The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Afghan-Pakistan Frontier
December 12, 2017
Hassan Abbas is Professor of International Security Studies and Chair of the Department of Regional and Analytical Studies at National Defense University’s College of International Security Affairs (CISA).
Aside from his expertise on Pakistan and Afghanistan, he also travels frequently to Iraq for research work on Hashd al-Shaabi (also known as Popular Mobilization Forces/Shia Militias). Along with addressing the main topic of the Taliban revival, he will compare and contrast Taliban and Hashd.
His latest book titled, The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier (Yale University Press, 2014) was profiled on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in August 2014. Abbas’ earlier well acclaimed book Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America’s War on Terror (M E Sharpe, 2004) remains on bestseller lists in Pakistan and India. He also runs WATANDOST, a blog on Pakistan and its neighbors’ related affairs. His other publications include an Asia Society report titled Stabilizing Pakistan Through Police Reform (2012) and Pakistan 2020: A Vision for Building a Better Future (Asia Society, 2011).
Dr. Abbas serves as a Carnegie Fellow 2016-2017 at New America where he is focusing on a book project on Islam’s internal struggles and spirituality narrated through the lens of his travels to Islam’s holy sites across the world. He is also currently a Senior Advisor at Asia Society. He was the Distinguished Quaid-i-Azam Chair Professor at Columbia University before joining CISA and has previously held fellowships at Harvard Law School and Asia Society in New York.
He regularly appears as an analyst on media including CNN, ABC, BBC, C-Span, Al Jazeera and GEO TV (Pakistan). His opinion pieces and research articles have been published in various leading international newspapers and academic publications.
For more on Afghanistan, see Ambassador Ali Jalali’s Westminster talk, Afghanistan: From the Great Game to the Global War on Terror, and Dr. Daniel R. Green’s Westminster talk, In the Warlords’ Shadow: Special Operations Forces, the Afghans, and Their Fight Against the Taliban.
Robert R. Reilly:
It’s a great privilege to have a speaker here tonight from the College for International Security Affairs at National Defense University, not only because I was briefly affiliated with the school but because we have Joe DeSutter with us tonight who founded the College for International Security Affairs and was its longtime and President Joe welcome and Dr. Tom Blau who taught at CISA for many many years and those our speaker and is also a veteran of the Westminster Institute.
Hassan Abbas is a professor of international security studies and chair of the Department of Regional and Analytical Studies at NDU’s College of International Security Affairs. Aside from his expertise on Pakistan, which by the way was developed in several ways. One very much on the ground is a police officer in the Pashtun areas near the Pakistan-Afghan border and also serving in several administrations of Pakistan of President Benazir Bhutto and also provides Musharraf so he subsequently earned a law degree in England and a PhD at the Fletcher School in Tufts so we have with us tonight not only a man of on-the-ground experience but a theoretician as well.
He of course tonight is going to talk on the subject of his latest book, The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier. You may have seen in one of the missives we set out what’s being West a noted nationals dirty writer as well as a former Assistant Secretary of Defense said about our speaker for those interested in security matters in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that should include our Pentagon, State Department, and White House.
Hassan Abbas is a national security treasurer, unquote. His prior book on the subject of this evening’s talk was Pakistan’s Drift Into Extremism: Allah, the Army, and America’s War on Terror. He’s currently working on a book project on Islam’s internal struggles and spirituality narrated through the lens of his travels to Islam’s holy sites around the world I’m going to make him promise tonight to come back and give another talk for us when he’s finished with that book please join me in welcoming professor Hassan Abbas.
Thank you very much for that very kind and detailed introduction. The focus indeed what today’s talk is the title of my book. The previous book, Taliban Revival Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier, but if I get this opportunity to pitch another thing right up front thankful to mention my other forthcoming research project, which is funded by New America where I’m also a fellow that is based on my travels to 11 holy sites: Mecca, Medina, Karbala, Negev, Baghdad, Damascus, Rashad, Tehran, New Delhi, some shines in Pakistan and that that’s a work ongoing work but another book of mine is coming in about two months, so I can promise that I’ve come for that as well, which is linked to today’s topic, which is titled, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb: A Story of Defiance, Deterrence and Deviance,” and the reason I mention it, partly for my selfish reasons, I want you to know about my coming book, but also because I think that the argument there is linked to today’s argument as well but thank you very much again a great honor and privilege to be here.
