Geopolitics

The Iraq War: Recollections

It seemed appropriate, therefore, to hear from those at STRATFOR who fought in the war and survived. STRATFOR is graced with seven veterans of the war and one Iraqi who lived through it. It is interesting to me that all of our Iraq veterans were enlisted personnel. I don’t know what that means, but it pleases me for some reason. Their short recollections are what STRATFOR has to contribute to the end of the war. It is, I think, far more valuable than anything I could possibly say. Read more

Saddam’s accurate prediction

The current issue of Vanity Fair reprints a transcript from the forthcoming The Saddam Tapes: The Inner Workings of a Tyrant’s Regime, 1978–2001.

In this conversation he muses over the US foray into Somalia in the early 1990s.

    Saddam: “If the Americans continue such politics, they are going to face major troubles. Why would anyone want to elect an American? What did he say to him to influence him? He will probably say to him that he promises to improve the economic situation. How could he improve the economic situation with American soldiers spread all over the world?

    Their economy will never improve with the expenses they spent in the Gulf and in Europe. They spent $68 billion in the Gulf, and in Europe, they spent $128 billion. If America does not withdraw its troops from all over the world, its economy could never improve. America is not in its youth phase. America is at the edge of elderliness and at the beginning phase of old age. This is nature, once you reach [inaudible]. The man might delay the deterioration; however, I cannot imagine the deterioration continuing. I mean it is impossible to give up its role of interference and influencing, and the latest foolishness made people apprehend it more and forced the blocks to move faster than before.

    If America implemented a good policy, made a political difference in the world, emphasized improving the economy, etc, America would earn more respect from the rest of the world; however, it is not afraid at all. This means it is not aware of the consequences. That might result in close relations with China, the Soviet Union and India, Japan with Asia. Germany will develop to be an industrial threat and France will overspread the world markets. It will cause a major chaos all over the world.”

    Unidentified Man: “Sir, yesterday, as Your Excellency knows, the American president stated that the first thing he needs to do is allocate funds for the American troops overseas, [inaudible]. He made such a statement yesterday at the conference.”

    Saddam: “It is impossible for him to do that in order to improve his economy. He could save a billion dollars from here, a million dollars from somewhere else, another two million from another place that could be useful, but it would not heal his wound that is so deep it cannot be healed unless he turns to the military budget.”

Obama’s Dilemma: U.S. Foreign Policy and Electoral Realities

Obama’s campaign was about more than particular policies. He ran on a platform that famously promised change and hope. His tremendous political achievement was in framing those concepts in such a way that they were interpreted by voters to mean precisely what they wanted them to mean without committing Obama to specific policies. Read more

Israeli-Arab Crisis Approaching

When the United Nations votes on Palestinian statehood, it will intersect with other realities and other historical processes. First, it is one thing to declare a Palestinian state; it is quite another thing to create one. The Palestinians are deeply divided between two views of what the Palestinian nation ought to be, a division not easily overcome. Second, this vote will come at a time when two of Israel’s neighbors are coping with their own internal issues. Read more

On the Spratlys: Jayakumar’s Joint Development Proposal

For this week’s issue of PH.CN, I would like to share with my readers the viewpoint of Former Singaporean Senior Minister Shunmugan Jayakumar on how to positively solve the Spratlys debacle for the benefit of all claimant countries. The piece below was delivered by Mr. Jayakumar during the Center for International Law’s (CIL) 2-day closed-door international conference on Joint Development and the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea held a couple of weeks ago in Singapore.

The Spratly Islands in the South China Sea have long been a source of tension and potential conflict in this region. Some or all of the islands and reefs are claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Many are occupied by the claimants and some have even been fortified.

The recent incidents since March this year involving China, Vietnam and the Philippines are particularly dangerous and disturbing. The most recent incident took place on June 9 about 270km from Vung Tau in the southern part of Vietnam. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the first such incident in this area.

To avoid any potential conflict, there is an urgent need to clarify the extent of the various claims and speedily conclude the implementation guidelines of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (2002 DOC). The 2002 DOC should be seen as a step towards the elaboration of a binding Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.

