Tag Archives: Af-Pak

Career Diplomat Undone Doing Her Job?

What happens when the India/Pakistan tensions spill onto the professional life of Robin Raphel, a career diplomat with more than 30 years of work at State, including as Assistant Secretary of State? She faced an FBI counterintelligence investigation where materials alleging her role in revealing secrets were uncovered. The case was closed in March 2016 with no charges filed, a “misunderstanding“, but the damage was done.

Support  from Hussein Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. offers insight into the fallout:

“I hope a good American diplomat will now no longer suffer because someone who disliked her leaked the story of inquiries about her prematurely, making her look like a criminal before even filing of charges. …Good thing is, the D.O.J. did the right thing.”

Her extensive career (explored in WaPo), coupled with her candid style and willingness to defend the Pakistani point-of-view left her colleagues perplexed and concerned.  Known as  a smart, articulate and highly competent diplomat, more recently Raphel served as a senior advisor to Richard Holbrook on Af-Pak.

Dan Feldman, Raphel’s last boss at SRAP, says the case shows that other agencies need to better understand diplomacy: “I wish there had been better and more coordinated knowledge about the nature and importance of diplomatic channels, and what it entails for diplomats to be effective in pursuing critical national security priorities.”The case had a “chilling effect” on other diplomats, who feared they might be next, a half-dozen State Department officials told me. But Raphel’s colleagues stood behind her, even when the investigation was still active. Beth Jones, another former assistant secretary of state, organized a legal defense fund last summer. The fund raised nearly $90,000 from 96 colleagues and friends, many of whom, recalls Jones, voiced the fear: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Source: When diplomats get punished for doing their jobs – The Washington Post

 

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Diplomat Hall of Fame | Sahabzada Yaqui Khan of Pakistan

You haven’t heard of Sahabzzada Yaqui Khan, also known by some close friends as Sammy K? In 1999, language maven William Safire considered him the “most skillful diplomat in the world” and Washington’s diplomatic corps ranked him among the best dressed.

Why was he considered to be such a skilled statesman? For one thing, he listen[ed] more than he spoke and was also a polymath with extraordinary intellectual talents. His hard-to-find book, Strategy, Diplomacy and Humanity includes many of his speeches and insights–although I haven’t yet been able to track it down. Even so, he was highly regarded by presidents and prime ministers and colleagues as a remarkable representative par excellence.

But above all, Mr. Safire was impressed by Mr. Yaqub Khan’s diplomatic skills, saying he had been dispatched by his country on delicate missions, including when Pakistan sought to reassure Washington that a bloodless military coup by Gen. Pervez Musharraf against an elected but incapable government was both necessary and temporary. “Is democracy an end in itself,” Mr. Yaqub Khan asked rhetorically, “or a means to an end? What do you do when democracy leads ineluctably to chaos?”

Source: Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, Pakistani Diplomat, Dies at 95 – The New York Times

In a notable lecture, “Diplomacy as a problem in epistemology,” President Richard Nixon was impressed by his intellectual and strategic heft, where Khan explained his understanding of national temperaments:

…the erudite diplomat argued about the historic wrong perceptions of reality leading to wars and bitter relations between nation-states. Each state or nation, he observed, inhabits a cosmos of its own. The geocentric view in diplomacy is limiting, impeding the quest for objectivity. This epistemology, he highlighted, offers challenge to diplomacy and diplomats in a world that is either at the brink of tragedy or possibly at the threshold of limitless possibility.

“In each bilateral dialogue, each side has a vital national interest which must be safeguarded. This is the hard core but around this the negotiating positions could be supple and adaptable to circumstances. There could be six ways to tie a baby diaper. The mistake we are often tempted to make is to take rigid position on negotiating positions as we do on hard core interests. The resulting impasse often leads to a breakdown of talks. This may help advancing dialogue and peace and understanding in a battered and embattled world,” he went on to argue.

Source:”The diplomat with an unfair advantage’  The Express Tribune – Pakistan

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Was the U.S. attack on the Kunduz hospital a war crime? 

