Afghanistan
Report: Pakistan’s Ideological Blowback

Report: Pakistan’s Ideological Blowback

If the bucolic Swat valley, tucked into the Himalayas less than 100 miles from the capital city of Islamabad, is a bellwether for Pakistan’s war against the Pakistani Taliban, the war is going badly. The Swat District — an integrated part of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as opposed to the autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) — has been beyond government control since 2007. In this period the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammaden Islamic Law), a militant Pakistani Taliban group, thoroughly destroyed the threadbare state institutions that existed in the area. Most notably they targeted schools and the police force. Rebuilding these will take years.

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Changing the Discourse: First Step toward Changing the Policy?

President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated Cairo speech reflected a significant shift away from the ideological framework of militarism and unilateralism that shaped the Bush administration’s war-based policy toward the Arab and Muslim worlds. His "not Bush" focus was perhaps most sharply evident in his public denunciation of the Iraq War as a "war of choice." Obama’s call for a "new beginning" based on "the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition" was followed by a move to shift the official U.S. discourse toward something closer to internationalism — particularly by pointing to parallels between historical (and some contemporary) grievances and treating them as equivalent. This included his reference to the U.S. "role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government," along with Iran’s "role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians."

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Shadow Wars

Sudan: The two F-16s caught the trucks deep in the northern desert. Within minutes, the column of vehicles was a string of shattered wrecks burning fiercely in the January sun. Surveillance drones spotted a few vehicles that had survived the storm of bombs and cannon shells, and the fighter-bombers returned to finish the job.

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Obama’s First 100 Days: Foreign Policy

Editor’s note: This article appears in Thirsting for Change: Obama’s First 100 Days, a report published by the Institute for Policy Studies. The Bush administration transformed the way the United States dealt with the world. It invaded two countries, began a war on terror that had no geographic or time limits, boosted military spending, acted unilaterally, and ignored international law. Although his second term was more pragmatic than his first — with an important reversal on North Korea policy and rapprochement with Libya — George W. Bush generally emphasized military force over diplomatic negotiations, acting more like a cowboy than a statesman.

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The VP Debate: Dishonest Foreign Policies

The October 3 debate between Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Delaware Senator Joe Biden was disturbing for those of us hoping for a more enlightened and honest foreign policy during the next four years. In its aftermath, pundits mainly focused on Palin’s failure to self-destruct and Biden’s relatively cogent arguments. Here’s an annotation of the foreign policy issues raised during the vice-presidential debate, which was packed with demonstrably false and misleading statements.

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Turkey’s Troubles

The United States’ rather muted, lackadaisical response to the constitutional conflagration set to engulf the future of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) should be of grave concern to those committed to the achievement of greater stabilization and liberal democratization within the Middle East. The pending decision of the Turkish Constitutional Court over whether or not to ban the democratically elected AKP, as well as the international response towards such proceedings, are setting important, potentially dangerous, precedents for both Iraq and Afghanistan’s already fledgling, nascent democracies.

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The Taliban and Pakistan: Strategic Dialogue

In Preparing for Peace in Pakistan and Is Pakistan Appeasing the Taliban?, Mehlaqa Samdani and Sharad Joshi offered different interpretations of the ongoing negotiations between the Pakistani government and extremist groups operating along the country’s frontiers. Here they respond to each other’s arguments. In addition, Tarique Niazi, author of several FPIF briefs on Pakistan, responds to both initial essays.

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