In my view, stable relations between China and Asean, on the one hand, and among all the major powers with interests in the region, on the other hand, are essential conditions for regional growth and prosperity. In that sense, what is at stake is much more than the merits of specific territorial claims in the South China Sea. In this regard, two major powers – China and the United States – must take certain steps.

China: It should not continue to leave unaddressed the concerns and questions raised by many over its puzzling and disturbing nine-dotted-lines map.

I say it is ‘puzzling’ because it does not seem to have any basis under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), which China has repeatedly said it respects. I say it is ‘disturbing’ because it can be interpreted as being a claim on all the maritime areas within the nine dotted lines.

This ambiguity has led to concerns not just among claimant states, and it is clearly in China’s interests to clarify the extent of its claims and thereby dispel any apprehensions over its intentions. Failure to do so could jeopardise the trust essential for any peaceful resolution and undermine all the gains Chinese diplomacy has made over the last two decades.

United States: The US is a major maritime power whose engagement with, and presence in, the region is crucial for maintaining stability in the South China Sea. Unfortunately, it has yet to become a party to Unclos. This despite the US having stressed many times its interests in the South China Sea, especially freedom of navigation. Every administration since President Bill Clinton’s has requested the Senate to accede to Unclos and I hope the current Senate will do so.

Singapore is not a claimant state and we have good relations with all of the claimants. We are neutral vis-a-vis the various claims. This does not mean we have no interests.

Like Indonesia and other non-claimant Asean states, Singapore’s interest is to ensure that these claims do not threaten regional peace and stability or impede freedom of maritime navigation, overflight rights and the freedom to lay and repair submarine cables in the South China Sea.

As a small state, we also have an interest in ensuring that all the claimant states, when pursuing their rights and obligations, will always act in accordance with international law, including the Unclos. In this regard, the Philippines’ decision to amend its archipelagic baselines law in 2009 to bring its legislation into conformity with Unclos is a positive move.

Unclos contains no provisions on how to resolve sovereignty disputes over islands or other geographic features. It only sets out what maritime zones can be claimed from such islands or features and that delimitation of overlapping maritime zones shall be effected by agreement on the basis of international law, in order to achieve an equitable solution.

Some Unclos member states such as Australia, China and Korea have chosen under Article 298 to opt out of the Unclos dispute settlement mechanism for disputes relating to maritime delimitation. Unclos also has a provision whereby, when it is impossible for states to reach an agreement on delimitation, these parties should make every effort to enter into ‘provisional arrangements of a practical nature’.

On July 22, 1992, Asean foreign ministers adopted the Asean Declaration on the South China Sea in response to increased tensions in the South China Sea in the early 1990s. The 1992 Declaration calls upon claimant states to:

  • Resolve disputes by peaceful means;
  • Exercise restraint;
  • Explore the possibility of cooperation; and
  • Use the 1967 Treaty of Amity as a basis for establishing a code of conduct for the South China Sea.In the mid-1990s, discussions to reduce tensions in the South China Sea began at a bilateral level. In August 1995, the Philippines and China issued a joint statement on conduct in the South China Sea, followed by the Philippines and Vietnam in November 1995.In July 1996, Asean foreign ministers agreed to conclude a regional code of conduct in the South China Sea. Asean states and China subsequently agreed in December 1997 to, inter alia, resolve their disputes in the South China Sea through friendly consultations and negotiations in accordance with universally recognised international law, including Unclos.

Between 1996 and 2001, Asean states and China held discussions aimed at adopting a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. As some states were reluctant to adopt a legally binding code of conduct, a proposal was made to first adopt a non-binding ‘declaration’.

On Nov 4, 2002, the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea was adopted by the foreign ministers of Asean and China. The 2002 DOC, inter alia:

  • Reaffirms the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea as provided for by universally recognised principles of international law, including Unclos;
  • Emphasises consultations and dialogues concerning relevant issues;
  • States that parties undertake to respect the provisions of this Declaration and take actions consistent therewith;
  • That parties agree to work, on the basis of consensus, towards regional peace and stability.The 2002 DOC provides for its implementation through confidence-building measures, cooperative measures, and through dialogue and consultation. A plan of action was adopted in November 2004 and a joint working group was established in December 2004 to formulate recommendations on (a) guidelines and the action plan for the implementation of the 2002 DOC; and (b) specific cooperative activities in the South China Sea.However, the working group’s Terms of Reference were silent on a Code of Conduct. Notably, although official statements in the past few years seem to reflect the continued importance of the 2002 DOC, little progress has been made in its implementation.

