U.S.-Pakistan Re-Engagement; Hamid Hussain

From Dr Hamid Hussain

U.S.-Pakistan Re-Engagement

Hamid Hussain

 ‘Being a friend of the United States was like living on the banks of a great river.  The soil is wonderfully fertile, but every four or eight years the river changes course, and you may find yourself alone in a desert’.  General Muhammad Zia ul Haq to William Casey 1983 quoted in John E. Persico’s Casey: The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey: From the OSS to the CIA.

 In July 2019, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan and President Donald Trump met at White House that generated some headlines and as expected from every Trump encounter some controversy.  As expected, this news lasted less than twelve hours in United States and 4-5 days in Pakistan.  Life has gone back to normal.  Positive signs should be acknowledged but Pakistan should not be carried away by euphoria.  The good part is that civilian and army leadership does not have trust deficit and not undermining each other.  This alone is a breath of fresh air for Pakistan. Continue reading “U.S.-Pakistan Re-Engagement; Hamid Hussain”

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Beltway Bandits (Lobbyists and Middle East Policy), Dr Hamid Hussain

From Dr Hamid Hussain.

Last few years I have been working on horizontal and vertical spread of conflict in the Middle East.  This is first of the series looking at each player.  This one was the outcome of my own trips to Washington every few months to get some feel of beltway currents. I have no specific insight but want to provide some glimpses of the issues facing the region.

Hamid

Beltway Battles 

Hamid Hussain

“I have had lobbyists, and I have had some very good ones.  They could do anything.”  Donald Trump

In United States, domestic and foreign entities engage in lobbying at federal and state levels to promote their interests.  In the last few years, many Arab countries have increased their lobbying efforts in Washington to promote their interests.  In 2017, open conflict between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain on the other has spilled over into international arenas. In Washington, these efforts are multi-faceted including marshalling support of large businesses, think tanks, universities, legislators and public policy influencers.  

The meteoric rise of a 30-year-old previously unknown royal family member to the dizzying height and sidelining of the old hands of Royal family in Saudi Arabia changed power dynamics inside the kingdom. This resulted in some competition even in Washington.  Crown Prince and interior minister Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef hired a lobbying firm run by a Trump campaign advisor Robert Stryk.  The firm was paid $5.4 million to make inroads into new administration.  However, in June 2017 when Muhammad Bin Nayef was removed from his positions and Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) elevated as Crown Prince, the deal ended.  MBS alienated many royal family members but for international image, he used others.  Old hand and once a long-time ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar Bin Sultan quickly changed his direction and lined up behind MBS.  During MBS visit to United States, Bandar was at hand to bring in his old contacts.  Bandar’s daughter Princess Reema provided the soft and feminine face for the new regime on international circuit defending royal family in Washington and Davos.  Full brother and close confidant of MBS Prince Khalid Bin Salman was appointed ambassador to Washington.  Saudi embassy chose an American raised and educated Saudi-American Fatima Baeshen as its spokeswoman.  She had previously worked at a pro Saudi think tank Arabia Foundation run by a former banker Ali Shihabi.  (Bloomberg Businessweek, 26 April 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-26/saudi-arabia-reboots-its-washington-lobbying-blitz) Continue reading “Beltway Bandits (Lobbyists and Middle East Policy), Dr Hamid Hussain”

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In memoriam: Brigadier (retd) Asad Munir.

From Dr Hamid Hussain. I would add that I interacted with Brigadier Munir on social media and found him always polite, inquisitive and open to many different points of view. We had talked about meeting the next time I was in Islamabad, but sadly that will not happen as Brig. Munir took his own life on March 15th (and blamed harassment by the National Accountability Bureau in a suicide note). Rest in peace. Very very sad news.

Brigadier ® Asad Munir

Hamid Hussain

 In early hours of March 15, 2019, Brigadier (R) Asad Munir committed suicide. In his suicide note, he mentioned harassment by National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Thus, extinguished the flicker of light of a fine officer and gentleman.  I have known Asad for about ten years when in 2009 he contacted me.  Few years ago, I spent a whole day with him at his apartment in Islamabad where he committed suicide. We periodically interacted and discussed issues of regional security. On my last visit to Pakistan in 2018, due to my hectic schedule, I could not meet him. 

