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  • Author: Khalid Homayun Nadiri
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Since September 11, 2001, Pakistan has pursued seemingly incongruous courses of action in Afghanistan. It has participated in the U.S. and international intervention in Afghanistan at the same time as it has permitted much of the Afghan Taliban's political leadership and many of its military commanders to visit or reside in Pakistani urban centers. This incongruence is all the more puzzling in light of the expansion of indiscriminate and costly violence directed against Islamabad by Pakistani groups affiliated with the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan's policy is the result not only of its enduring rivalry with India but also of historically rooted domestic imbalances and antagonistic relations with successive governments in Afghanistan. Three critical features of the Pakistani political system—the militarized nature of foreign policy making, ties between military institutions and Islamist networks, and the more recent rise of grassroots violence—have contributed to Pakistan's accommodation of the Afghan Taliban. Additionally, mutual suspicion surrounding the contentious Afghanistan-Pakistan border and Islamabad's long record of interference in Afghan politics have continued to divide Kabul and Islamabad, diminishing the prospect of cooperation between the two capitals. These determinants of Pakistan's foreign policy behavior reveal the prospects of and obstacles to resolving the numerous issues of contention that characterize the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship today.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Taliban
  • Author: Daniel W. Dresner
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: The 2008 financial crisis dramatically worsened the fiscal future of the United States. In the first five years of the Great Recession, the debt-to-gross domestic product ratio of the United States more than doubled, and multiple bond-ratings agencies downgraded U.S. federal government debt. The inevitable debate in Washington is where and how much to cut federal spending. The national security budget is a natural target for fiscal conservatives. Their logic is clear-cut: defense and war expenditures are not the primary culprits for the parlous fiscal state of the United States, but they acted as accessories. For the 2013 fiscal year, the U.S. federal government has budgeted more than $685 billion in defense expenditures. Tacking on budgeting for intelligence and nuclear forces raises that figure to more than $725 billion. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down and al-Qaida's top leadership decimated, the security threats to the United States have also declined. At the same time, the country possesses an unparalleled lead in defense assets and expenditures. Given its unchallenged military supremacy, targeting cuts toward defense spending after a decade of dramatic budgetary increases is a natural ambition.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Washington
  • Author: Michael Beckley
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: According to the Global Language Monitor, which tracks the top 50,000 media sources throughout the world, the "rise of China" has been the most read-about news story of the twenty-first century, surpassing the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Iraq War, the election of Barack Obama, and the British royal wedding. One reason for the story's popularity, presumably, is that the rise of China entails the decline of the United States. While China's economy grows at 9 percent annually, the United States reels from economic recession, costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and massive budget deficits. This divergence in fortunes has produced two pieces of conventional wisdom in U.S. and Chinese foreign policy debates. First, the United States is in decline relative to China. Second, much of this decline is the result of globalization-the integration of national economies and resultant diffusion of technology from developed to developing countries-and the hegemonic burdens the United States bears to sustain globalization.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, China, Iraq, America
  • Author: Sumit Ganguly, S. Paul Kapur
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Islamist militants based in Pakistan have repeatedly been involved in major terrorist incidents throughout the world, such as the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington and the 2005 London subway bombings. They regularly strike government, coalition, and civilian targets in Afghanistan, hampering efforts to stabilize the country. Also, they frequently target India, threatening to incite an Indo-Pakistani conflict that could potentially escalate to the nuclear level. Pakistan-based militancy thus severely undermines regional and international security.
