1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
|Introducing AEI's CriticalThreats.org: A project of AEI designed to provide the public and policy experts with detailed, objective tracking and analysis of the primary national security challenges the United States faces today.
Please join us for the launch of the AEI Critical Threats Project website, www.criticalthreats.org,
Download Audio as MP3 and for a review of the site's key projects: tracking extremists, analyzing the terrain, and understanding the conflict at hand in the greater Middle East.
While all eyes are on the fight in Afghanistan and the showdown with Iran, danger to American interests mounts elsewhere. Pakistan is being terrorized by brazen militant attacks against civilian and military targets; in Yemen, al Qaeda fighters, secessionists, and al Houthi rebels threaten to destabilize the country; and, in Somalia, al Shabaab aspires to establish an Islamist state with global ambitions.
Following an introduction by AEI's vice president of foreign and defense policy studies Danielle Pletka and a detailed, up-to-date briefing on the one-month-old conflict in Waziristan—a region in northwest Pakistan along the Afghan border that is home to the Pakistani Taliban and a number of al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban-linked militants—expert panelists will discuss the status of the Waziristan operation and its impact on regional security concerns. Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, Hassan Mneimneh, al Qaeda expert and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, will participate in a panel moderated by Frederick W. Kagan, director of AEI's Critical Threats Project.
|2:00||Introduction:||Danielle Pletka, AEI|
|Briefing: Waziristan Ground Operation Update|
|Presenters:||Reza Jan, Critical Threats Project Researcher, AEI|
|Charlie Szrom, Critical Threats Project Program Manager, AEI|
|Moderator:||Frederick W. Kagan, Critical Threats Project Director and Resident Scholar, AEI|
|2:45||Panel: The Security Situation in Pakistan and the Greater Middle East|
|Panelists:||Ali Al-Ahmed, Institute for Gulf Affairs|
|Hassan Mneimneh, Hudson Institute|
|Shuja Nawaz, Atlantic Council of the United States|
|Moderator:||Frederick W. Kagan, Critical Threats Project Director and Resident Scholar, AEI|
Washington, DC 20036
American Enterprise Institute
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 18--On October 17, 2009, the Pakistani military launched a long-awaited operation targeting the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the tribal area of South Waziristan along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The operation, which has progressed relatively successfully thus far, could have significant ramifications on the war in Afghanistan, as well as on the global jihad movement. AEI's new project, the Critical Threats Project (CTP), has tracked the situation in South Waziristan closely. On November 18, the CTP launched its new website, www.criticalthreats.org, by presenting a detailed look at the Pakistani operation, as well as hosting a high-profile panel to discuss how the current security situation in Pakistan might affect al Qaeda and its associated movements.
Charlie Szrom, the program manager for the CTP, and Reza Jan, a CTP researcher, provided background information on Pakistan's military operation in South Waziristan and gave a detailed analysis of the ongoing operation. The military has advanced from three positions -- one in the north, one in the southeast, and one in the southwest -- taking strategic positions until it reached the TTP's nerve-center of Makeen. Using maps produced by the CTP team, they provided a week-by-week picture of the gains made by the Pakistani military on all its fronts since mid-October. Szrom and Jan credit the Pakistani military's relative success to its ability to learn from previous operations and technological advancements, as well as to the TTP's inability to adapt to the military's new tactics.
Szrom also discussed how recent trends in terrorist attacks in Pakistan might show a decreased TTP ability to operate outside the North-West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas; this pattern of attacks may also reveal that the TTP, in recent days, has avoided operations that primarily target civilians. According to polling data presented at the briefing, Pakistani popular opinion has shifted against the TTP due to these and other attacks over the past year and a half, with a significant spike in favor of operations against the extremists this spring.
Part II of the program featured a panel of respected scholars, including Hassan Mneimneh of the Hudson Institute, Ali Al-Ahmed of the Institute of Gulf Affairs, and Shuja Nawaz of the Atlantic Council of the Untied States, examining the significance of the Waziristan operation on global security. Frederick W. Kagan, an AEI resident scholar and the director of CTP, moderated the conversation and introduced it by lauding the Pakistanis for initiating the operation against the TTP, which, he argued, American media and policymakers have underappreciated. He also drew a parallel between Pakistan's challenges in Waziristan and America's challenges in Afghanistan by emphasizing that one of the reasons the Pakistanis have been successful is because they engaged in the battle with the number of troops necessary to achieve the objective.