If negotiations do not lead to an agreed political solution, then in my view, the ideal is to follow the excellent examples set by Malaysia and Singapore and Malaysia and Indonesia in the Pedra Branca and Sipadan and Ligitan cases, respectively, where the disputes were referred to the International Court of Justice.

But I am also a realist. Territorial disputes and disputes over maritime delimitation are highly emotive issues. Many countries are reluctant to refer such disputes to adjudication or arbitration because the daunting prospect of losing the disputed territory is politically untenable. As I said in my recent book Diplomacy – A Singapore Experience: ‘Disputes over territorial sovereignty are especially difficult to resolve. Whatever the nature of the territory… territorial disputes always evoke intense political reactions and nationalist emotions. These constraints leave governments little room to reach a negotiated settlement or compromise. They fear that their own public will accuse them of ‘selling out’…

‘These downsides (in third-party adjudication – may explain why some of the territorial disputes in Asia, such as between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, or between Japan and Russia over the Kuril Islands, remain intractable. Consider also the many overlapping claims in the South China Sea. I believe all the claimant states must have concluded that no legal judgment is likely to resolve the issue completely. Some claimants may even feel that they can secure their claims on the ground by de facto control through superior force.’

If there is an impasse in attempts to resolve sovereignty and maritime delimitation disputes by negotiations, or if there is a reluctance to resort to third-party dispute settlement, what is the alternative if we want to avoid instability, tensions or, worse, conflict?

One option is that the countries concerned could consider the option of joint development – for instance, of hydrocarbon resources found in overlapping claim areas. Joint development agreements have emerged over the past 50 years as a viable means to allow oil exploration and exploitation in disputed areas while preserving the respective claims of the parties. It is also consistent with the Unclos concept of a ‘provisional arrangement of a practical nature’, without prejudice to the sovereignty disputes or the final determination of the maritime boundaries.

Six Asean member states (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam) and three North-east Asian countries (China, Japan and South Korea) have either officially agreed to negotiate joint development agreements, or have been party to a joint development agreement. This could be due to the Asian cultural preference for consensus-building and collective cooperation.

The idea of putting aside sovereignty claims and jointly developing hydrocarbon resources in waters surrounding the Spratly Islands has been mooted since the 1980s. The late Deng Xiaoping first promoted this principle of ‘setting aside dispute and pursuing joint development’ in China’s dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands. When China established diplomatic relations with South-east Asian countries in the 1970s and 1980s, Deng proposed the same approach for the Nansha (Spratly) Islands.

The fourth generation of Chinese leaders have continued talks with Asean leaders on the Spratly Islands and have reiterated their call for setting aside the dispute and pursuing joint development. Other claimants to the Spratly Islands such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei have also entered or agreed to enter into similar joint development agreements.

Image credit: Center for International Law

U.N. endorses gay rights declaration

 

Originally intended as a badge of shame by the Nazis, the pink triangle has been reclaimed as a symbol of gay pride

 

The United Nations passed a historic resolution which endorses the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. Members of the U.N. Human Rights Council voted 23 to 19 in favor of the declaration put forward by South Africa.

The resolution expressed “grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Those who voted for the resolution include the United States, E.U., Brazil and other Latin American countries. Some African and Muslim countries decry the endorsement.

The resolution calls for a panel discussion next spring with “constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against” gays, lesbians and transgender people.

via Huffinton Post

U.S.-Pakistani Relations Beyond Bin Laden

By George Friedman

The past week has been filled with announcements and speculations on how Osama bin Laden was killed and on Washington’s source of intelligence. After any operation of this sort, the world is filled with speculation on sources and methods by people who don’t know, and silence or dissembling by those who do.

