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Monday, October 31, 2011

Pakistan-U.S. Relations: A Summary

K. Alan Kronstadt
Specialist in South Asian Affairs

This report summarizes important recent developments in Pakistan and in Pakistan-U.S. relations. Obama Administration engagement with Pakistan has been seriously disrupted by recent events. A brief analysis of the current state of Pakistan-U.S. relations illuminates the main areas of contention and uncertainty. Vital U.S. interests related to links between Pakistan and indigenous American terrorism, Islamist militancy in Pakistan and Islamabad’s policies toward the Afghan insurgency, Pakistan’s relations with historic rival India, nuclear weapons proliferation and security, and the troubled status of Pakistan’s domestic setting are reviewed. Ongoing human rights concerns and U.S. foreign assistance programs for Pakistan are briefly summarized, and the report closes with an analysis of current U.S.-Pakistan relations.

In the post-9/11 period, assisting in the creation of a more stable, democratic, and prosperous Pakistan actively combating religious militancy has been among the most important U.S. foreign policy efforts. Global and South Asian regional terrorism, and a nearly decade-long effort to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan are viewed as top-tier concerns. Pakistan’s apparently accelerated nuclear weapons program and the long-standing dispute with India over Kashmir continue to threaten regional stability. Pakistan is identified as a base for numerous U.S.- designated terrorist groups and, by some accounts, most of the world’s jihadist terrorist plots have some connection to Pakistan-based elements.

While Obama Administration officials and most senior congressional leaders have continued to recognize Pakistan as a crucial partner in U.S.-led counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts, long-held doubts about Islamabad’s commitment to core U.S. interests have deepened considerably in 2011. Most independent analysts view the Pakistani military and intelligence services as too willing to distinguish among Islamist extremist groups, maintaining links to some as a means of forwarding Pakistani’s perceived security interests. Top U.S. officials have offered public expressions of acute concerns about Islamabad’s ongoing apparent tolerance of Afghan insurgent and anti-India militants operating from Pakistani territory. The May 2011 revelation that Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden had enjoyed apparently years-long and relatively comfortable refuge inside Pakistan led to intensive U.S. government scrutiny of the now deeply troubled bilateral relationship, and sparked much congressional questioning of the wisdom of existing U.S. foreign assistance programs to a government and nation that may not have the intention and/or capacity to be an effective U.S. partner. Pakistan is among the leading recipients of U.S. aid both in FY2011 and in the post-9/11 period, having been appropriated about $22 billion in assistance and military reimbursements since 2001. With anti-American sentiments and xenophobic conspiracy theories rife among ordinary Pakistanis, persistent economic travails and a precarious political setting combine to present serious challenges to U.S. decision makers.

This report will be updated periodically. For broader discussion, see CRS Report R41307, Pakistan: Key Current Issues and Developments, by K. Alan Kronstadt.



Date of Report: October
20, 2011
Number of Pages:
42
Order Number: R41
832
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Stated U.S. policy is to ensure that Afghanistan will not again become a base for terrorist attacks against the United States. Following policy reviews in 2009, the Obama Administration asserted that it was pursuing a well-resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy intended to pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan leadership from July 2011 until the end of 2014. To carry out U.S. policy, a total of 51,000 additional U.S. forces were authorized by the two 2009 reviews, which brought U.S. troop numbers to a high of about 99,000, with partner forces adding about 42,000. On June 22, 2011, President Obama announced that the policy had accomplished most major U.S. goals and that a drawdown of 33,000 U.S. troops would take place by September 2012. The first 10,000 of these are to be withdrawn by the end of 2011. The transition to Afghan leadership began, as planned, in July 2011 in the first set of areas, four cities and three full provinces.

The death of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid on May 1, 2011, has caused some to argue that overarching U.S. goals will not be jeopardized by the U.S. drawdown. However, Al Qaeda has had a minimal presence on the Afghanistan battlefield itself since 2001, and the official U.S. military view is that security gains achieved against mostly Taliban and affiliated Afghan insurgent groups in 2010 remain “fragile and reversible.” Some believe that a negotiated settlement to the Afghanistan conflict would become more likely in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death, but the September 20, 2011, assassination of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, a key figure in the reconciliation effort, has set back reconciliation efforts significantly. There are major concerns among Afghanistan’s minorities and among its women that reconciliation might produce compromises that erode the freedoms enjoyed since 2001.

Whether or not some U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan after 2014, most experts believe that the key to long term stability is the quality and extent of Afghan governance. The Administration view is that governance is expanding and improving slowly, but President Hamid Karzai’s failure to forcefully confront governmental corruption has caused a loss of Afghan support for his government. Amid widespread doubts that Afghan governance and security institutions will be strong enough to protect themselves by the end of 2014, U.S. and Afghan officials are negotiating a “strategic partnership” that would guide the long-term relationship, although differences over U.S. latitude to conduct operations have held up completion of that pact to date.