 Asad joined Ist Special Short Course (SSC) of Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) and commissioned in 1972 in Baluch Regiment. He commanded an infantry Brigade where his division commander was General Pervez Musharraf.  The other brigade commander under Musharraf was late Major General Amir Faisal Alvi (Alvi was assassinated in Islamabad in November 2008).  Asad served as head of Military Intelligence (MI) of North West Frontier Province now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).  Asad was close to General Ehsan ul Haq then serving as Director General Military Intelligence (DGMI). In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, there was a major shuffle of senior brass.  Ehsan was brought in as Director General Inter Service Intelligence (DGISI).  Ehsan then brought Asad as head of ISI detachment of KPK.  In this capacity, Asad was instrumental in coordinating with Americans to catch fleeing al-Qaeda leaders.  After retirement, he served as member of Capital Development Authority (CDA) Islamabad and deputy director National Accountability Bureau (NAB).  He continued his efforts about reforms in tribal areas.  In early 2018, army chief met with a dozen Pashtun retired officers including Asad for their input about reforms in tribal areas.

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Continue reading “In memoriam: Brigadier (retd) Asad Munir.”

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Pakistan, India, Israel..

From Dr Hamid Hussain

There are some discrepancies in Indian and Pakistani narratives that give rise to many speculations.  I have also heard some rumors about an Israeli pilot in Pakistani custody but hard to confirm or make sense.  One Pakistani former senior diplomat has alluded to this.  If he is wrong then it is most irresponsible on his part. If true then in these days of Wikileaks and anointing of saints of modern day technology; St. Chelsey Manning and St. Julian Assange, it can not be kept secret for long.  In hyper-nationalist fervor, it is very easy for people to go ‘off the rails’ and modern technology running away with ‘fake news’.

It will be extremely irresponsible on part pf Israelis to jump into India-Pakistan fray directly by allowing its pilots to fly combat missions.  As India buys a lot of defense equipment therefore many Israeli technicians are likely helping Indian forces in training and maintenance of defense equipment which is different.  Israel is very good at ‘bridge technologies’ where advanced electronics of either American origin or indigenous made are retro-fitted in Russian products to improve their capability.  Indian inventory is predominantly Russian therefore it makes sense for Indian-Israeli cooperation in this arena.  India improves its defense capability although in my view only marginally and Israel finds a lucrative market for its defense industry.  Nothing wrong as it is in the interest of both parties. Continue reading “Pakistan, India, Israel..”

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Afghan Peace Process; Postscript

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Following was an exchange with an old Afghan hand of ISI.  It may be of interest to some.  His comments in normal font; mine in bold.

26 February 2019

 Thanks Sir for opening more windows;  My comments essentially of a wandering dervish in red in your main text;

Hamid

——-

Dear HH,

A very thought provoking analysis with indepth knowledge of situation in Afghanistan.  My take:

  1. No party can have total control over Afghanistan particularly psuedo democracy.(You are correct that no single party is strong enough to impose its will on the whole country.  In good old times, a chap like Amir Abdur Rahman put the fear of God by beheading a large number of tribal leaders and exiling others far away from their homeland.  In this way, he was able to impose a central state on reluctant Afghans. Times have changed.  It is time for a grand bargain and compromise although I’m not sure whether Afghans are ready for it.)
  2. Taliban will emerge as the largest group but will not be allowed total control by big powers. Fear CIS & Russians from fundamentalists will keep them supporting tajik and uzbek groups.(Correct.  Interests of many countries are divergent and each state will support its own proxy.  It is fine as long it is for political jockeying but all need to be mindful that one heated argument after endless cups of green tea can tempt one to reach for AK-47.  This urge needs to be controlled. If not then;

aur ja’am toteein gein; iss sharab khane mein)