In the face of tragedy, Laurie Blank of Emory Law poses (and answers)  an important question about how the bombing of the Kunduz hospital by U.S. forces should be considered under international law:

The airstrikes in Kunduz raise significant questions about precautions:Did the Afghan forces calling for the strike and the U.S. forces launching the strike establish the location of the hospital as a protected site?Were the Taliban fighters indeed using the hospital?If so, did either Afghan or U.S. forces warn the hospital of the pending strike?Were weapons chosen that could minimize harm to civilians?The proportionality rule poses equally important questions:What did the U.S. forces know about the hospital and how many people were in it?What damage to the hospital did they anticipate from the attacks?What other options did they have to neutralize the Taliban threat?In the end, only a comprehensive investigation — like those under way by the United States, NATO and Afghanistan — can determine the cause and legality of the strike by examining these and other questions.

Source: Was the U.S. attack on the Kunduz hospital a war crime? – The Washington Post

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Ex-Envoy Says Misunderstanding Runs on Both Sides of U.S.-Pakistan Ties – NYTimes.com

Misunderstandings among Pakistan and the US are clearly explained by the former Ambassador, now a scholar-in-residence and former speaker (2x)  at BYU’s Kennedy Center:

Q. What is the biggest misconception Americans have about Pakistan?

The biggest misconception the Americans have had is that they can somehow bend Pakistan to their will simply with the leverage of aid. Aid has never given the Americans the leverage they thought they would have. As far as the American public is concerned, it has never really seriously engaged with Pakistan, and the understanding of most Americans about Pakistan is through single-issue prisms: nuclear program one day, terrorism the other. There has never been an effort to understand 180 million people and their aspirations.

via Ex-Envoy Says Misunderstanding Runs on Both Sides of U.S.-Pakistan Ties – NYTimes.com.

 

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Documenting a Pakistani Girl’s Transformation – NYTimes.com

The Malala backstory:

While my original documentary tells the story of Malala’s struggle for education in the face of the Taliban, this back story also raises

some sobering and difficult questions. Malala was a brave young girl, advocating for a better future for all girls in her country, but was it fair for her to fight so publicly in such a dangerous environment? Or was she thrust into the limelight by adults captivated by the power of a child staring down the Taliban?

Given Malala’s re-emergence on the world stage — healing from her wounds and nominated for the Nobel — I thought it was a good time to answer the five questions people often ask me about how I came to know this resilient young woman.

via Documenting a Pakistani Girl’s Transformation – NYTimes.com.

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How Raymond Davis Helped Turn Pakistan Against the United States – NYTimes.com

A spy tale of a “diplomat”–that just happens to be true–explains a lot about the complex challenge to understand Pakistan.

With Davis sitting in prison, Munter argued that it was essential to go immediately to the head of the I.S.I. at the time, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, to cut a deal. The U.S. would admit that Davis was working for the C.I.A., and Davis would quietly be spirited out of the country, never to return again. But the C.I.A. objected. Davis had been spying on a militant group with extensive ties to the I.S.I., and the C.I.A. didn’t want to own up to it. Top C.I.A. officials worried that appealing for mercy from the I.S.I. might doom Davis. He could be killed in prison before the Obama administration could pressure Islamabad to release him on the grounds that he was a foreign diplomat with immunity from local laws — even those prohibiting murder. On the day of Davis’s arrest, the C.I.A. station chief told Munter that a decision had been made to stonewall the Pakistanis. Don’t cut a deal, he warned, adding, Pakistan is the enemy.

The strategy meant that American officials, from top to bottom, had to dissemble both in public and in private about what exactly Davis had been doing in the country. On Feb. 15, more than two weeks after the shootings, President Obama offered his first comments about the Davis affair. The matter was simple, Obama said in a news conference: Davis, “our diplomat in Pakistan,” should be immediately released under the “very simple principle” of diplomatic immunity. “If our diplomats are in another country,” said the president, “then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution.”

Calling Davis a “diplomat” was, technically, accurate. He had been admitted into Pakistan on a diplomatic passport. But there was a dispute about whether his work in the Lahore Consulate, as opposed to the American Embassy in Islamabad, gave him full diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. And after the shootings in Lahore, the Pakistanis were not exactly receptive to debating the finer points of international law. As they saw it, Davis was an American spy who had not been declared to the I.S.I. and whom C.I.A. officials still would not admit they controlled. General Pasha, the I.S.I. chief, spoke privately by phone and in person with Leon Panetta, then the director of the C.I.A., to get more information about the matter. He suspected that Davis was a C.I.A. employee and suggested to Panetta that the two spy agencies handle the matter quietly. Meeting with Panetta, he posed a direct question.

via How Raymond Davis Helped Turn Pakistan Against the United States – NYTimes.com.