The United States is placing increased emphasis on ensuring regional support for Afghanistan’s stability and development. U.S. officials maintain that all of Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Pakistan and Iran, should cease using Afghanistan to promote their own interests and instead help Afghanistan reemerge as a major regional trade route. Some strategists doubt that Afghanistan can be rendered permanently stable unless Afghan militants are denied safe haven in Pakistan.

U.S. officials also hope to draw on Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources to promote long-term growth—several major mining, agricultural, and even energy development programs, mostly funded by private investment, have begun in the past few years, with more in various stages of consideration. To date, much of the development has been accomplished with foreign, particularly U.S., help, although donor aid is likely to decline as the transition proceeds. Through the end of FY2011, the United States has provided over $67 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $30 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces. During FY2001-FY2011, the Afghan intervention has cost about $443 billion, including all costs. For FY2012, about $17 billion in aid (including train and equip) is requested, in addition to about $100 billion for U.S. military operations there. (See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.)



Date of Report: October 21, 2011
Number of Pages: 103
Order Number: RL30588
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

After extensive sectarian conflict during 2006-2008, Iraq’s political system is characterized by peaceful political competition and formation of cross-sectarian alliances, although often involving the questionable use of key levers of power and legal institutions. This infighting is based on the belief that holding political power may mean the difference between poverty and prosperity, or even life and death, for the various political communities. The schisms delayed agreement on a new government following the March 7, 2010, national elections for the Council of Representatives (COR, parliament). With U.S. diplomatic help, on November 10, 2010, major ethnic and sectarian factions finally agreed on a framework for a new government under which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is serving a second term.

In recent months, with a complete U.S. withdrawal from Iraq approaching at the end of 2011, the relations among major factions have frayed. Sunni Arabs still fear that Maliki and his Shiite allies will try to monopolize power. The Kurds are wary that Maliki will not honor pledges to resolve Kurd-Arab territorial and financial disputes. Sunni Arabs and the Kurds dispute territory and governance in parts of northern Iraq, particularly Nineveh Province. Some Iraqi communities, including Christians in northern Iraq, are not at odds with the government but have territorial and political disputes with and fear violence from both Sunni Arabs and Kurds. These splits have created conditions under which the insurgency that hampered U.S. policy during 2004-2008 continues to conduct occasional high casualty attacks, and in which Shiite militias have conducted attacks on U.S. forces still in Iraq.

The political disputes, ongoing violence, the potential for increased Iranian influence in Iraq, and U.S. concerns about the effectiveness of Iraq’s 650,000 member security forces caused the United States to call for Iraq to request that a relatively small number of U.S. forces remain in Iraq after 2011. Doing so would require an extension of the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement that requires all U.S. forces to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. An Iraqi decision on such a request was long hampered by the political schisms discussed above as well as threats by the faction of Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr to rearm his followers if U.S. forces remain after 2011. Maliki obtained consensus in July 2011 to negotiate with the United States to extend its military presence, but negotiations failed when Maliki could not get agreement of enough major factions to continue the legal immunities for U.S. troops in Iraq beyond 2011. That was deemed unacceptable by the Obama Administration and President Obama announced on October 21, 2011, that no substantial U.S. force would remain in Iraq to train or mentor the Iraqi security forces. This has renewed concerns about the ability of the U.S. State Department to secure its facilities and personnel and to carry out its mission on its own, and increased concerns about increased Iranian influence as U.S. military involvement ends. Iraq also is in the process of purchasing advanced U.S. military equipment, including F-16 combat aircraft, but the Administration states that training will continue using programs similar to those with other countries with no U.S. troop presence.

The Administration asserts that Iraq’s governing capacity is self-sufficient and that Iraq will be able to continue to build its democracy, enact long delayed national oil laws, and undertake other measures. Some movement on the oil laws has occurred since August 2011. However, the lack of a broader and sustained focus on governance, or on improving key services, such as electricity, created popular frustration that manifested as sporadic protests since February 2011. The demonstrations were partly inspired by the wave of unrest that has broken out in many other Middle Eastern countries, but were not centered on overthrowing the regime or wholesale political change.



Date of Report: October
24, 2011
Number of Pages:
43
Order Number:
RS21968
Price: $29.95

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Oman: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Prior to the wave of unrest that has swept the Middle East in 2011, the United States had consistently praised Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al Said for gradually opening the political process in the Sultanate of Oman, an initiative begun in the early 1980s without evident pressure from the citizenry. The liberalization allowed Omanis a measure of representation but without significantly limiting Qaboos’ role as major decision maker. Some Omani human rights activists and civil society leaders, along with many younger Omanis, were always unsatisfied with the implicit and explicit limits to political rights and believed the democratization process had stagnated. This disappointment may have proved deeper and broader than experts believed when protests broke out in several Omani cities beginning in late February 2011, after the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt on February 11. Still, the generally positive Omani views of Qaboos, coupled with economic measures and repression of protest actions, appear to have contained the unrest. Record turnout in the October 15, 2011, elections for the lower house of Oman’s legislative body suggests the unrest has resulted in a new sense of activism, although with public recognition that reform will continue to be gradual.