I want to do in about next 45 minutes or so and I want to leave about 30 minutes or so forth for a conversation interaction because I want to learn from your questions as well what I plan to do is to give a story of Taliban from a slightly different angle than the way it is generally projected and to talk about not only what is their current status but also talk about three broader themes because so often we are victims of the contemporary developments whether it is the bombing of the opium labs and whether that would work or to a statement from a political leader in United States of NATO or a certain development Pakistan Afghanistan and view the whole crisis from that lens where I think that what happened with Taliban resurgence is so phenomenal and so important and I in my personal view so troubling that it needs to be looked at from a broader context and have looking at the roots looking at its dynamics looks at looking at all the peers that are involved and I would like to talk about those three themes and then I’m with my policy interest now teaching students from across the world all the us partners and their students to National Defense University and I also lead the program on South Central Asia program which is all the AfPak Hands the American military officers will go and fight for us in our safety and at the forefront ready with their what they offer they live blood and they come to us for a year-long master’s degree and that that’s part of the deal of the AfPak hands so that’s I I owe my knowledge and my understanding to things that I hear from us officers who have served in the region that also reminds me that I am required to give a disclaimer that called what I am going to say is my personal opinions and I am not representing Department of Defense or National Defense University but that’s that’s the framework I want to talk about three themes three policy things that we need to do and the benefit I have is that not only I’ll talk from the perspective of what I had seen on the ground as a police officer many years ago what I had learned as an academic but also now I have a third tool which is that I spent last few years frequently traveling to Iraq my last visit to dot was a few weeks ago and I am having had the opportunity to interview leading scholars and including Mr. Sistani and I think I was the tour later on I am the only u.s. command official per se who was allowed to interview mr. Sistani so I want to compare the Iraqi militancy and the kind of religious groups that operate in Iraq so that that’s an added comparison that I that I want to use for trying to explain Taliban thank you for your patience in my listening to my introductory leaders rather dry introduction but I want to set the stage if this is what I want to do this is my perspective this is my bias so that you know and this is the area that are we cover I’ll start now with an anecdote in the amber I remember when I moved to the United States back in January 2001 to join Fletcher school and this this was these were the months when extremist groups in Pakistan were already surging it’s before 9/11 soon after 9/11 and I remember that that was not the age of Internet in a sense it is now but I remember receiving a message I think it was soon after Jim Pervez Musharraf at that time the president of Pakistan there was a famous speech he made one was in 2002 after 9/11 there was one speech he made before that which is often forgotten which he had banned or or warned some of the militant groups in Pakistan and when he banned some of those groups I remember receiving an email because as in my previous role as a police officer a law enforcement officer in Pakistan I had subscribed to various websites various link which would give you updates from Taliban and other militant groups and the email in 2001 was that our group has been banned we will close this website and you no longer receive emails from us but in about two weeks or so we will set up a new website and you will receive start getting our messages and I remember at that time being surprised as well because I’d remembered that on the ground Taliban had operated in a different fashion Taliban’s the main mechanism through which they progressed or expanded or delivered their message was what was called a cassette revolution because this was a band of thugs a grand band of militant groups small enough and got support from mothers as a religious seminaries in Pakistan but then what they would do and that was their beginning of their messaging they would keep cassettes with the old style with the Taliban message established check-posts and would ensure it stopped they would stop trucks and to take out music CDs or CDs where I think even not in vogue at that time the way they are now pick up the cassettes and give them the Taliban second anecdote is also linked to that and I clearly remember one of my Pakistani journalist friends who actually loved Pakistani American based in DC who’s a journalist and he had told me that his had gone back to Pakistan in 2001 and – and his I asked him when he returned at that time so you were not following the news of such and such issue he said no because my mom told me to take out the television in the use in Pakistani Sabathia take out the television and break it and burn it because that was the message of Taliban out so the point I’m making up front is Taliban’s rise was phenomenal because they started off by saying no modern technology no modern tool of messaging however they were so adaptive that now when mullah Mansu the new after malama the new Taliban leader was killed in a drone strike when because he was a when he was returning from Iran to Pakistan’s Balochistan area mana on a different passport and a new Taliban leader Hobart Allah was installed the oath ceremony was shown live on social media so they have changed their tactics but they have been very adaptive whether it is the 8th messages or getting their message out now there they are on Taliban’s website is in six languages Arabic English Pashto Turkish Persian and Rudy so look in this is just a sign the reason I’m using this specific incident this specific feature of Taliban is to make a case that they today operate as a very strong organization with a network which is adaptive a messaging which is very strong a capacity to hit anywhere in Afghanistan and anywhere in Pakistan and Afghanistan at the time of their choosing in Pakistan to be fair they have been pushed back a bit and I’ll talk in more detail there a bit later but in Afghanistan whether it is a Kearney group or it is Hobart Allah’s Taliban group and whether this is a in another insurgent group because there is no one Taliban today Taliban is that combination an umbrella group of sorts with with ten different groups and ten different streams so today they can operate at their Vale they can operate in any theater in case of understand how this came about that’s my as an academic my question what causes it to survive how they were researching and and some of those answer this is a learning educated audience so I’m sure you know all the major things and I don’t want to repeat those things that are vitally known or that you know about at what point they used which a major event or at what okay in any element of a US policy how it failed us or how it was inadequate but I will go to the broader themes compare them with the Taliban or Taliban in Afghanistan and Taliban in Pakistan and then we’ll compare it with militias that are operating in Iraq just one more thing and then move forward why I argue is it fashionable to just whichever group you’re given and you said this is the most dangerous group I’ve heard this about Isis about al-qaeda about Boko Haram you name a group or lashkar-e-taiba which one of these groups is the most devastating the most lethal or most powerful or potent terrorist organization I think Taliban and the reason is I would just ask a basic question which was the first modern Muslim extremist group which gave the idea of amirul mumineen amirul mumineen is the word used in the Muslim historical censor who’s the leader of the Muslims in the modern sense neither Saudi Arabia Iran nor any of the other religiously oriented states used it the first time in modern history it was Taliban exactly the word and terminology that was adopted by ISIS so ISIS was not new. It was the foundation created by Taliban that we can have an is Sharia based state and it was different from Saudi Arabia where the the clergy is not in power not holding the reins of government as you know they they are partners and governance in Iran it’s a slightly different thing the Iranian clergy in my opinion was far more superior in their strategy and even their scholarship and learning and we can talk about that and they’re not as not same as bigoted as Taliban are but they they’re a separate group not cannot be compared in a modern sense a local group which created a new model or reinstated or give a recreated the idea of a Caliphate was Taliban I’ll then second thing why they are most lethal and the idea was so powerful that even now we are taking with