3.hazaras & other shia gps having tasted part  powers will not easily succumb to Taliban rule. (Another reason for all Afghans to go for a bargain.  Like many highlanders, Afghans of all ethnicities have a distorted sense of honor.  They are willing to settle scores with gun for whatever perverted reason.  However, their grandmother is begging on the street, young son is molested in coal mines of Baluchistan (Shahrag mining town in Baluchistan is the most heinous place in this regard where boys as young as 8 or 9 from FATA and Afghanistan are being molested on daily basis) or daughters going into prostitution to put food on the table in Pakistan & Iran, and their honor is nowhere to be found. Reminds me the words of an American who had worked in Afghanistan.  He lived with his family among Afghans and worked in 1970s in Jalalabad for several years.  In mid 2000s, he went back for a trip to Jalalabad. He said that Afghans were poorer then but had honor.  Now they are richer but have lost their honor”. Hegel defined courage and bravery as “Courage among civilized peoples consists in a readiness to sacrifice oneself for the political community) Continue reading “Afghan Peace Process; Postscript”

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BrownCast Podcast episode 18: India and Pakistan; Confrontation in the Subcontinent

Image result for kashmir crisisAnother BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else…). Would appreciate more positive reviews.

In this episode Razib and Omar talk to Major Amin and Dr Hamid Hussain. Major Amin and Dr Hamid are familiar to our readers for their regular contributions on military history. In this episode we discuss the current India-Pakistan confrontation and what comes next. Events may have moved on even as this gets posted, but I am sure listeners will find it an interesting review of the military and political aspects of the crisis.

Postscript: I may have been too hasty in concluding that only one plane was lost that day. It seems that witness accounts and initial Pakistani claims all mention two aircraft. Pakistan says that was another Indian plane, Indians say it was a PAF F-16. Right now, all we can say is that Abhinandan’s MiG 21 crashed without a doubt.. what happened to the second plane and who was it? We don’t know yet for sure.

Note from Razib: I tried my best, but there were a few issues with the sound on this podcast. But since the substance is timely and hard to find elsewhere I think it’s worth it!

Image result for kashmir crisis

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Afghan Peace Process

From Dr Hamid Hussain

My two cents of Afghan peace process.  It is based on my own limited perspective informed by regular travels to the region and interaction with many including Pakistanis, Afghans, Americans, Indians etc.  Many have been kind to candidly share their views and not ‘official’ narrative as well as hopes and aspirations of common people in streets and bazaars that they shared with me.

Hamid

Making Peace with Broken Pieces – Afghan Peace Process

Hamid Hussain

 “There is nothing further here for a warrior.  We drive bargains; old men’s work.  Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men; courage and hope for the future.  Then old men make the peace.  The vices of peace are the vices of old men; mistrust and caution.  It must be so”.   Prince Feisal (Sir Alec Guinness) to T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) in Lawrence of Arabia.

In the last few months, a new window opened in the seventeen years old war in Afghanistan. There was breakthrough with first serious efforts of direct negotiations between United States (U.S.) and main militant group Taliban.  It was President Donald Trump’s announcement of withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan that got the ball rolling.  He made this decision without consulting any other government agency. Pentagon, intelligence community and State Department view rapid withdrawal as a recipe for disaster.  Trump appointed former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and an Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad nick named Zal to spearhead this effort.  Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar worked as intermediaries and a bridge between Taliban, Pakistan and Americans.

Negotiations between Taliban and Unites States is only one dimension of a complex conflict.  Taliban’s strategy is simple in its execution.  It used its committed cadre of fighters and support structure in Pakistan to escalate violence to a level to achieve two goals.  First to sow enough fear and uncertainty among Afghans that will undermine the efficiency and to some extent legitimacy of the government.  Another objective is to convince fellow Afghans that without giving them a share in power and economic pie, Afghans will never see peace.  Initially, behind the scene, questions were raised by Americans whether Taliban are a unified entity to work with.  Taliban responded by announcing a three days ceasefire during Eid festival.  There were no attacks all over the country proving their point that they have a firm command and control system and all fighters follow the leadership.  When United States announced troop withdrawal plan, Taliban thought that by directly negotiating they will get the credit and fulfill one of their objectives of forcing foreign troop withdrawal.  This will help them to carve out a much larger share in power after American withdrawal. Another factor was intense pressure on Taliban from Pakistan and Arab countries.  Agreeing to direct negotiations with Americans, Taliban placated both parties and if no agreement is reached, they can claim that they entered in negotiations with good faith and put the blame of failure at American doorstep. From U.S. point of view, there is a narrow window of about six months. Domestic troubles of President Trump will take a sharp turn with completion of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s work.  In addition, presidential campaign will start in the fall of 2019 and these two factors will suck all the oxygen in White House.  Like many other foreign policy issues, Afghanistan will also recede in the background.   Continue reading “Afghan Peace Process”

