“Afghanistan, Pakistan and American Grand Strategy”

A Conversation with LTG (Ret.) Douglas Lute

Photo by Pritam Mathivanan | The Chronicle. Douglas Lute, assistant to the president for Afghanistan and Pakistan, speaks Wednesday evening at the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Photo by Pritam Mathivanan | The Chronicle. Douglas Lute, assistant to the president for Afghanistan and Pakistan, speaks Wednesday evening at the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Lute backs Washington policy makers

By Marianna Jordan | Thursday, October 27 2011

Although the public may be divided about the United States’ role in Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. policies are effective in the areas, an advisor to the president said.

In a talk Wednesday evening titled “Afghanistan, Pakistan and American Grand Strategy,” Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, special assistant to President Barack Obama for Afghanistan and Pakistan, outlined the ways in which those in Washington, D.C., have pursued a strategic framework in those countries. While some Americans may see these strategies as misguided, Lute urged the public to trust the policymakers’ decisions.

“It may not be convincing—I can’t tell you at this point if it will be successful,” Lute said. “We’re still in the early years of an approach that will only pay off with definitive results over a long period of time.”

Ionut Popescu, Duke American Grand Strategy Program Fellow and a Ph.D. candidate in international relations, noted that Lute is the only person from the national security staff who stayed in the White House after the George W. Bush administration.

“[Lute] has the unique vantage point of being a bridge between the administrations,” Popescu said. “He can point out some of the important changes that Obama implemented when he came into office.”

Lute said his team has made significant progress over the last three years. This progress was initially set in motion during the Bush administration, he added.

Lute outlined several vital national security issues regarding the region that Obama pledged to adopt when first coming into office in 2009. The first goal was to defeat al Qaeda and other extremist groups, and the second was to prevent extremists from acquiring nuclear weapons. Based on these two reasons, Washington has pledged its commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan today, Lute noted.

“Ultimately, the core goal set in 2009 that we’re all seeking to achieve is to disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al Qaeda and to prevent its return to either [Afghanistan or Pakistan],” Lute said.

Lute said he was optimistic about the changes that have been made in this region over the past three years. Regarding Afghanistan, he noted that there are few organized extremist groups still located in the country that pose problems to American security.

The raid that ultimately resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death this May greatly disrupted the al Qaeda network, Lute said, because for the first time the people were without a leader. This vulnerability presented a targeting opportunity for the military, he added.

Lute highlighted the situation in Pakistan, noting that in the short term, both Pakistan and the United States are living on “borrowed time.”

“There is a certain sense of urgency [for Pakistan] to cooperate,” Lute said.

In the long term, a stable Pakistan also needs to emerge, he said. The country is currently facing simultaneous crises—a security crisis, an economic crisis and a political crisis—and their internal stability is weak. There is a tension between the short-term interests versus what Washington is worried about in the long term, Lute said.

Sarah Selenich, second-year master of public policy degree candidate, said she is intrigued by America’s relationship with Pakistan.

“I just wonder if something slips through the cracks,” Selenich said. “Do we have the political will and financial ability to fight an additional war?”

Lute concluded by noting that what Muslim countries, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, think about themselves is ultimately more important than what the United States thinks of them.

“The future of Afghanistan and Pakistan rests in their own people deciding their fate,” Lute said.

View the original article in The Chronicle here.