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, New York, South Asia, Washington
  • Author: Paul Staniland
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: How do material resources influence the behavior of insurgent groups? Do diamonds, drugs, state sponsors, and diasporas turn insurgents into fractious, loot-seeking thugs? Or do they help insurgents build disciplined and cohesive organizations? These questions have occupied a central focus in recent research, but no consensus has emerged on the answers to any of them. Some cases suggest that resource wealth encourages the degeneration of armed groups into greed and criminality. For instance, right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia, the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone are clear examples of large-scale resources being associated with indiscipline or civilian victimization. Other evidence, however, shows that external sponsorship and criminal activity can help leaders build organizations in the face of state repression. The Taliban in Afghanistan, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) forged, and indeed improved, their organizational effectiveness while relying heavily on external support and illicit economic gain.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, South Asia, Sudan, Asia, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Angola
  • Author: Paul MacDonald, Joseph M. Parent
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: How do great powers respond to acute decline? The erosion of the relative power of the United States has scholars and policymakers reexamining this question. The central issue is whether prompt retrenchment is desirable or probable. Some pessimists counsel that retrenchment is a dangerous policy, because it shows weakness and invites attack. Robert Kagan, for example, warns, “A reduction in defense spending . . . would unnerve American allies and undercut efforts to gain greater cooperation. There is already a sense around the world, fed by irresponsible pundits here at home, that the United States is in terminal decline. Many fear that the economic crisis will cause the United States to pull back from overseas commitments. The announcement of a defense cutback would be taken by the world as evidence that the American retreat has begun.” Robert Kaplan likewise argues, “Husbanding our power in an effort to slow America's decline in a post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan world would mean avoiding debilitating land entanglements and focusing instead on being more of an offshore balancer.... While this may be in America's interest, the very signaling of such an aloof intention may encourage regional bullies.... [L]essening our engagement with the world would have devastating consequences for humanity. The disruptions we witness today are but a taste of what is to come should our country flinch from its international responsibilties.” The consequences of these views are clear: retrenchment should be avoided and forward defenses maintained into the indefinite future.
  • Topic: Disaster Relief
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, China
  • Author: Thomas Hegghammer
  • Publication Date: 12-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: A salient feature of armed conflict in the Muslim world since 1980 is the involvement of so-called foreign fighters, that is, unpaid combatants with no apparent link to the conflict other than religious affinity with the Muslim side. Since 1980 between 10,000 and 30,000 such fighters have inserted themselves into conflicts from Bosnia in the west to the Philippines in the east. Foreign fighters matter because they can affect the conflicts they join, as they did in post-2003 Iraq by promoting sectarian violence and indiscriminate tactics. Perhaps more important, foreign fighter mobilizations empower transnational terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, because volunteering for war is the principal stepping-stone for individual involvement in more extreme forms of militancy. For example, when Muslims in the West radicalize, they usually do not plot attacks in their home country right away, but travel to a war zone such as Iraq or Afghanistan first. Indeed, a majority of al-Qaida operatives began their militant careers as war volunteers, and most transnational jihadi groups today are by-products of foreign fighter mobilizations. Foreign fighters are therefore key to understanding transnational Islamist militancy.
  • Topic: Intelligence
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In 2001 approximately 100 Central Intelligence Agency officers, 350 U.S. Special Forces soldiers, and 15,000 Afghans overthrew the Taliban regime in less than three months while suffering only a dozen U.S. fatalities. They were supported by as many as 100 U.S. combat sorties per day. Some individuals involved in the operation argued that it revitalized the American way of war. This initial success, however, transitioned into an insurgency, as the Taliban and other insurgent groups began a sustained effort to overthrow the Afghan government. The fighting, which began in 2002, had developed into a full-blown insurgency by 2006. During this period, the number of insurgent-initiated attacks rose by 400 percent, and the number of deaths from these attacks by more than 800 percent. The increase in violence was particularly acute between 2005 and 2006, when the number of suicide attacks quintupled from 27 to 139; remotely detonated bombings more than doubled from 783 to 1,677; and armed attacks nearly tripled from 1,558 to 4,542. Insurgent-initiated attacks rose another 27 percent between 2006 and 2007. The result was a lack of security for Afghans and foreigners.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Government, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Asia, Taliban
  • Author: Thomas H. Johnson, M. Chris Mason
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: By 1932, British troops had been waging war of varying intensity with a group of intractable tribes along and beyond the northwestern frontier of India for nearly a century. That year, in summarizing a typical skirmish, one British veteran noted laconically, “Probably no sign till the burst of fire, and then the swift rush with knives, the stripping of the dead, and the unhurried mutilation of the infidels.” It was a savage, cruel, and peculiar kind of mountain warfare, frequently driven by religious zealotry on the tribal side, and it was singularly unforgiving of tactical error, momentary inattention, or cultural ignorance. It still is. The Pakistan- Afghanistan border region has experienced turbulence for centuries. Today a portion of it constitutes a significant threat to U.S. national security interests. The unique underlying factors that create this threat are little understood by most policymakers in Washington.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Washington, Asia