Obfuscating on how intelligence was developed and on the specifics of how an operation was carried out is an essential part of covert operations. The precise process must be distorted to confuse opponents regarding how things actually played out; otherwise, the enemy learns lessons and adjusts. Ideally, the enemy learns the wrong lessons, and its adjustments wind up further weakening it. Operational disinformation is the final, critical phase of covert operations. So as interesting as it is to speculate on just how the United States located bin Laden and on exactly how the attack took place, it is ultimately not a fruitful discussion. Moreover, it does not focus on the truly important question, namely, the future of U.S.-Pakistani relations.

Posturing Versus a Genuine Breach

It is not inconceivable that Pakistan aided the United States in identifying and capturing Osama bin Laden, but it is unlikely. This is because the operation saw the already-tremendous tensions between the two countries worsen rather than improve. The Obama administration let it be known that it saw Pakistan as either incompetent or duplicitous and that it deliberately withheld plans for the operation from the Pakistanis. For their part, the Pakistanis made it clear that further operations of this sort on Pakistani territory could see an irreconcilable breach between the two countries. The attitudes of the governments profoundly affected the views of politicians and the public, attitudes that will be difficult to erase.

Posturing designed to hide Pakistani cooperation would be designed to cover operational details, not to lead to significant breaches between countries. The relationship between the United States and Pakistan ultimately is far more important than the details of how Osama bin Laden was captured, but both sides have created a tense atmosphere that they will find difficult to contain. One would not sacrifice strategic relationships for the sake of operational security. Therefore, we have to assume that the tension is real and revolves around the different goals of Pakistan and the United States.

A break between the United States and Pakistan holds significance for both sides. For Pakistan, it means the loss of an ally that could help Pakistan fend off its much larger neighbor to the east, India. For the United States, it means the loss of an ally in the war in Afghanistan. Whether the rupture ultimately occurs, of course, depends on how deep the tension goes. And that depends on what the tension is over, i.e., whether the tension ultimately merits the strategic rift. It also is a question of which side is sacrificing the most. It is therefore important to understand the geopolitics of U.S.-Pakistani relations beyond the question of who knew what about bin Laden.

From Cold to Jihadist War

U.S. strategy in the Cold War included a religious component, namely, using religion to generate tension within the Communist bloc. This could be seen in the Jewish resistance in the Soviet Union, in Roman Catholic resistance in Poland and, of course, in Muslim resistance to the Soviets in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, it took the form of using religious Islamist militias to wage a guerrilla war against Soviet occupation. A three-part alliance involving the Saudis, the Americans and the Pakistanis fought the Soviets. The Pakistanis had the closest relationships with the Afghan resistance due to ethnic and historical bonds, and the Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had built close ties with the Afghans.

As frequently happens, the lines of influence ran both ways. The ISI did not simply control Islamist militants, but instead many within the ISI came under the influence of radical Islamist ideology. This reached the extent that the ISI became a center of radical Islamism, not so much on an institutional level as on a personal level: The case officers, as the phrase goes, went native. As long as the U.S. strategy remained to align with radical Islamism against the Soviets, this did not pose a major problem. However, when the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States lost interest in the future of Afghanistan, managing the conclusion of the war fell to the Afghans and to the Pakistanis through the ISI. In the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States played a trivial role. It was the ISI in alliance with the Taliban — a coalition of Afghan and international Islamist fighters who had been supported by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan — that shaped the future of Afghanistan.

The U.S.- Islamist relationship was an alliance of convenience for both sides. It was temporary, and when the Soviets collapsed, Islamist ideology focused on new enemies, the United States chief among them. Anti-Soviet sentiment among radical Islamists soon morphed into anti-American sentiment. This was particularly true after the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait and Desert Storm. The Islamists perceived the U.S. occupation and violation of Saudi territorial integrity as a religious breach. Therefore, at least some elements of international Islamism focused on the United States; al Qaeda was central among these elements. Al Qaeda needed a base of operations after being expelled from Sudan, and Afghanistan provided the most congenial home. In moving to Afghanistan and allying with the Taliban, al Qaeda inevitably was able to greatly expand its links with Pakistan’s ISI, which was itself deeply involved with the Taliban.

