By David Gardner
Washington, DC (PRWEB) October 11, 2014
President Barack Obama has “given up” on Pakistan, former White House national security adviser Bruce Riedel said in a keynote speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, October 8.
Mr. Riedel, a senior adviser on South Asia and the Middle East to the last four presidents in the staff of the National Security Council, accused the Obama administration of putting Pakistan “on the back burner” since Osama bin Laden’s assassination.
He blamed the failure on a “neglect of the political side of the counter-terrorism struggle.”
“I would characterize the president’s policy as getting off to a very good start,” he told a conference on Pakistan’s education crisis co-hosted by the Pakistan-based nonprofit, The Citizens Foundation (TCF) and the Woodrow Wilson Center.
“If you look back to 2009 and 2010 there was barely a day when a member of the American Cabinet wasn’t in Islamabad trying to coax, push, pressure, cajole, sweet talk, you name it,” said Mr. Riedel.
“Now, they never go. It’s like they gave up,” he added. “That’s not a policy. Giving up is not a policy. This country is far too important to just neglect.”
Mr. Riedel was the keynote speaker on Wednesday at the joint TCF/Wilson Center conference titled: “Pakistan’s Biggest Challenge: Turning Around a Broken Education System.”
He said the initiative to reform education in Pakistan was “one of the most important issues” in the world today.
Offering a bleak assessment of the rise in extremism in South Asia, he claimed al-Qaeda was a “resilient” enemy with an ideology “probably stronger, more diffusive and more widespread” than when the terror network first emerged 16 years ago.
“This is a tiny minority of Muslims who want to hijack a great religion for their own political purposes,” he said.
The reason the war with al-Qaeda continues is not because of America’s democracy or its way of life, he explained.
“It’s about the policies we pursue,” he continued.”I think when Obama came into office in 2009 he recognized all of these things and when you think back to 2009 he spoke about all of them; about a new American outreach to the Islamic world, about dealing with the problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ending settlements. He talked about good governance, he talked about change and reform.”
But six years later, claimed Mr. Riedel, all of those efforts have “atrophied and died away.”
Mr Riedel, now an author and senior fellow and director of the Brookings Intelligence Project, said the catalyst for America’s neglect of Pakistan was the discovery that bin Laden was hiding “not in a cave” but 500 yards from one of the country’s premier military academies in Abbottabad.
“I think for understandable reasons a lot of Americans came to the conclusion, they’re not on our side therefore let’s ignore them. It’s an understandable reaction but a foolish reaction.
“Pakistan is one of the most important countries in the world today. It will soon be the largest Islamic country in the world in terms of population; it sits at a strategically vital place. It is at the cornerstone of India, China and the Middle East. It is a country that has exported many, many people to our own country that has been one of the most successful ethnic immigrant groups in American history,” said Mr. Riedel.
“It is a patron state sponsor of terror and a victim of terror all at the same time,” he added.
Despite his pessimistic assessment of America’s attitude towards Pakistan, Mr. Riedel spoke of a major educational accomplishment in Afghanistan.
In 2001, less than 100,000 Afghans were going to school, not one of them a girl, he said. Now nine million Afghan children are going to school, with 50% of them girls.
“That’s a pretty good accomplishment and something we should be proud of,” he added.
THE CITIZENS FOUNDATION USA supports the building of civil society in Pakistan and promotes gender equality by providing quality scientific and balanced education for underprivileged children.
Bruce Riedel’s October 8 speech in Washington DC can be viewed on video on the Wilson Center website:
Any media questions should be directed to:
Media Relations, TCF
+1 310 433 2392
TCF-USA Website: http://www.tcfusa.org
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