it in the shape of ISIS and God knows we’ll come after Isis but the idea has been again given in in the practical real second thing very adaptive they they develop linkages with Al-Qaeda the reason how they or the apprendi that the way they expanded their messaging from this cassette revolution to social media and through networking and through buying and harassing a journalists was learnt from Al-Qaeda from bin Laden. Bin Laden used a lot of money bin Laden modernized them and they were ready to be modernized modernized in in in a sense of a terrorist organization the third combination or third alliance they developed which is not normally talk about the Taliban had developed with what we call now Punjabi Taliban but military groups in Pakistan which was sectarian leshka rage hungry let’s create it die by evil and those were also smart combinations because that’s where the crying terror Nexus developed many of the groups in in the region which Pakistan spent south of Punjab today they had deals with Taliban had deals with them that okay you will kidnap somebody of importance son of a prime some prime minister actually in reality the son of the sitting Prime Minister of Pakistan was kidnapped son of mr. Geelani by local sectarian group hand it over to Taliban in Afghanistan what I’m saying is look at their messaging techniques look at the ideology which was able to expand and attract people from all over the world and which is so powerful that ISIS borrowed it and this adaptability in creating networks and creating alliances these three facts that are mentioned to you are still very much active that’s why I say Taliban potentially is even more dangerous than any of the other groups we are talking about because they have that capacity the V shaft and and that potential then I’ve talked about one factor second and I’m still have to start talking about the main themes but just to explain where they stand today Taliban also have developed and expanded their operational capability and the capabilities to negotiate think about what they had done in Qatar establishment office was that the true representatives of Mohammed at that time no it was a site group which they knew which take sanction okay you can go and talk to the Americans you can go and talk to the Pakistanis while being a beneficiary of support from elements in Pakistan military establishment or intelligence establishment whatever we recall that if they kept alive their linkage and I have the opportunity and which I have talked in my book the Taliban revival and detail when they when they interact with the Pakistani military it’s not that they sit together in one room and they conspire and decide in the Pakistani military intelligence or somebody gives them a card that this is the next target and they that it is such a smooth discussion forum in which such strategies are made no they both sides black with each other I personally believe many in the Pakistani military know the Frontier Corps who were directly confronting Haqqani group which is one element of Taliban because they were blackmail they are also scared Haqqani group and some of the Taliban group gave it a real severe beating to the Pakistani military in Waziristan and last but not the least other than this capacity to operate in the field as a terrorist organization but have a diplomatic section as well which was those of you who have some idea about what was happening in Qatar when they were negotiating very sophisticated those people who were there with whom I talked about I at least remember one of the leading American scholars of Islam and the Muslim world politics who would for some time based in katha a few years ago approached me and said do you want to meet the Taliban guys in Qatar I said really it’s possible he said yes I mean didn’t happen because myself in a different position and it needed some complicated procedures but what I’m saying that that was they had somehow convinced a leading scholar to also convey messages to others so this sophistication is also an asset for Taliban which they retain the raid they communicate with the Pakistanis for instance Haqqani group which which is very very important for us today as Americans in our present context two of the most the closest associates and the family members of gelatine Haqqani were killed by Barzani’s because they were not listening to them and the Pakistani military at that time had given a commitment to us what they did they kill the son-in-law of the main guy so it’s that kind of pressure tactics from both sides that continue to happen now we come to the themes this was just to explain these few points that I’ve mentioned this is the nature and type of Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan that you are dealing with at times there there absent for some at times they may not be as lethal and may not be as well organized and smooth functioning as I may have projected but that’s somewhere close that that that’s where they stand that’s why it’s important to think about them and continue to look at them even just to mention one more point and I’ll go to my themes I promise that even ISIS when ISIS broke apart in motion and I have seen that in in in in that region in the fire in Iraq how the collapse of Isis was seen and observed and tackled some of their folks and there is a news item very recently they are going back to Afghanistan and many of the what we think are ISIS are actually the various veins and sections of the mainstream Taliban who have broken away because some negotiations are not happening I personally think if I have to guess part of that might be a strategy people think the ISIS in Afghanistan and Taliban are fighting and yes at present it appears that may not long be a case because ISIS has lost its base Isis and Taliban in my estimate will be emerging in Afghanistan that’s why it’s a major threat now I come to my major three themes that I want to now explain to have a deeper understanding a group of thugs in in a region where even the well resourced organizations are not even functioning efficiently how come this group of thugs and bigots with the religious extremist views and violence as they bred and butter have been in under threat severe threat all the time how they have come how they have survived that’s question number one give me any other name of any modern terrorist organization which has survived for that long 2001 – now 2018 and ISIS has gone in front of our eyes Al-Qaeda also collapsed in front of our eyes Taliban are still there powerful as a potential three things that I want to look at and here I will step back from kind of the contemporary examples and go a little deeper I’ll talk about three themes which three words which may give you some idea number one is the ideological roots and what it means and what what damage Taliban have done in the illogical religious spiritual domain in South Asia secondly about the governance issues how Taliban use it and misuse it and how governance problems in the region are facilitating Taliban to sustain themselves and last but not the least an understanding of this deepening insurgency and none of this is new I mean for for math and strategists and security officials I mean who have looked at and insurgency is raging from from Vietnam to the Soviet funded incident season that’s not a new topic why failed failed and might come across as a strong word I mean but but that’s the most appropriate word I can think of if we freely to understand the Taliban how the insurgents in Afghanistan is is feeding into the Taliban merito so these are the three broad things I’ll talk about and then I’ll conclude with three things which I think we can do so number one it illogical I’ll give you an example and we have some people here from the South Asian background will bear me out or at least challenge me afterwards the Islam that had come to South Asia was brought by the Sufi mystics my friend here from Indian background will bear me out and I have seen it myself also in the leadings Sufi shrines these are the mistakes the Saints of Islam who had brought Islam from Central Asia and other places even today’s some of the major shrines in India you’ll find a higher number of Hindus and 610 Muslims these are Muslim Saints acknowledged Muslim as Muslim Saints the Islam that they had brought him was pluralistic was open-minded was teaching peace and selflessness peace the word peace has become a cliche so I want to avoid that but pluralism inclusivity opening it was not the mecca of today where if you’re a Christian a Jew you cannot enter and that that’s by the way I challenge anyone who says that that that is supported by any of the religious injunctions I mean many many of these newer things which sound very dogmatic and bigoted are very very recent last couple of hundred years two or three hundred years but going back to my point the Islam that had come to South Asia a thousand years ago was a very open-minded Islam and that’s why it had sustained think of this how the Mughal Empire with the minority Muslims how that thrived yes they were tussles in battles with Hindus