After 9/11, Washington demanded that the Pakistanis aid the United States in its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban. For Pakistan, this represented a profound crisis. On the one hand, Pakistan badly needed the United States to support it against what it saw as its existential enemy, India. On the other hand, Islamabad found it difficult to rupture or control the intimate relationships, ideological and personal, that had developed between the ISI and the Taliban, and by extension with al Qaeda to some extent. In Pakistani thinking, breaking with the United States could lead to strategic disaster with India. However, accommodating the United States could lead to unrest, potential civil war and even collapse by energizing elements of the ISI and supporters of Taliban and radical Islamism in Pakistan.

The Pakistani Solution

The Pakistani solution was to appear to be doing everything possible to support the United States in Afghanistan, with a quiet limit on what that support would entail. That limit on support set by Islamabad was largely defined as avoiding actions that would trigger a major uprising in Pakistan that could threaten the regime. Pakistanis were prepared to accept a degree of unrest in supporting the war but not to push things to the point of endangering the regime.

The Pakistanis thus walked a tightrope between demands they provide intelligence on al Qaeda and Taliban activities and permit U.S. operations in Pakistan on one side and the internal consequences of doing so on the other. The Pakistanis’ policy was to accept a degree of unrest to keep the Americans supporting Pakistan against India, but only to a point. So, for example, the government purged the ISI of its overt supporters of radial Islamism, but it did not purge the ISI wholesale nor did it end informal relations between purged intelligence officers and the ISI. Pakistan thus pursued a policy that did everything to appear to be cooperative while not really meeting American demands.

The Americans were, of course, completely aware of the Pakistani limits and did not ultimately object to this arrangement. The United States did not want a coup in Islamabad, nor did it want massive civil unrest. The United States needed Pakistan on whatever terms the Pakistanis could provide help. It needed thesupply line through Pakistan from Karachi to the Khyber Pass. And while it might not get complete intelligence from Pakistan, the intelligence it did get was invaluable. Moreover, while the Pakistanis could not close the Afghan Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, they could limit them and control their operation to some extent. The Americans were as aware as the Pakistanis that the choice was between full and limited cooperation, but could well be between limited and no cooperation, because the government might well not survive full cooperation. The Americans thus took what they could get.

Obviously, this relationship created friction. The Pakistani position was that the United States had helped create this reality in the 1980s and 1990s. The American position was that after 9/11, the price of U.S. support involved the Pakistanis changing their policies. The Pakistanis said there were limits. The Americans agreed, so the fight was about defining the limits.

The Americans felt that the limit was support for al Qaeda. They felt that whatever Pakistan’s relationship with the Afghan Taliban was, support in suppressing al Qaeda, a separate organization, had to be absolute. The Pakistanis agreed in principle but understood that the intelligence on al Qaeda flowed most heavily from those most deeply involved with radical Islamism. In others words, the very people who posed the most substantial danger to Pakistani stability were also the ones with the best intelligence on al Qaeda — and therefore, fulfilling the U.S. demand in principle was desirable. In practice, it proved difficult for Pakistan to carry out.

The Breakpoint and the U.S. Exit From Afghanistan

This proved the breakpoint between the two sides. The Americans accepted the principle of Pakistani duplicity, but drew a line at al Qaeda. The Pakistanis understood American sensibilities but didn’t want to incur the domestic risks of going too far. This psychological breakpoint cracked open on Osama bin Laden, the Holy Grail of American strategy and the third rail of Pakistani policy.

Under normal circumstances, this level of tension of institutionalized duplicity should have blown the U.S.-Pakistani relationship apart, with the United States simply breaking with Pakistan. It did not, and likely will not for a simple geopolitical reason, one that goes back to the 1990s. In the 1990s, when the United States no longer needed to support an intensive covert campaign in Afghanistan, it depended on Pakistan to manage Afghanistan. Pakistan would have done this anyway because it had no choice: Afghanistan was Pakistan’s backdoor, and given tensions with India, Pakistan could not risk instability in its rear. The United States thus did not have to ask Pakistan to take responsibility for Afghanistan.