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U.S. Diplomat Killed on Afghan Mission She Coveted – NYTimes.com

A tragic loss for the US Foreign Service, Anne Smedinghoff worked with another young BYU diplomat in Caracas–the first to post about this on Facebook on Saturday:

Sam Hopkins, a lawyer and a friend of Ms. Smedinghoff’s from her college days, described her as a “very focused very disciplined and very calm” woman who had breezed through a panoply of examinations to enter the Foreign Service at an unusually young age.

On her first posting to Caracas, he said, she expressed strong desire to leave the embassy compound and plunge into the city’s gritty, often dangerous streets.“She said she wanted to get a car and drive around,” Mr. Hopkins said. “She had no fear.”As a public diplomacy officer, Ms. Smedinghoff was on the front lines of an effort to move Afghanistan beyond its decades-long struggle with war and oppression to a place where women might walk openly in the streets and where children, including young girls, might go to school.

It is a job fraught with dangers and frustrations that have been compounded as the United States, along with its NATO allies, has shrunk its military footprint. Bases have been scaled back and ground and air transports reduced, meaning less security for development work.

via U.S. Diplomat Killed on Afghan Mission She Coveted – NYTimes.com.

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The Inside Story of How the White House Let Diplomacy Fail in Afghanistan – By Vali Nasr | Foreign Policy

The Clinton/Holbrooke alliance was not enough to break through a risk averse White House according to Vali Nasr, dean of SAIS and a senior advisor on Afghanistan:

The White House, however, did not want to try anything as audacious as diplomacy. It was an art lost on Americas top decision-makers. They had no experience with it and were daunted by the idea of it.

While running for president, Obama had promised a new chapter in U.S. foreign policy: America would move away from Bushs militarized foreign policy and take engagement seriously. When it came down to brass tacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, however, Clinton was the lonely voice making the case for diplomacy….

But Clinton shared Holbrookes belief that the purpose of hard power is to facilitate diplomatic breakthroughs. During many meetings I attended with her, she would ask us to make the case for diplomacy and would then quiz us on our assumptions and plan of action. At the end of these drills she would ask us to put it all in writing for the benefit of the White House

Holbrooke and Clinton had a tight partnership. They were friends. Clinton trusted Holbrooke’s judgment and valued his counsel. They conferred often (not just on Afghanistan and Pakistan), and Clinton protected Holbrooke from an obdurate White House.

via The Inside Story of How the White House Let Diplomacy Fail in Afghanistan – By Vali Nasr | Foreign Policy.

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Taliban Accidentally Reveal Identities of Their Mailing List Members – ABC News

A wartime email gaffe by the Taliban:

In a Dilbert-esque faux pax, a Taliban spokesperson sent out a routine email last week with one notable difference.He publicly CC’d the names of everyone on his mailing list.

The names were disclosed in an email by Qari Yousuf Ahmedi, an official Taliban spokesperson, on Saturday. The email was a press release he received from the account of Zabihullah Mujahid, another Taliban spokesperson. Ahmedi then forwarded Mujahid’s email to the full Taliban mailing list, but rather than using the BCC function, or blind carbon copy which keeps email addresses private, Ahmedi made the addresses public.

via Taliban Accidentally Reveal Identities of Their Mailing List Members – ABC News.

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In Afghanistan, Comment on Border Brings Tension – NYTimes.com

Sometimes a line is not just a line.  What a border dispute tells Afghans about US and Pakistan relations:

The “issue of the line,” as he called the border, may be minor to the rest of the world. But it “shows us we have friends who we cannot trust,” said Mr. Barakzai, 43. Everyone listening knew he meant America, and they kept nodding.

The border, of course, is no simple boundary: It is the Durand Line, named for the British colonial official who drew it up to separate Imperial Britain’s Indian possessions from Afghanistan — dividing traditionally Pashtun lands between Afghanistan and what would later become Pakistan. To the world at large today, the line, however contentious, is official.

via In Afghanistan, Comment on Border Brings Tension – NYTimes.com.

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