On August 22nd, Ambassador Husain Haqqani appeared on PBS News Hour to discuss President Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As we’ve reported, President Trump last night laid out several new approaches to the conflict in Afghanistan, including proposals for how to involve neighboring countries. He offered few details, but he singled out Pakistan’s support for the Taliban as being particularly problematic.
We get two views about what was new in the address and what this all means from Husain Haqqani. He was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011. He’s the author of several books about the history of Pakistan. He is currently the director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute.
Laurel Miller was the deputy and then acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2013 until June 2017. She served on the National Security Council staff and at the State Department during the Clinton administration. She is now a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation.
And we welcome both of you to the program.
Ambassador Haqqani to you first. Overall, what was new and different about this speech, and in particular the fact that the president said the focus is now going to be on rooting out terrorists and it’s going to be conditions based. What did that mean to you?
HUSAIN HAQQANI, Former Ambassador, Pakistan: Well, the two most important things that I saw in President Trump’s address were a removal of deadlines. That to me is very important, because the Taliban have had a saying for years that the Americans have watches and we have the time. When you set deadlines and show urgency about leaving Afghanistan, they really know they can wait you out, and so can the Pakistanis who support them.
So that I think is the change. It might actually be easier for the United States to get out of Afghanistan by saying, we do not intend to get out without doing what we really came here to do, which was to eliminate a terrorist safe haven.
The second thing I found interesting was that instead of offering a carrot to Pakistan, which has been the past practice, and a little bit of reprimanding Pakistan, there was a clear acknowledgment of the fact that Pakistan is not a good actor in Afghanistan.
It pains me to say that. I am a Pakistani. I served Pakistan as ambassador, but Pakistan has never been transparent about its attitude towards Afghanistan. And it has had an imaginary fear of India having a strong presence in Afghanistan.
President Trump has implied that he will invite India into Afghanistan, bringing Pakistan’s nightmare to reality. And that may have some effect in changing Pakistan’s calculus that several billion dollars in American assistance did not do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. Let’s take those one at a time. Laurel Miller, what about this notion that the president is talking about conditions? He pointed out last night that the U.S. gives Pakistan billions of dollars, he said to a country that is supporting the terrorists we’re trying to get rid of. And today, we heard Secretary Tillerson saying we’re going to be looking at whether Pakistan delivers, and there are going to be results if it doesn’t.
LAUREL MILLER, Former State Department Official: Over an extended of period, the U.S. has provided substantial support the Pakistan, primarily security related, but that’s been dwindling quite considerably over past years and is expected to dwindle further. And s a consequence, it’s not really a major point of leverage with the Pakistanis anymore. The U.S. is not providing billions of dollars any longer to Pakistan.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, that was incorrect to say billions —
LAUREL MILLER: If you calculate the amount that has been provided over a long stretch of time, it’s billions of dollars. But on an annual basis now, it’s nowhere near that. It’s well under a billion dollars a year. By contrast, the Chinese provide much, much greater levels of support to the Pakistanis. And so, it’s quite notable that the Chinese have come out today, giving a boost of support for the Pakistanis.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Ambassador Haqqani, is it really that serious leverage then? Because we hear Laurel Miller saying it’s not that much money.
HUSAIN HAQQANI: Well, with all due respect to Laurel, here are the facts: Pakistan has received $43 billion since 1954. Pakistan built its nuclear program while promising not to build it. A long track record, Pakistan offered bases in which return Pakistan was supposed to have been compensated way back in the ’50s and ’60s. Only provided an intelligence base, didn’t provide the air base that was promised.
The point is there is a pattern here. And that pattern is enabled by arguments like the one that, this is not as much money.
China on the other hand gives Pakistan loans, which is what they are offering, and they have investment schemes which the Pakistani government is facilitating. Pakistan has not made those kind of offers to United States investors, which investment from the United States will have to be from private sector.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
HUSAIN HAQQANI: But what is more important is that what is Pakistan doing basically that is — amounts to coincidence of U.S. and Pakistan interests. Pakistan wants the Taliban back in Afghanistan. The U.S. does not. Pakistan is a major nuclear proliferator. The U.S. does not want that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me just stop you there.
HUSAIN HAQQANI: What is the interest that we are paying — that the United States is paying Pakistan, whatever, hundreds of millions of dollars? And the money is important to Pakistan, because Pakistan is a hard currency poorer country, and Pakistan’s government does not raise enough taxes. So, for that reason —
JUDY WOODRUFF: I’m going to turn — I’m sorry.
HUSAIN HAQQANI: — has been the government — yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I have to interrupt because I want to give Ms. Miller some time to speak, as well.
I think bottom line here is, is there leverage that the United States has to get Pakistan to close that border?
LAUREL MILLER: There is some leverage. I mean, look, the border can’t be closed. It’s a very porous border. It’s very difficult territory.
So, the idea of literally closing the border is an impossibility. But certainly, there’s much more that the Pakistanis could do to close down the sanctuaries that Taliban leadership in particular enjoy in Pakistan.
But, you know, it’s not that there’s no leverage on the Pakistanis. But the Pakistanis are not going to change their perception of their own national security interests based only on American pressure. There has to be something that attracts the Pakistanis to cooperate in a positive way with the United States.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And do you see that as part of what the president has proposed?
LAUREL MILLER: I don’t. I mean, to the contrary, one of the key missing elements of what the president announced last night is any semblance of a political strategy for Afghanistan, a political end game in Afghanistan that could bring stability to the country and that could give the Pakistanis and other regional players an opportunity to see the potential for their own interests to be satisfied.
Moreover, one of the few new elements in what the president announced last night was an invitation to India to play a more significant role.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And can that have a — can that have a salutary effect?
LAUREL MILLER: That is going to significantly antagonize the Pakistanis. That pushes the Pakistanis’ most sensitive buttons. What Pakistan is most concerned about with respect to an Indian role in Afghanistan is the prospect for Afghanistan to become a more India-friendly place and more Pakistan to be encircled in that way.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, s many threads here to follow. We will continue to look at all of this.
Laurel Miller, thank you very much.
Ambassador Husain Haqqani, we thank you.
HUSAIN HAQQANI: Thank you.