insects and others but by and large it was not based there was no religious challenge to those except to Aurangzeb who was a very conservative and that remained the case in the creation of Pakistan for instance that the division of British India and just one example and move forward to explain this ideological issue Jinnah was belong to a Shia Muslim faith and his stop-start words the Jinnah who is the founder of Pakistan his stalwarts were all either sheer or very progressive Muslims and MD also who today are running for their life in Pakistan because you call some of you you want to destroy someone’s career in Pakistan today you just call him an MD and these a sect of Islam and they keep inside differences they actually follow exactly what the Maine which the principles are except one major issue which is the finality of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him but they have been thrown out of their the domain of Islam but that also in the at the time in 1947 one of the most important ministers the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Zafar lejana was an MD what I’m saying is that Sufi tradition which is inclusive was the predominant at house and religious identity you could go to any shrine and I had this is part of my research also from shrines across Pakistan whenever you want to you want free food at times if you want to smoke something also you go to a shine and it’s an open space it’s a sacred space you want to dance you want music go to any shrine in Pakistan and you’ll find what they call a handcuff which was an open sacred place very different from was not that I’m comparing mosque at Honka mosque is more organized religion there that was a Sufi Islam that we talked about the Taliban contribution of that thousand years of pluralism has been that today for the first time in the modern history of South Asia these shrines have been bombed suicide attacks had never happened before there was no shortage of religious bigots in in South Asia don’t get me wrong I’m not saying everyone was a Sufi and every love was the prevailing norm of the day no it may be they were bigots and extremists but they were not killing each other they were not targeting each other that changed and one anecdotal thing I remember the day when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Buddy mom Marie mom is the most famous shrine in Islamabad I think of course she went with a right intention and one of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan belong to a Sufi religion he asked her to go there few days later there was a suicide attack because people said oh so the Americans have started have decided to support the Barelis which are the Sufi tradition or the shears and attack started happening so the Taliban tree belonged to a tradition which started off in India it is a small town called the Obon this is a modern this is not the Shia versus Sunni this is within the Sunni Islam true strains of fought one very conservative became very powerful as an anti colonial British exercise the others were more Sufi-oriented that battle is now re-energized and recreated in Pakistan thanks to inform thanks of course sarcastically thanks to Taliban even if you today you defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan even if you just pick out Taliban from the Pakistani tribal areas this terrible contribution alone is something that the region South Asia is going to continue to pay through their nose that’s why I said Alabama the most dangerous cop I can think of ISIS today when they started not today in 2014 in Mosul when they had started attacking these shrines wait the power of the idea from Taliban had also started doing that at a limited level they took it to another extreme so it that’s why I’m saying the ideological roots of Taliban today unfortunately are very much entrenched I have talked to many well-meaning people well-meaning I take that back people who are educated I should say and people who who who appear to be progressive or appear to be at least middle-of-the-road but even they when you talk to them on Taliban they say what’s wrong with Taliban I mean I remember I conversation I had with one of my extended family members a guy who was dying of liver cirrhosis because of you he couldn’t sleep without alcohol but he asked me so sir why are you against Ali Baba I said you know what they’ll do to you if they come into part but that was the norm that’s the narrative Taliban have created in the region and with with boring of Al-Qaeda’s narrative as well that we are the resistance forces to the Western hegemony and they have done that so successfully as they projected themselves as since four stacks benefiting from that ideological strain of thought and that’s so a very very problematic issue there are various reasons for that the degeneration of religious thought and stuff I mean the same mother says and similarly is we should produce some of the best minds I need not tell this audience you can go in to the closest Barnes Noble and actually most likely the library here I was by the way amazed by the book collection here a short small library but the book collection and I was mad when she to Bob I would like to send my students the Arab students at NDU at NDU we don’t have a good collection of Arabic books but you will be repeatedly Evan excellent collections of enough to send those but go to any library looking for for the narrative and you’ll see that the contribution of the Muslim scientists even had them more Farabi in even in the geologicals and cazali or ebony Arabi was phenomenal it was acknowledged by the leading Western scholars of the day those books even on this the original books and science were taught in western academies today’s mother religious mother size is a far cry from that why because of this degeneration of religious thought and the school of Du Monde unfortunately played a very negative goal in this negative trend of degeneration for instance one of the crowning contribution has been the day they was used to be a phenomenon or still is in a way called each day hard which means a progressive rational modern forward-looking interpretation of religious principles and the idea the Islamic idea was that any any given verse of any given Islamic principle you have to interpret it according to modern times so long as there’s basic rationality mode and rationality is not about I am looking at it or framing it like rational this is hundreds and thousands of theses have been written in Islamic seminaries on the idea of rationality but where it stands today is the Taliban and turbans school and others also they had said no we had closed the the famous sentence was we have closed the door which they are because we have discussed everything and analyzed everything under the Sun under Islamic principles so there is no further need for any rational or discussion that’s the Taliban contribution what I’m seeing unfortunately its roots are deep it was still in even in 1970s and 80s the idea of Taliban in terms of its religious orthodoxy was very limited and Taliban through this movement have expanded that idea one example and I’ll move forward even in Pakistan is respective of your political identity or your political party Jinnah Muhammad Ali Jinnah the founding father of the country the progressive this British trained loyal who single-handedly almost created Pakistan no one would cursing or no one would would challenge him or him abused him the first time that happened was in Taliban the Pakistani Taliban because they said when they were confronted by the Bahraini military intelligence and interrogated I had the opportunity to see some of those transcripts they always would say no we don’t believe in Jenna because they still didn’t say because he was a shear Muslim they said no because Jenna wanted to create a state in Islam has no straight we have transnational reality and that’s why they were gays Gina so this is the al Qaeda al Qaeda-ization or Taliban-ization of al Qaeda or the other way round that created this new religious narrative which has deeply impacted religion a religious identity in in Pakistan the most recent reflection of that was 2,000 people in Islamabad blocked and choked the capital city Islamabad demanding some changes they were reacting to the government and and they were it was shown live telecast broadcasted in Boston in television that about eight thousand five hundred nine thousand policemen law enforcement officials went after them but these two thousand were so well connected with the various elements within the establishment among the politics that they were to win over and they were able to win their argument and they forced the lore minister of Pakistan to resign something which was unheard of 20 years ago that that could not happen that you could blackmail the government on a religious identity even the military and the intelligence chiefs and everyone is acting so respectfully to the strop this new pseudo respect that the militant has assumed is a gift of Taliban that’s what I want I’ll move on from ideological to the governance issues