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Witches Brew. Saudis, Iran, Pakistan

From Dr Hamid Hussain

18 February 2019

Few questions came my way.  I also keep in touch with our Jewish cousins in Israel and some interesting input came from that side

Hamid

Witches Brew

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when
they do it from religious conviction.”
          Blaise Pascal

Thanks to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, we are more educated and enlightened.  Recent conference in Warsaw was an open conference and not a secret meeting. Everyone was euphoric but at the same time somehow uncomfortable and wanted to qualify his statement or simply walk back what they said.  Bibi said that ‘in a room of some 60 foreign ministers, representatives of dozens of governments, an Israeli Prime Minister and the foreign ministers of leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime”.  His official twitter account noted ‘the Arab states were sitting together with Israel to advance the common interest of war with Iran”.  This was later deleted and used the phrase ‘combating Iran’.  Bibi used the Hebrew word ‘milchama’ that means war.  Same video clip in which Bibi is speaking in Hebrew was also later edited.

Bibi’s office also shared a video with Israeli journalists of a panel that was closed to the media.  Foreign Minister of State of Saudi Arabia and Foreign Ministers of United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain were on the panel and moderator was former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross. The three Arab diplomats poured their hearts to the audience. Here are examples of some of the exact quotes.  When asked by Dennis Ross about his view of Israeli strikes on Iranian targets inside Syria, UAE foreign minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zaid al’Nahayan justified Israeli actions by stating that ‘every nation has the right to defend itself, when it is challenged by another nation’.  Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmad al-Khalifa said, “we grew up talking about the Israel-Palestine issue as the most important issue” but then ‘at a later stage, we saw a bigger challenge, we saw a more toxic one – in fact more toxic one in our history – that came from the Islamic Republic’.  Saudi Foreign Minister of State Adel al Jubair blamed Iran for Israel-Palestinian issue stating that ‘Iran’s evil behavior destabilized the region, making Israeli-Palestinian peace impossible to achieve”. 

In the opening session, Yemen’s foreign minister Khalid Al Yemeni was sitting next to Bibi.  When he came under criticism from Arab public opinion, he said that it was not his fault but fault of those organizing the conference. He then dug a deeper hole by saying that ‘participation in Warsaw was not to discuss Palestine but to rally international community to confront the Iranian expansionism in Yemen”. 

I personally believe that a genuine effort of Arab-Israeli entente is essential.  More open interaction, discussion at public level to prepare the ground and then a meaningful diplomatic effort to reach normalization.  However, they must remember that they are the defeated party and hence will get what a loser gets.  Reminds me Henry Kissinger’s words.  In the aftermath of 1973 war, when Anwar Sadat started his long list of demands, Kissinger replied. “Mr. President; you have lost the war, but you are asking for the spoils of the victor”.  On part of Israel, they are making the same mistake of aligning with tyrants of Muslim countries rather than building bridges with populations. Same euphoria over four decades ago with Shah of Iran and his repressive regime.  Ordinary Iranian saw Israel as partner of the oppressor and when the tables were turned, Israel found a new non-Arab foe.  The same fretting of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman not realizing that Saudi throne is on the shakiest sand dunes of its history.  One can only guess what kinds of demons will be unleashed when Arabia turns the page of Saudi prefix. Internally, demographically and ideologically, Israel has taken a sharp right turn.  In this environment, annexation movement is gaining more strength making a two-state solution almost impossible.  On part of Palestinians, they must fight their own battles and before that put their own house in order. It is delusional to think that Arab regimes or Iran who have not given freedom to their own people will somehow take them on the freedom train. 

One does not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out the future battlegrounds.  Some one sent me a clip of Adel al Jubair’s statement of a long list of charge sheet against Iran during a press conference in Islamabad. I don’t envy Pakistani decision makers. They are stuck in a bind. Now, widening intelligence net of Iran working on Shia and Barelvi adherents and Saudi Arabia doling money to their ownsalafi brands will work on new recruits for coming sectarian wars. Everyone needs to work overtime, reach out to his neighbor to make sure that their next generation is not lost in another fratricidal war. 

