Leah Rankin | Staff Writer
The War on Terror has been the longest waged in American history. And while it may seem that victories against al-Qaida are few and far between, former CIA officer Bruce Riedel has some suggestions for long-term solutions that he will share at his lecture at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.
In Riedel’s recent book, Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad, the author outlines the history of a love-hate relationship between the United States and Pakistan, a country with the second-largest Muslim population in the world. It is a complicated relationship, to say the least, but it is a partnership that must hold strong if it is to release the iron grip of the Taliban and al-Qaida on the Middle East.
“Pakistan is the epicenter of the international jihadist movement,” Riedel said, “and it is almost certainly the most dangerous country in the world today.”
“Almost every issue that Americans worry about — from terrorism, to the risk of nuclear war, to nuclear proliferation, to the future of Islam, to the future of democracy in the Islamic world — all those issues come together in Pakistan in a unique and very combustible way.”
As a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, Riedel has counseled four U.S. presidents regarding intelligence issues in the Middle East and South Asia. In March 2009, he led a policy review of Pakistan and Afghanistan for President Barack Obama.
Riedel’s involvement with numerous presidential administrations has led him to the opinion that short-term goals regarding diplomacy in the Middle East are ineffective, and that a long-term plan to help Pakistan help itself is the only way to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.
“What we want to do is try to help those parts of Pakistani society which want Pakistan to be a modern, more or less secular, prosperous country without sanctuary for terrorists to feed,” Riedel said. “Our goal in Pakistan is to influence the internal battle in Pakistan, a kind of battle for the soul of this country, in favor of those who share a similar outlook with us and want to make Pakistan a modern, open power and reasonably prosperous country.”
Riedel also said Pakistan is suffering from what he terms a “Frankenstein” complex. In the 1980s, Pakistan developed a jihadist infrastructure to defend itself against the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The country also used this infrastructure to wage war against its rival, India. This jihadist movement, however, quickly grew beyond Pakistan’s control and is now creating inner turmoil throughout the country. In this way, Riedel said, Pakistan has become both the teacher and victim of terrorism.
But there is hope for Pakistan, he said. The elimination of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden May 1 was a huge blow to the terrorist organizations in the Middle East.
“For America to get Osama bin Laden after all these years was an indication that the strategy that the President embarked upon in 2009 had paid off,” Riedel said. “President Obama said at the beginning of his administration that his policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan was to degrade and defeat al-Qaida, and the demise of Osama bin Laden is definitely a step in that direction.”
At today’s lecture, Riedel will outline his ideas for victory in Pakistan — not necessarily for Americans, but for the people and government of Pakistan.
“I think the biggest misconception people have,” Riedel said, “is that all Pakistanis hate America and support terrorist groups. There are many Pakistanis who want to get their country out of the business of terrorism. They want their country to be tolerant, to be open, and to have a democratic process. We need to hear more of those voices, and we need to support those voices.”