and now I move more to the Pakistani side of the divide and fun as well with Pakistani Dubai on the tribal areas past what we called they call FATA, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, semi-autonomous tribal regions mountainous no modern services no judiciary no law enforcement and and that was the hub from where first the entire Soviet jihad was conducted then it was used as a base for support to Taliban and Afghanistan before 9/11 and even afterwards that a surgeon serve on Taliban happened in the same region because they were very strong their tribal networks were very strong the Pakistani military and intelligence and other organizations had no experience operating in that area they could manipulate at times talk to some people and I that’s where I remember is my heart a couple of phases local police chief and in a district as an assistant superintendent of police what is called subdomain Police Chief I had seen the power of these groups because anyone who would steal or involved in serious crime but going to that tribal zone and whosoever you are in whatsoever resources you have you just there was no way you could go into the tribal belt or managed to get your forces there I remember the first time I went it with the tribal areas we were told at the checkpost as a police officer in that area with my guards to leave the weapon site I mean that in the developed they groomed in that zone when they were Taliban eyes and that’s a end of the story and that’s a well-known story of how the tribes the tribes of Fatah or tribal belt were radicalized they are on so-called pseudo jihad and later on there is no one organization or country which is responsible for that including United States us played a dirty game the Pakistani is just perfected that dirty game with their intelligence organizations the goal was noble push out the Soviets we did that but but in the process we invited something which it seems is going to stay with us for some time and that primarily happened because of this buffer zone in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region that was under marketed undefined uncontrolled and unmanageable one of these unns may be wrong English but what I am saying is that that’s was the way they operated I take you to this post 9/11 world for a second before I go to my third point because that explanation of this ideological mess-up and this poor governments will explain how the third factor which I already mentioned to you this deepening insurgency happened so with billions and trillions of dollars the cure we had for Afghanistan as well as Pakistan didn’t work because neither was there an effective counter narrative to Taliban and Taliban ideology the idea of Taliban was not refuted or pushed back and we thought that through some military means we’ll be able to do that and it was pretty obvious pretty early on in three four years I mean by two thousand seven eight maybe we we thought we have defeated the Taliban they it’s end of the game whereas anyone who had written even one book and the mountains the people of the mountain should have known that these people have fled to mountain they’re going to come back in this modern day and age we were so short-sighted and so ignorant that we didn’t pick up the history book I mean I blame Pakistanis because at times book when I go to a bookstore these look like a graveyard but I can’t accept the same for United States where our strategist and I know when I’m talking I’m close to Langley the people I assume that people in Pentagon and Langley had read some books on history in the region I’m sorry I think they didn’t sorry but with that said I polite this to me I which it which I can say stay that so the point I’m making is that we couldn’t challenge the Taliban narrative and we could have created new structures in the governance structures it’s an interesting story and I hear I’ve for a minute I wear my police hat and I often think and I teach courses a rule of law and policing encountered narrative and I I personally believe anywhere you have to change things really you have to have a criminal justice system the criminal justice system which has independent judiciary which is a proper prosecution system and effective policing system it is this idea of law enforcement is so different from a militarized version of counterterrorism and I am emphasizing that because it seems after the whole cycle today we have the U.S. policy has come back to the same point kill and capture we are not even ready to learn lessons from the last 10 years of our own history book the governance structures and by the way the alarms in Pakistan especially of anti we have to give credit this is again short anecdote one of my students a colonel US Army she was our student at NDU and and I mentioned this story because I mentioned this when I testified in front of Congress a few times a few a couple of years ago and this is public knowledge so the officer came to me and said that many of the other halfback hands use officers were going back to Afghanistan but with in her case I said you you go back leaves you have done you two ten years in Afghanistan two assignments and she said no sir I want to go back to France so this was two years ago she said two three years I said why why do you want to go back and she said because the hope that I had seen among the young women who I was training as a front judges that hope wants me to go back to Afghanistan and and she told me and I checked later on the records in the last six or seven years every year the top ten positions among the don’t top ten positions from the judicial Academy are are grabbed by by women five or six of those ten positions are grabbed by women because they really took that on as a as an honorable job and took the risks and to be a police officer or a judge in Afghanistan is not an easy deal so I mean I’m not trying to say what some people have started saying no this this whole lawn project was doomed from day one these backward ignorant people they didn’t know what democracy is what kind of law is v we wasted our money I think that’s a very flawed argument the Ilan’s have shown courage when we introduced new institutions and why was that so because why we think that they are not interested in justice why we want to blame all our own failures on the people who understand at times and Pakistan the Pakistanis I’m not ready to give a pass because they they were hit the literacy rate was better their poor is shriveled democracy and but Hans the way they have gone through these series of violence and crimes perpetrated against them and despite that they’re ready and give you one more example I was looking at in case of Pakistan I’m for one of my CV projects I was trying to see who are the leading mullahs in Pakistan or religious clerics who were gutsy courageous enough to stand up to religious extremists and I found four or five well-known names three of them were killed but I said okay they must be five more and I thought well I have to because I’m doing a book on Taliban on both sides I need to have five or six names from Afghanistan as well you can can you guess what I found when I asked my students actually in Afghanistan other friends in Afghanistan is give me the numbers of mullahs or Islamic clerics or Imams in a van mosques who stood up against Taliban and challenged them invar killed or pressurised or blackmailed or had asked the number at that two years ago the number that I got was 838 so many are we aware fit our our agencies all our soldiers on the ground at State Department I mean because those were the people who would have challenged the Taliban narrative and they did they paid with their lives but whether we were able so what I’m saying is creating new structures was nothing bad in it those who say these are too modern I don’t buy however we never sustained those policing and law enforcement interest such as was an afterthought because we thought by when we say governance and we are thinking of not only us but the Daito and all the other players were in it in it when we were investing we always over invest in the military why because one justification is and that’s legitimate and understandable in a war conflict theater unless their stabilization forces how can you ensure that there’s an environment where an aid worker can work I get it okay however when we say clear hold and build who is going to build if those people who can build are not introduced in the theater and those are the activists law enforcement officers criminal justice systems we have not invested in that and that’s what I mean governance structures we haven’t been the terrorist attacks happen in New York we ensure that NYPD will get lot of resources or in any other where else for FBI got a lot of more jurisdictions more authorities whether it was Patriot Act and others some controversial czar not what we did in this country to our homeland we invested more in the civilian law enforcement institutions for better surveillance whether it was NSA or elsewhere I think that was the right approach in many ways no controversial some problems