The stakes for the Administration and Congress in Oman’s stability are considerable. A long-time U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf, Oman has allowed U.S. access to its military facilities for virtually every U.S. military operation in and around the Gulf since 1980, despite the sensitivities in Oman about a U.S. military presence there. Oman also has consistently supported U.S. efforts to achieve a Middle East peace by publicly endorsing the peace treaties that have been achieved between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors, and by occasionally hosting Israeli political leaders or meeting with them outside Oman. It was partly in appreciation for this alliance that the United States entered into a free trade agreement (FTA) with Oman. The FTA is considered pivotal to helping Oman diversify its economy to compensate for its relatively small reserves of crude oil.

Perhaps because of the extensive benefits the alliance with Oman provides to U.S. Persian Gulf policy, successive U.S. Administrations have tended not to criticize Oman’s relatively close relations with Iran. Oman has a tradition of cooperation with Iran dating back to the Shah of Iran’s regime, and Oman has always been less alarmed by the perceived threat from Iran than have the other Gulf states. Oman’s leaders view possible U.S. military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities as potentially more destabilizing to the region than is Iran’s nuclear program or Iran’s foreign policy that supports Shiite and some other hardline Islamist movements. In addition, Oman has played the role of broker between Iran and the United States, most recently in the September 2011 release of two U.S. hikers from Iran after two years in jail there. For further information on regional dynamics that affect Oman, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman.



Date of Report: October 1
8, 2011
Number of Pages:
19
Order Number:
RS21534
Price: $29.95

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Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Protests that erupted in Bahrain following the uprising that overthrew Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011, demonstrate that Shiite grievances over the distribution of power and economic opportunities were not satisfied by relatively limited efforts to include the Shiite majority in governance. Most Sunnis in Bahrain believe the Shiite majority will be satisfied with nothing less than outright rule. As protests escalated in March 2011, Bahrain’s government bucked U.S. advice by inviting direct security assistance from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, declaring a state of emergency, forcefully suppressing demonstrations, and arresting dissident leaders. Although the state of emergency ended on June 1, the continued arrests of dissidents reduced prospects for a negotiated political solution to be achieved in the course of a national dialogue, which began on July 2, 2011, and concluded later that month. The dialogue, harmed by a pullout of the main opposition political society shortly after it began, reached consensus on a few recommendations that did not satisfy the bulk of the Shiite opposition. The main opposition organization also boycotted special parliamentary elections on September 24, 2011, and the boycott widened a sectarian disparity in the elected lower house of parliament.

Possibly because of concern that a rise to power of the Shiite opposition could jeopardize the extensive U.S. military cooperation with Bahrain, the Obama Administration has not called for a change of the Al Khalifa regime and continues to meet regime leaders at high levels. Factoring into the U.S. position is a perception in the United States and in the Bahraini government that Iran seeks to take advantage of Shiite unrest in Bahrain to bring a friendly regime to power and reduce U.S. influence in the Persian Gulf. The Administration has criticized governmental use of force and widescale arrests of peaceful protesters and urged further reform, but these criticisms have been insufficient to satisfy those who believe the United States is treating Bahrain differently than it has other Middle East cases in 2011.

The U.S.-Bahrain security relationship is deep and long-standing. In exchange for a tacit security guarantee against Iran or other aggressors, Bahrain has provided key support for U.S. interests by hosting U.S. naval headquarters for the Gulf for over 60 years and by providing facilities and small numbers of personnel for U.S. war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because of the instability in Bahrain, there is concern that U.S. use of the naval headquarters facilities might become untenable, but there are no evident moves to relocate it. This facility has been pivotal to U.S. strategy to deter any Iranian aggression as well as to interdict the movement of terrorists and weapons-related technology on Gulf waterways. Beyond the naval facility, the United States signed a formal defense pact with Bahrain in 1991 and has designated Bahrain as a “major non- NATO ally,” entitling it to sales of sophisticated U.S. weapons systems. Bahrain also receives small amounts of U.S. security assistance. New U.S. sales and aid are coming under criticism from human rights and other groups; legislation has been introduced opposing a U.S. equipment sale announced in September 2011. On regional issues such as the Arab-Israeli dispute, Bahrain has tended to defer to Saudi Arabia or other powers to take the lead in formulating proposals or representing the position of the Persian Gulf states, collectively.

Fueling Shiite unrest is the fact that Bahrain, having largely run out of crude oil reserves, is poorer than most of the other Persian Gulf monarchies. The country has tried to compensate through diversification, particularly with banking and some manufacturing. In September 2004, the United States and Bahrain signed a free trade agreement (FTA); legislation implementing it was signed January 11, 2006 (P.L. 109-169). The unrest in 2011 has further strained Bahrain’s economy.



Date of Report: October 1
8, 2011
Number of Pages:
31
Order Number:
95-1013
Price: $29.95

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