Afghanistan and Pakistan Symposium

03/29/10 Doris Norrito
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Adnan Mazarei, assistant director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), spoke at USF today. USF officials said IMF policy did not permit his address to be recorded.

In a question-and-answer period that followed, Stan talked unofficially and gave only his first name. He works as a South Asia analyst for the United States Central Command, and gave his assessment.

We made some comparisons between the economic situation with our country as well as Pakistan. I think there is frustration with the whole world situation, with the finances that all countries are experiencing right now; with their economic situations and the current dilemma with the lack of savings that every country has; the markets declining in all the countries; the inability of investors to make investments, because there is no money to make investments; the fact that there are trade problems with a lot of countries because they're holding onto any money that they do have.

The address was followed by a panel of experts. Each expressed the policies of other countries. Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute said Pakistan has a stake in the Afghan insurgency, and said it's a war of perception.

We are engaged in a war of perception. We've been losing that war. If we can begin to gain the initiative, and look like we are turning things around, we may be the recipients of the benefits of perception. And that will bring about, I believe, conditions in which we will see the peeling off of those elements of the Taliban who are not (unintelligible).

Mark Katz of George Mason University gave the Russian perspective. He said Russia has a lot at stake and sees itself in competition with neighbors.

I think from the Russian perspective what we might see is a checkerboard pattern, Russian and India aligned on the one hand, Pakistan and China on the other in Afghanistan, post-United States.

Zhaoying Han of the Confucius Institute at USF used a map to show the 47-mile Corridor de Wakham that connects China with Afghanistan. He said diplomatic and economic relations will increase.

When I listen to the political and strategic interests that China has in Afghanistan, the Chinese government (unintelligible) seek a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan. And that is based on China's international strategy ...

Mohsen Milani of USF said Iran’s policy toward Afghanistan is linked to threats from the United States.

The point of Iran's policy toward Afghanistan is that it is intimately linked to Iran's threat perception. And that threat perception, right or wrong, in the eyes of the Islamic Republic, emanates from the United States of America. The Islamic Republic considers the U.S. an existential threat. And what's more, when the perception of a threat is heightened, I will promise you that you will see a more mischievous, maybe more assertive, aggressive nuclear armed policy toward Afghanistan in the hope of undermining American interests in that country.

Mazarei said there were parallels between what happens in the United States and in Pakistan. When the government doesn’t have revenues, it can’t provide services. The result is a decrease in security. Dr. Lief Rosenberger, economic adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Central Command, spoke after the program.

The panel was particularly good because it looked at different perspectives in some of the neighboring countries who have, who are stakeholders when it comes to the future of Afghanistan. And we had experts from all these areas speaking. And it was very insightful to get their impressions on the direction that we are going at the moment, and maybe new ideas for the future.

  1. How do you feel about the direction that the U.S. is taking at this point?

Well, I think General Petraeus, my boss, has put it best: that things may get worse before they get better. But we've got to hang in there; I think Afghanistan and Pakistan are absolutely critical to U.S. national interests. And I think this was a particularly good conference, because it brought people with different perspectives on how to deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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