there but by and large we invested we didn’t invest in the military why when we go out to have a new model in a country which we are trying to build we forget about the lessons from our own country that’s my question and on the governance issues come to the Pakistanis I mean here is still what we were investing in law enforcement at least the part studies despite having seen what was happening in the tribal belt and that is a maybe because of my old association with the law enforcement but there was the investment in policing and law enforcement and civilian intelligence was named because all the benefits of this aid and youth support in NATO support and global support the motion offense where was only going to the military and when military is more powerful it has a direct negative impact on the democracy in that country but coming back to the governance issues though we finally I think get it right we have started thinking of institutions but that is in some ways too late and the governance challenged my final point under the second category the governance challenge in the governance crisis is the one which enables Taliban to be who they are so irrespective of what cure we have if unless it is tackling the governance issue and I have not even touched upon the a zani versus a Polish or how the resources between Abdullah and Haneen Kabul are creating an issue how these day-to-day fights between them about nepotism who will get what position is that is a problem I have to be careful the next anecdote I want to share in a country X in a city why I was being close to Langley is having an impact on me so the poverty keep the exact story but I was talking to a hon off cell very smart brilliant young and he was wearing a uniform one day in the second day when I met him in that conference he was a different version of an officer wearing a different uniform I said it’s a beautiful uniform yesterday you was wearing you were wearing kind of mood for British traditional military uniform today it’s more Swedish or something and he said yes sir III designed those myself I said you design so are you in that group report Department which designs for the whole military he said no anyone in a foreign army can design the uniform units most units and I then I talked to my friends in in Pentagon I said would you ever allow that in US Army you would never allow that to Asami and leave your Air Force why when you are giving paying the salaries and everything to the advance value allowed them to be so unprofessional because I don’t think that’s an army which with is not certain decorum I as a former law enforcement officer when you asked me to look at a institution to tell whether they are professional not I’ll see but how they are wearing a uniform how what is the belt what is the handling of the weapon that the cap is straight or tilted whether they know how to respect uniform that’s the titanium and the fans have not I I get it it takes two three generations for that the Pakistani military is far more professional because of the British tradition but we should start in in shooting those issues the unsub normally I get is no they are different groups associated with different tribes different leaders they are the bright guys v they wanted we let it happen I mean that well and good they will be loyal to you for some time but if you think this is building of a professional army in Afghanistan that’s not good rap it’s a small indicator I may be wrong but that that to me is an indicator siga reports are out for anyone to see and know what what has happened so these are the two causes are failure and that regional failure also the regional failures is even more severe because here at times our mistakes have been mistakes of incompetence and poor accountability in poor management in the regional in a regional framework the proxy wars the brutality linked with those wars on their own people are these are the stories of that that modern tragedies are made of where today your have supporting one group the others I mean in in case of Pakistan some of the Pakistani Taliban became powerful because they had links to the establishment they were serving the Pakistani state in Kashmir so they said okay if the this group this person why in this unit is helping me in Kashmir I will not move watch them at night at night they are pursuing a different agent and that duplicity and that denial also had a huge impact on of understand all of this together pushed and deepen the of an insurgency or the Taliban insurgency and so it’s not a matter of we cannot kill and capture by we cannot kill 20 people and think the Taliban will be pushed aside because of the governance failures on justice yeah just a couple of one more point on justice and I was reading yesterday an article by Robert D crane the mentor of mine former foreign policy adviser to President Nixon now a scholar of Islamic studies based not very far from here recently had a chance to read one of his speeches and I later when I looked deeper into it he was saying his argument was go anywhere in the Middle East and in South Asia people which may be illiterate and you ask them what is missing why what do you really want they’ll say justice where is the world justice it’s not that it is missing from the American vocabulary but the other words we use for the same impact for liberty and freedom to others of the justice system here you call justice immediately we think of a justice system but the idea of justice has a slightly different connotation or it’s a more empowering idea for those areas which are going through developing world I mean one example that I got from Robert Deakins article was when in June 2009 President Obama was going to Cairo to give a speech the famous Cairo speech and on Islam remember so this is I think either from Bob Woodward’s book that he picked or some other book puts a credible authentic electro dimensioning President Obama four times his speech writers in the speech and the world justice that he wanted to use was missing the final time on Air Force one he finally added he said what’s happening I I am at the word justice that because President Obama is a very well-read person and he knew the audience he is going to and why the word justice will will will have its own meaning and people will immediately understand but that was also he used the word justice but that’s the last time we heard the word justice from him in his next four or five years because then it had a different connotation the point I’m mentioning is the insurgency in Afghanistan is happening also because the ordinary people got mesmerized by this misconception the Taliban were saying we have this justice we will deliver justice what they would do hold small courts and yes in most cases the scenes would be wrong brutal but they were getting justice at their doorstep the modern and we couldn’t install the modern justice systems which could have delivered the same same thing happening in various parts of Pakistan so deepening insurgency has these broader causes none of these short-term efforts are going to have an impact on that and my biggest worry is Taliban and I close with this idea Taliban have shown us that they were good the initial points I made they are good in messaging their golden narrative building they are good in making alliances when the first opportunity coming in Afghanistan it may come sooner than what we think because the country can only sustain or the country itself is providing hardly 30 maybe some people say 50 percent of the budget we have as Americans paying for the rest of actually their total budget almost you take away this budget support within 2 billions of dollars and I understand president Trump why he says that that in aid which sustains the the current status quo what it is good for unless it is very well directed and focused that’s why the Taliban insurgency I fear can can come back the Pakistanis have done relatively well in pushing out that the Rica Taliban Pakistan TTP but the bigger issues of a counter-narrative I have not seen any efforts in that regard building of institutions I have not seen Stano Afghanistan local leaders owning they’ve law enforcement institutions and establishing those or and this final misconception that will kill and capture will kill some and they will come to the negotiation table no they have not shown any signs they would come and now I’m by virtue of this final argument I’m making am I saying that because they are not going to come to the negotiating table so bomb them more no that’s not what I’m saying I’m saying that will create maybe more the drone strikes there is an accepted data has created more terrorists and then that then do those who were killed so it has to be a comprehensive strategy which at the moment I am not seen the science sorry to end on a negative note but that’s what what my conclusion is and that’s why I’m really concerned about this Taliban the reality of Taliban and the the depth and the power of the idea of Taliban because it’s more dangerous than the male group it is more pervasive than what we take thank you very much.