Hassan Mneimneh, an expert on al Qaeda and its associated movements, explained that if the Pakistani military's success in targeting Islamists continues, it could have significant positive implications for the War on Terror. He made clear that "al Qaeda has not recovered from the surge in Iraq," which it had hoped would serve as its next safe haven. Consequently, al Qaeda has rushed to name Pakistan as its next center of operations, but the current military operations in Pakistan could hinder al Qaeda's ambitions.
Ali Al-Ahmed, an expert on Wahhabi Islam and terrorism, explained that "Pakistan has long been the nerve-center for al Qaeda," providing the network with shelter, room to plan and train, and logistical support. He argued that al Qaeda will continue to survive in Pakistan, regardless of the current military operations, for several reasons. First, he pointed out that al Qaeda has deep roots in Pakistan and many natural allies there. He also suggested that most senior al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan are hiding in crowded urban areas, instead of South Waziristan. Finally, he said that Pakistan has a fairly well-developed technological infrastructure, which allows networks to communicate, transfer funds, and forge documents with relative ease.
The final panelist, Shuja Nawaz, concluded the second part of the Critical Threats Project Briefing by taking an in-depth look at the way Pakistan is handling its national security. "We have to look at this as a complex military, political, and economic issue," Nawaz said. He suggested Pakistan's civilian government has inadequately addressed the Islamist issue, and he urged more cooperation with the military. He also emphasized the importance of the civilian government taking a stand against the militants: "The government needs to speak up against the un-Islamic ways of the militants." Nawaz was less optimistic than other CTP briefing panelists regarding the effect Pakistan's current military operations may have on the global jihad movement. He pointed out a number of measures that must take place to reduce significantly the threat posed by militant Islamists, the greatest of which may be eliminating the Taliban and al Qaeda recruiting pool.
Ali Al-Ahmed is a Saudi scholar and expert on Saudi political affairs, including terrorism, Islamic movements, Wahhabi Islam, Saudi political history, Saudi-American relations, and the al-Saud family history. Mr. Al-Ahmed is a writer and public speaker on Saudi political issues. He has authored reports on Saudi Arabia regarding religious freedom, freedom of the press, torture, and religious curriculums. Mr. Al-Ahmed has served as a frequent consultant to major world media outlets, including CBS News, CNN, PBS, Fox News, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press.
Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar and the director of the Critical Threats Project at AEI. He served as an adviser to General Stanley A. McChrystal this summer, and his most recent reports, based on multiple trips to Afghanistan, focus on force requirements and analyses of how various stakeholders in Afghanistan and Pakistan would respond to different U.S. policy scenarios. He is the author of Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq, the first of four reports by the Iraq Planning Group at AEI. His most recent book, Ground Truth: The Future of U.S. Land Power, coauthored with Thomas Donnelly, was released in 2008 by the AEI Press. In 2006, he also published End of the Old Order: Napoleon and Europe, 1801-1805 (De Capo Books) and Finding the Target: The Transformation of American Military Policy (Encounter Books). Mr. Kagan was previously an associate professor of military history at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. A contributing editor at The Weekly Standard, he has written numerous articles on defense and foreign policy issues for Foreign Affairs, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times, among other periodicals.
Hassan Mneimneh is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Formerly director of the Iraq Memory Foundation, Mr. Mneimneh supervised the structuring, annotation, and analysis of a massive archive of documents from the Saddam Hussein regime, as well as the production of television programs aimed at empowering Iraqi citizens through the dissection of previous abuse of power and the examination of current conditions. Mr. Mneimneh was previously executive director of the Iraq Foundation and codirector of the Iraq Research and Documentation Center. He was also one of the political development experts consulted by the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group. Mr. Mneimneh has written extensively on radicalization and insurgency in the Middle East and continues to participate in initiatives designed to assess and counter extremism in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Shuja Nawaz is the director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council of the United States. He is an expert on the Pakistan army and Pakistani security. Mr. Nawaz frequently speaks before civic groups and think tanks and on radio and television, and he writes for leading newspapers and the Huffington Post. Previously, Mr. Nawaz has worked on projects with RAND, the United States Institute of Peace, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and other leading think tanks on projects dealing with Pakistan and the Middle East. Mr. Nawaz has worked as a newscaster and producer for Pakistan Television, covering Pakistan’s war with India in 1971. He has also worked for the World Health Organization, has headed three separate divisions at the International Monetary Fund, and has been a director at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. Mr. Nawaz is the author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within (Oxford University Press, 2008) and FATA: A Most Dangerous Place (Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 2009).