out by the end 2012, and all troops gone by 2014. For the far left and increasingly some on the right, who want nothing short of a full scale withdrawal now, the President’s announcement disappointed at best and represented a betrayal at worst. For many Americans, 56% according to a recent Pew poll, the war’s cost no longer seems worth the effort, where every service member deployed in Afghanistan costs U.S. taxpayers $1 million per year. Many have said it is time to stop rebuilding Afghanistan and start rebuilding America.
One can understand the frustration on all sides of this, the longest war in America’s history. However, the United States cannot afford to turn its back on what is right – either in terms of national security or our values. And on both counts, President Obama’s modest withdrawal is the right call.
In terms of national security, Osama bin Laden’s assassination scored a huge foreign policy victory for the Obama administration as well for all peoples who oppose the hatred and violence that bin Laden espoused. Yet the sole justification for the Afghan campaign was not bin Laden’s death or capture. It is true that only about 50 to 100 al Qaeda operatives remain in Afghanistan. Recall, however, that only 19 hijackers were needed for the September 11th attacks. Furthermore, so few al Qaeda remain in Afghanistan, in part, because many have fled to the ungoverned tribal areas in Pakistan. If the United States leaves Afghanistan an ungoverned mess, al Qaeda will have more places from which to train to kill Americans and our allies. (more…)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Friday that PSA Advisory Board member Marc Grossman has been appointed the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ambassador Grossman assumes the post recently left vacant by the passing of former PSA Advisory Board member, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Secretary Clinton made the announcement during a speech delivered in Ambassador Holbrooke’s honor at the Asia Society in New York, during which she noted Grossman “knows our allies and understands how to mobilize common action to meet shared challenges.” From 2001-2005, Ambassador Grossman served as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the State Department’s third-ranking official. Throughout a distinguished career in public service spanning 29 years, Ambassador Grossman also served as the Director General of the US Foreign Service, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and U.S. Ambassador to Turkey.
“Virtually all serious observers of national security affairs now recognize the current structure of the national security system militates against unified problem-solving when the problem is a multiagency issue. The question is what to do about it.”
Counter-proliferation, counterinsurgency, food security, energy policy – all examples of complex and multifaceted issues that increasingly dominate America’s security priorities and starkly highlight the chronic limitations of the U.S. national security structure. The Project on National Security Reform and others stress the critical need for a Goldwater-Nichols Act of national security to take on the colossal and outdated bureaucracy built around the security challenges of the post WWII period. (more…)
Since the Afghan war began, NATO and Afghanistan have become inextricably intertwined. The linkage culminated at last year’s NATO summit where the 60th anniversary of the alliance sparked the assertion that Afghanistan could be the alliance’s make-or-break test of the 21st century, despite other looming challenges.
This year’s summit in Lisbon, Portugal, meanwhile, was billed as a turning point in the war and the beginning of the transition process. This past weekend, members formally agreed to the end of combat operations in Afghanistan by 2014. But setting a timetable is only one key component of this process; having a competent security force to hand responsibility off to is the other. Thus, NATO’s mission to train the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) is just as integral to the endgame.
Earlier this month, the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan (NTM-A), which provides and better coordinates existing training of the ANA and ANP, celebrated its first anniversary. Over the first year of the mission, there have been some notable positive outcomes, namely substantial growth in number of both the ANA and the ANP. But there have also been some notable challenges, like corruption and illiteracy, which are hindering the effort. All in all, a robust effort is still needed to create a viable Afghan security force. Yet the program still needs nearly 1,000 more trainers to be able to fully complete the development of the forces. (more…)
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Past midnight, our wait for a flight at Camp Bastion, Helmand, had an eerie surreal feel. In the passenger lounge, scores of Marines, Brits, contractors and Afghans waited in relative quiet. Screams and dark music blared from the big flatscreen showing a grisly horror movie — a disturbing choice given the setting and the audience. The flight was delayed because of a repatriation ceremony — a Marine’s remains were going home via C-17. Finally, a young blond girl dressed in British fatigues cheerfully ordered us to put on helmets and flak vests for the walk to an old Afghan bus that would take us to the plane.
The wait and the flight gave me time to consider all I’d heard from the many fine professionals working to stabilize southern Afghanistan. People mostly believed in their work and that they were making a difference at the local level. But nobody has a good answer when we ask about the corrupt power brokers like Ahmed Wali Karzai (AWK), Abdul Rahman Jan (ARJ), Gul Agha Sherzai, and Sher Mohammad Akhundzada, not to mention President Karzai himself.
These men wield immense power in Afghanistan, controlling large economic enterprises, political patronage organizations, private militia, local security forces, narcotics trade, and official government posts. They are often protected by Karzai himself, due to their relationships or their danger to the Afghan President (or both). They live in huge garish mansions and own dozens of firms that scoop up American aid contracts while also (allegedly) fueling corruption, intimidation, and narcotics trafficking. They are feared and despised by much of the population, sapping the legitimacy of both GiROA (for whom they work) and ISAF (who showers them with money). Some of them may have ties to the Taliban and collaborate when it suits their interests. (more…)
All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.