Robert R. Reilly:
We have about 15 minutes for Q&A so we have a
I have a question I sort of missed your point about President Obama and the word justice justice observation of the literature does it occur justice and now that doesn’t occur often in Fulani for example and imparts to a tribal or any tribal code just as justice is practiced but it’s not spoken about in the Western sense would you would you get that thank you very much it’s a very well framed question the justice you’re right in the personal body’s mean four or five main ideas of personally the kind of revenge or the honor code it may not come but justice is seen as anything so much as a central feature of the Taliban ideology and Taliban were able to frame their first institution that they built was of Australia codes the that was the only thing they built in fact that the famously known in from a mother she’d spoken Taliban the first I think important book that had come out was they said that the Finance Ministry of Taliban were under the was under the bed of malama when someone would come you need money he would get up from his bed open a box from under his bed that was the Finance Ministry but if it can comes to justice the first instant person he had appointed was the Chief Justice or the judge so the idea of Sharia Courts which is which is a problematic idea the way it has developed now became the idea which was seen as this one word of justice whether it was we have never seen in the Arab the spring is well in Tahrir Square and elsewhere the idea of justice is is in some ways far more comprehensive or far more popular as a slogan which it is the way it is different from the Western understanding is invested in understanding because we have built modern institutions of justice that’s how we understand justice their justice is getting your own right so all things what we think of a bill of rights that is justice in Afghanistan the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by United Nations use ask a question South Asian Middle East they will not use the word Human Rights they’ll use the word justice that’s the the world that had become that have big adopted its own coinage or its own popularity and and that is seen as missing and that they they expand this idea of rights from what what the their rights are in the day to day life to also the way it is depicted about international politics the way they seen it and they then connect the local in justices to to global injustice as they seed and that becomes justice becomes that’s why in whether it was in Turkey the most popular party became justice party in Pakistan today Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf passante justice party the word justice has become more powerful because it encompasses all these bill of rights and human rights issues that’s why on the earth of it thank you very much thank you very much present the counter-narrative why is there a mouth after so many years thank you so you ever give me a good opportunity to say something which I wanted to say it didn’t get time there was a counter-narrative but we picked the wrong comprehensive how in the modern Islamic world there are and this is a new trend also VV previously used to think of big cities and centers of Islamic learning as the main centres where there is a movement if I have to recommend and this to the president Trump I would say stop engaging Riyadh necessarily or even Tehran or birth dad start talking more to Al-Azhar University to come in Iran and to the nudge seminary or or even to do one in South Asia why because these are the centers from where the narrative is coming and they they are open to engagement in South Asia the Pakistani tradition has been in Afghanistan as well haven’t passed any variation per se and that’s what they did they heard about Taliban they immediately went to Al-Assad University had brought the main hottie bore the main scholar from Lhasa who was very known among the established scholars of Islam in South Asia and they highly respect anyone from others a Lhasa saying that you are a graduate for the other means you a genuine authentic Islamic scholar however this new generation of religious militants the bin Laden’s and the mullah Omar’s wait no degree from any religious institution all Mohammed did was he went in Kandahar to this famous famous of man museum where they had a cloak from 1400 years ago according to the local belief the cloak of the Prophet the well-known stories were that Kings eye shine others had gone to touch that cloak of the prophet they were so fierce stuck and worried and concerned and they thought they’re so sinful they couldn’t touch it so there was a there was a whole kind of stories and legacy around build around them mallamma walked into the museum broke the shield took out the cloak for it stood on top of the museum everyone said Wow he can go invade the cloak of the Prophet he is our Mila momineen this was political tactics which got them so a Pakistanis and the fans brought a lesser scholars whose messages went nowhere what they could or should have done was to go to actually talk to India go to the topmost color of the one in India because that may have made more sense another issue the traditional thing in Pakistan is this is what more sheriff did this is what very other scholars date whenever you’re in crisis will be surprised they immediately wake up before apparently called Jetta Riyadh request the Saudi command can you send us the the top cleric from Mecca who gives a sermon on during Hajj because that name is vaguely they have normally very they recite the Quran beautifully they are brought in and everyone said well if he is the Imam of the mosque in mecca he must be the most wise man which is not often the case but I have to be careful but but that has been so the Imam of Mecca would come and gave a sermon and that’s the count of narrative whereas the local indigenous scholars who could that’s why Taliban started killing the local amounts and we missed that story so one of the story current today the strongest to counter narratives are one when Sistani gave this Firth white that side there was no time for me to compare with the Iraq maybe you’d have to come with that again to talk about my rock stories from last five six years but in Iraq see Sonny k1 Fatah I was in Najaf at that time on the day and I still remember that midnight I woke up and I saw hundreds of people walking as is the revolution of something’s happening and I talked to the hotel owner and they said no they’re all different Iraqi tribes they know of ISIS has taken over motion they are going to Sistani and other religious scholars demanding that they give a religious edict and a fatwa that we have to go and fight ISIS that’s what exactly what ceased annotated and then when those militias many were Shia but they are now Sunni and Christian and yes D as well but predominantly Shia militias when they fight in an effort to clear the areas in some areas they committed mistakes and committed in some of the Iranian sponsor hushaby as well they they have their own politics at play and then Sistani was confronted you were the one who had given a photo which created this created a narrative which led to the rise of this anti-ISIS militias and now they are committing some mistakes and human rights violations Sistani gave another fatwa which is on the website on laws of war it had a huge impact because it was local a similar effort was it called a man message I highly encourage you because I see a lot of interest here on Islamic discourse and some of the