Report of Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)Travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
We visited Pakistan on Sunday, May 25, and Afghanistan, Monday, May 26. Additionally, Senator Levin remained in Afghanistan on Tuesday, May 27, while Senator Casey continued his trip to Karachi, Pakistan, and several days in India.
In Pakistan, we visited with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf; Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani; Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani; Asif Zardari, Co-Chairman, Pakistan Peoples Party; Chaudhary Nisar Ali-Khan, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PLM-N) Party; and U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson. We also attended a dinner hosted by Ambassador Patterson, which included a number of Pakistani ministers, including Mohammad Ishaq Dar, Minister of Finance; Ahsan Iqbal, Minister of Education; and Farooq H. Naik, Minister of Law and Justice.
In Afghanistan, we visited with Afghan President Hamid Kharzai; U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan William B. Wood; General Dan McNeill, Commander, NATO International Security Assistance Force; Speaker of the Lower House Younis Qanuni; and Speaker of the Upper House Sibghatullah Mojaddedi. The delegation also had lunch with the troops at Camp Eggers. After Senator Casey’s departure on the evening of May 26th, Senator Levin attended a dinner hosted by Ambassador Wood with Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and met on Tuesday, May 27th with Kai Eide, United Nations Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan; Major General Robert Cone, Commanding General, Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan; and Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, Commander, Combined Joint Task Force 101. Senator Levin also toured a new primary school and met with elders from the three Village Community Development Councils who oversaw the planning and building of the school using international development funds under the Afghanistan National Solidarity Program.
At the outset, we want to pay tribute to the courageous and dedicated servicemen and women we met throughout our trip and, as we commemorated Memorial Day in Afghanistan, to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of our nation in today’s and past wars.
Pakistan’s new civilian government is presently weakened by a disagreement among the two main coalition parties over the process to restore the judges dismissed by President Musharraf, resulting in the resignation of a number of Cabinet officials. This is taking place in the midst of sharply rising energy prices, wheat shortages and increased violence.
Pakistan has been plagued by terrorism in recent times and its Army has suffered substantial casualties in recent months. The safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) (including North and South Waziristan) and the Quetta area provide training areas and launching points for Al Qaeda and Taliban incursions into Afghanistan. The newly elected government of Prime Minister Gilani, as well as his coalition partners, maintain that they recognize that terrorism is a threat to their own nation as well as to Afghanistan. All of the Pakistani officials with whom we met insist that they will ensure that any peace agreement they enter into with the Tribal elders in the areas along the border with Afghanistan will contain an explicit commitment by the latter to prevent cross-border incursions into Afghanistan and that the commitment will have strong enforcement mechanisms which will be enforced. Although that is welcome news, it remains to be seen if this is more than words, especially in light of previous unkept commitments along this line.
Congress was recently notified by the Administration of the intention to use $74.5 million for a Security Development Plan (SDP) to train and equip the Pakistan Frontier Corps to conduct counterinsurgency activities within the FATA and the Northwest Frontier Province and to stop cross-border incursions into Afghanistan. This would be on top of the reimbursement to Pakistan of approximately $5.6 billion over the last 6 years out of Coalition Support Funds.
Afghanistan is in the seventh year of a war that has seen the expulsion of the Taliban, the restoration of democracy, the installation of a transitional government, the adoption of a Constitution, the election of a President and a bicameral legislature, and the mounting of an insurgency by a rejuvenated Taliban that draws support from al Qaeda and drug traffickers. It produces more than 90% of the world’s heroin. Afghanistan’s particular vulnerability stems from Taliban and al Qaeda safe havens in the FATA and Quetta areas of Pakistan from which terrorists cross the border into Afghanistan to attack Afghan, U.S. and NATO targets. Afghanistan is an extremely poor country, whose economy has been wrecked by 30 years of conflict and wide-spread corruption. Afghanistan badly needs to strengthen its governmental institutions.