The United States is now looking for an exit from Afghanistan. Its goal, the creation of a democratic, pro-American Afghanistan able to suppress radical Islamism in its own territory, is unattainable with current forces — and probably unattainable with far larger forces. Gen. David Petraeus, the architect of the Afghan strategy, has been nominated to become the head of the CIA. With Petraeus departing from the Afghan theater, the door is open to a redefinition of Afghan strategy. Despite Pentagon doctrines of long wars, the United States is not going to be in a position to engage in endless combat in Afghanistan. There are other issues in the world that must be addressed. With bin Laden’s death, a plausible (if not wholly convincing) argument can be made that the mission in AfPak, as the Pentagon refers to the theater, has been accomplished, and therefore the United States can withdraw.

No withdrawal strategy is conceivable without a viable Pakistan. Ideally, Pakistan would be willing to send forces into Afghanistan to carry out U.S. strategy. This is unlikely, as the Pakistanis don’t share the American concern for Afghan democracy, nor are they prepared to try directly to impose solutions in Afghanistan. At the same time, Pakistan can’t simply ignore Afghanistan because of its own national security issues, and therefore it will move to stabilize it.

The United States could break with Pakistan and try to handle things on its own in Afghanistan, but the supply line fueling Afghan fighting runs through Pakistan. The alternatives either would see the United States become dependent on Russia — an equally uncertain line of supply — or on the Caspian route, which is insufficient to supply forces. Afghanistan is war at the end of the Earth for the United States, and to fight it, Washington must have Pakistani supply routes.

The United States also needs Pakistan to contain, at least to some extent, Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. The United States is stretched to the limit doing what it is doing in Afghanistan. Opening a new front in Pakistan, a country of 180 million people, is well beyond the capabilities of either forces in Afghanistan or forces in the U.S. reserves. Therefore, a U.S. break with Pakistan threatens the logistical foundation of the war in Afghanistan and poses strategic challenges U.S. forces cannot cope with.

The American option might be to support a major crisis between Pakistan and India to compel Pakistan to cooperate with the United States. However, it is not clear that India is prepared to play another round in the U.S. game with Pakistan. Moreover, creating a genuine crisis between India and Pakistan could have two outcomes. The first involves the collapse of Pakistan, which would create an India more powerful than the United States might want. The second and more likely outcome would see the creation of a unity government in Pakistan in which distinctions between secularists, moderate Islamists and radical Islamists would be buried under anti-Indian feeling. Doing all of this to deal with Afghan withdrawal would be excessive, even if India played along, and could well prove disastrous for Washington.

Ultimately, the United States cannot change its policy of the last 10 years. During that time, it has come to accept what support the Pakistanis could give and tolerated what was withheld. U.S. dependence on Pakistan so long as Washington is fighting in Afghanistan is significant; the United States has lived with Pakistan’s multitiered policy for a decade because it had to. Nothing in the capture of bin Laden changes the geopolitical realities. So long as the United States wants to wage — or end — a war in Afghanistan, it must have the support of Pakistan to the extent that Pakistan is prepared to provide support. The option of breaking with Pakistan because on some level it is acting in opposition to American interests does not exist.

This is the ultimate contradiction in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and even the so-called war on terror as a whole. The United States has an absolute opposition to terrorism and has waged a war in Afghanistan on the questionable premise that the tactic of terrorism can be defeated, regardless of source or ideology. Broadly fighting terrorism requires the cooperation of the Muslim world, as U.S. intelligence and power is inherently limited. The Muslim world has an interest in containing terrorism, but not the absolute concern the United States has. Muslim countries are not prepared to destabilize their countries in service to the American imperative. This creates deeper tensions between the United States and the Muslim world and increases the American difficulty in dealing with terrorism — or with Afghanistan.

The United States must either develop the force and intelligence to wage war without any assistance — which is difficult to imagine given the size of the Muslim world and the size of the U.S. military — or it will have to accept half-hearted support and duplicity. Alternatively, it could accept that it will not win in Afghanistan and will not be able simply to eliminate terrorism. These are difficult choices, but the reality of Pakistan drives home that these, in fact, are the choices.

 

 

U.S.-Pakistani Relations Beyond Bin Laden is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

Photo credit: Central Intelligence Agency, public domain.

Transcript of Barack Obama’s remarks on Osama bin Laden’s death

Remarks by the President on Osama bin Laden

East Room

11:35 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.

On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.

We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.

Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.

Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.

And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.

Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.

Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.

So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.

Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.

We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.

Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.

And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.

The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

Source: The White House