To be sure, Iranian regime is no boy scout.  Clerics usurping power and now dissent is a crime as well as a sin.  Revolution’s own ideologue Dr. Ali Shariati had warned against this and in his view ‘of all dictatorships, the dictatorship of clerics was the worse’ and he called it ‘istibdad-e-rouhani’(religiously sanctioned oppression). 

In fact, regimes in Saudi Arabia and Iran are mirror image of each other.  They are poster child of what exactly is wrong with the political map of Muslim world in general. Ruling under the guise of religion both are deeply sectarian, representing themselves as savior of their respective sects and severely repressing their own people.  Mutual hatred is to a level where they are sowing the seeds of disasters all over the globe. They are in competition of who can wreck more havoc in their respective grounds of blood sport in Yemen and Syria. The only hope is the youth of these societies where they stand up and challenge their own fathers refusing to continue the sectarian wars that their forefathers started fourteen hundred years ago.

“I will say this much for the nobility: that tyrannical, murderous, rapacious, and morally rotten as they were, they were deeply and enthusiastically religious”.

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Hamid Hussain

[email protected]

18 February 2019

 

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Kabuki Dance – Pakistan’s Balancing Act

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Following was in response to several questions regarding Pakistan’s regional challenges and current policies.

 Kabuki Dance – Pakistan’s Balancing Act

Hamid Hussain

Pakistan’s challenging regional environment has taken some new turns and new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to cope up with these challenges.  Government’s major advantage is that it has no clash with the dominant army.  In many areas of foreign policy, it has ceded significant ground to the army.

Pakistan is in a difficult spot on three issues. First is rapid pace of negotiations between Taliban and Americans with projected quick withdrawal of American troops, second is isolation of Iran and third is potential entanglement in intra-Arab rivalry with United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia on one and Qatar on the other side.  Pakistan is facing these regional challenges in the background of internal political instability and very serious economic downward trend.  Part of political instability and associated economic meltdown is due to self-inflicted wounds.  Departing from the normal process of check and balance, judiciary and army played an active role in tuning up the system that will have its own set of consequences. It has widened the political gulf and added new fissures.

Regional challenges of Pakistan are directly linked with American policies.  We are living in a Trumpian world that has sowed a lot of confusion on all fronts.  Every country and non-state player is adjusting positions at such a rapid speed that it is hard to make sense of every move.  Pakistan is also caught in this Trumpian world on several fronts.

US policy is in disarray with no coordination between different government agencies.  President Trump is using single point agents without full institutional support behind these efforts.  In many cases, some power centers of Washington are diametrically opposed to President’s efforts.   It is probably right time for withdrawal of American troops from both Syria and Afghanistan. Trump may have realized what Christopher Fettweis wrote in 2008 in his book Losing Hurts Twice as Bad that “bringing peace to every corner of the globe, even those whose stability we have wrecked through our own incompetence, is not necessarily in the strategic interest of the United States”.   However, the method in which it is being done has confused both allies and foes.  American intelligence agencies are publicly disagreeing with Trump that is unprecedented.  In late January 2019, in a hearing at Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence and heads of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) contradicted Trump on security issues.  They told the committee that Iran was still abiding by the nuclear deal.  Trump had pulled out of the deal stating that Tehran had broken the deal.  Furious Trump sent his twitter tirade saying that ‘the intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naïve when it comes to the dangers of Iran.  They are wrong’.  Continue reading “Kabuki Dance – Pakistan’s Balancing Act”

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BrownCast Podcast episode 13: The British Indian Army

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else).

If you aren’t in a position to be a patron, please give us 5-star ratings and a positive review!

In this episode Omar talks to Major Agha Humayun Amin and Dr Hamid Hussain. Both gentlemen are deeply interested in military history and know everything there is to know about the British Indian army and its daughter armies in India and Pakistan. We talk about the army of the East India Company and its domination of the Indian subcontinent, the 1857 mutiny, the army after 1857 and finally a few words about partition and in particular about the role played by British officers in the Pakistani army and in the capture of Gilgit and Baltistan (a region that is now central to our plans to form an alliance with China). We hope to have more podcasts in the future about the various India-Pakistan wars.

Major Amin and Dr Hamid Hussain
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