books a man message was a phenomenal message they brought Shia Sunni Sufi Salafi Wahabi every scholar and gave three principles they said three principles number one all these minor Muslim sects also everyone is a Muslim secondly no tech field which this this is the Taliban Al-Qaeda there I’ll give this discredit to Al-Qaeda which they said this this the right they’ve claimed that you are a Muslim you’re not a Muslim and you’re a good Muslim and you’re a bad Muslim that no one should do that and the third was that this institution of Fatah the religious he did it has to be given to those who have a certain education but am on message and I asked this my Jordanian friends why this counter-narrative has not worked in because in Pakistan elsewhere they don’t know him on message but that may have worked in in the regional context of Jordan Iraq so the answer is the vols counter-narrative we rather than going for local roots in those areas revolve we tried to go big and there was no big investment and then we are the other issues frankly at times there was a smart institution so were doing the right work if RV wanted them to look exactly like us so we wanted all the Muslim progressive groups to also have similar views like us here about Israel that’s not going to happen so if you look for everything that are the good Muslim rebels who exactly look like us think like us they should not say anything which goes against US policy you’re not going to find anyone so that in that selectiveness bias we at times missed out on some very good local groups I am NOT saying empower those who are anti-semitic or who are saying go and commit crimes against Jews or Christians or perhaps four against anyone I’m just saying they will not always have similar views like us now there is a realization but by the time we started the State Department started investing in CVE the new regime is regime is not right the new administration has come in and they are saying see me is a password and we want a new face and all those newer experts on cv their double-minded will we get new funding from somewhere to do research and work on this because this issue is so central sorry for long answer I’m a professor and terrible thank you very much I think I did mention but I was emphasizing more of the which I think are deeper issues these issues when I mentioned on governance and thank you for reminding me I would add there’s no doubt there’s a regional context and the in French views among the Pakistanis as well as in Indians about the proxy war that is happening is also absolutely effective but I for my book I was looking at the figures and it’s absolutely no effort to deny or justify that but I asked them so how many terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan according to our IC community intelligence community what they think is the number of percentage-wise what is the number of terrorist attacks committed inside Afghanistan directly linked to Haqqani hole the answer I get is and I have quoted it and I would like to be corrected if that’s wrong 10 to 15 percent I think they may be more conservative maybe 25 percent so that’s why I spend I’m also concerned about the 75 percent of attacks which have local issues but sans policy and Taliban has been a devastating policy no one can justify that I think Pakistan was in denial they mistakenly thought that that’s a group which will somehow serve their interests now they’re partly scared from them they didn’t realize that of non Taliban were also giving space to the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda who attacked Pakistan Pakistan paid through its nose and part of that is because Pakistan’s own security infrastructure filled or at times were hip kind of playing the double side and still today they got clarity to go after Pakistani Taliban and even Al-Qaeda the credit is due there they cleared many of the areas button of an Taliban whether it was mullah Mansour Lord Hobart Allah who still has roots in that area all Mullah Omar’s death I mean I I asked this question to many people 2013 he apparently died why was that kept a secret yeah if the Pakistani intelligence was unaware of it I mean that’s a huge failure if they were aware of it and they kept it from us that’s absolutely terrible because without the so thank you I think these are very current ones on opium I think there’s a lot of research on this I think of Gretchen peaches reporting for U.S. IP and then her book on the opium this is an established fact that Taliban benefited hugely from opium there’s no doubt hence this targeting of the the opium these labs which happened in last 48 hours or so is is important however there’s a counter-argument people are saying the drug lords who are linked with some of the warlords and the way they expands the Central Asians who get to sell that they have to be tackled because in this case those labs that directly linked to the local economy not that it’s a good economy or positive economy but the ordinary farmers will get impacted so this is good for a messaging I think I I support that when us said and yesterday when general Nicholson was asked he showed I think a video of targeting of opium good messaging because you are saying we are aware of it we are changing a practice we are going to target opium production because opium production for sure empowers Taliban there is no doubt about it but just attacking some of the labs is not going to resolve the issue it requires a much more effective counter narcotics strategy which many people who are on the ground tell me they there are no signs of that of yet so few in number we have this is a not enough to thought in a sense but it is expanded in a huge way but this will be a very important factor if we really want to push Taliban but that’s the only local economic local economic factor that play people that’s their livelihood abso unless we have an alternate livelihood or unless we will give them money or establish some of the revenue generation system this policy of targeting opium labs is going to not work it is a good initiative I must add the important clerics I think is a very important one what his referring is to Mr. Qadri who was the first one to his credit gave fatwa on suicide bombing which was very comprehensive before him every Slama cleric was saying suicide bombing is Una’s Lama kin Haram however you can do it in Israel I mean so they were very by which wishes as bad as anything else she said bombing is bad if it is bad in X then it is bad and why he was the first one who said no Islamic this suicide bombing is unacceptable whether it is in Istanbul or or Bali or- or in Tel Aviv because you cannot kill innocent people and children and women and he but he had to give that forth why in London he has infrastructure in Pakistan the problem is that his message is right but he became a political player and it is believed that he at times he has some links in the Pakistani military establishment and he so his legitimacy became problematic because of his political interests otherwise his messaging was good that’s why there are we are referring to there are local religious scholars and I can that I can tell you based on my field study both in Afghanistan and Pakistan they know so many local imams and scholars who really challenge these but the Sufi shrines.
That’s why I mentioned the Sufi mystics and that tradition, which is very strong in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan but they we have not figured out a way to use them in CVE in a creative fashion but thank you for 40 points you.