Afghan officials with whom we met, from President Karzai on down, believe that Pakistan provides significant support to the Taliban and wants to maintain Afghanistan as a weak neighbor. There is a consensus among Afghan leaders that, even if the Pakistani Government leaders want to prevent cross-border incursions, the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the overarching Pakistani intelligence agency, are not under government control and either actively support the Taliban or look the other way while they cross the border into Afghanistan. We were advised by senior U.S. military officials that the day we arrived in Afghanistan, during a firefight in the vicinity of the border with Pakistan, Pakistani forces sent ambulances to retrieve wounded Taliban or al Qaeda affiliated fighters and to bring them back within Pakistan. They also pointed out that in August of last year, some 250 Pakistani soldiers, including a colonel and 8 other officers, were taken prisoner when they offered no resistance to pro-Taliban militants who ambushed their convoy.
On the good news side, the Afghan soldier is a capable fighter and has a strong will to fight for his nation, and the Afghan Army is increasingly taking the lead against the insurgency. The Afghan Army does not have a role in border security, however, which is left to an under-equipped and under-armed border patrol. The Afghan military leadership worries about the United States’ staying power. The Afghan police, whose training was recently taken over by the U.S. military, has a long way to go to overcome its corrupt and ineffective legacy, resulting, at least in part, from its abysmally low pay.
The Afghan government has been ineffective and apparently uncommitted to dealing with the drug problem. President Karzai, however, committed to us, as did the Prime Minister, to take drug labs down if they are identified to the Afghan government. NATO and U.S. forces, meanwhile, do not have counterdrugs as a mission, despite the contribution of drug money to the funding of terrorist activities.
NATO continues to be hampered by national caveats, i.e. the refusal by some nations to allow their forces to take offensive action against the insurgents or even to be located in areas where the insurgents routinely operate. NATO’s rules of engagement (ROE) do not even permit the use of force in self-defense against imminent threats, i.e. the clear indication of hostile intent, accompanied by the capability to act. This is clearly unacceptable. In border areas, the NATO ROE are particularly troublesome, because, unlike U.S. ROE, they also do not permit firing across the border, even in response to a hostile act. Finally, NATO nations continue to fail to provide the additional troops and equipment (principally helicopters) requested by the on-scene commander and approved by the Alliance.
Has Pakistan decided that terrorism is a threat to itself or will it continue to make deals with the terrorists to allow them safe havens for training and to launch incursions into Afghanistan in return for “assurances” not to mount an insurgency inside Pakistan?
Is the stated intention by all Pakistani officials to stop cross-border incursions into Afghanistan sincere and will it be implemented, both in the FATA and in Quetta?
Should the United States provide substantial funding to train and equip the Pakistani Frontier Corp, which is drawn from the local population in the FATA, to stop cross-border incursions into Afghanistan, or will that strengthen a capability that will be used against Afghanistan, as the Afghan leaders believe?
The Afghan Army should take over the responsibility from the lightly armed Afghan border police for border security in the Eastern border area, where a robust U.S. quick reaction capability exists.
The United States should expand the number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on patrol in the Pakistan/Afghan border area to collect better intelligence and conduct surveillance of potential targets.
The Afghan Army, the U.S. military and the forces of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) should be given the mission to destroy drug labs when they find them in view of the contribution that drug money makes to the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists.
The NATO rules of engagement should be changed to authorize the use of force in self-defense in response to imminent threats, i.e. the clear manifestation of hostile intent coupled with the capability and the will to act, as well as hostile acts themselves, including across the Afghan/Pakistan border.
Funding for the Pakistan Frontier Corps should be conditioned upon the inclusion in the peace agreements being negotiated between the Pakistan Government and the tribal leaders of an explicit commitment to stop the incursions of Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists into Afghanistan and a clear determination to do so. Such funding should be suspended if the tribal leaders and the Frontier Corps do not maintain a focused effort to end those incursions.