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CIA analyst to chair policy review on Afghanistan, Pakistan
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | February 11, 2009 02:42 IST
United States President Barack Obama [Images] has appointed Bruce Riedel, a veteran Central Investigative Agency analyst for nearly three decades, to chair an inter-agency policy review of US policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Obama's press spokesman Robert Gibbs said that this policy review chaired by Riedel would have to be completed before the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in April.
He said that Obama's Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michelle Flourney will co-chair this inter-agency review team, but "Riedel will report directly to the President and National Security Adviser Jim Jones [Images]."
Gibbs said Riedel was currently working at the White House while he is on leave from the Brookings Institution, where he is a senior fellow.
Explaining the rationale behind Riedel's appointment, Gibbs said, "I think everyone has mentioned that in order for us to change the direction that we see in Afghanistan, we can't simply focus on just the military aspects -- we have to focus on the diplomatic, the civil society, the reconstruction."
"So, I think what Bruce is doing, and what other military planners are doing, is looking at Afghanistan and Pakistan policies not just in how many troops, but in a broad sense of what is possible and what needs to happen in order to change that direction," Gibbs added.
Riedel has served as the director for South Asia in the National Security Council during the Clinton administration and as an adviser on foreign policy to the Obama campaign.
After the terror attacks on Mumbai [Images] in November last year, he had ridiculed the Pakistan government's claims that the Inter Services Intelligence had no links with the Lashkar e Tayiba "given the size of its activities in Pakistan."
Riedel, who keynoted a panel discussion on 'Mumbai Terrorist Attacks: A Challenge for India and the World', a few weeks after the Mumbai attacks, acknowledged that "we still need to know much more about the origins of this plot and the masterminds behind it, but we can say for certain today, is that whoever they were, they were heavily influenced by the ideology and narrative of the Al Qaeda [Images]."
He had added, "The 60-hour massacre in Mumbai will indeed be remembered as a seminal event in the history of international terrorism and particularly in the history of the global jihad."
The Mumbai attacks, he said, "was not a plot by amateurs or by a pick-up group -- this was a plot carried out by professionals, who were trained by professionals who were given a professional plan."
During the interaction that followed his presentation, Riedel said, "The South Asian community has a tremendous opportunity here to be a bridge between the United States and both India and Pakistan."
He acknowledged that "it's been doing that brilliantly for the last several years. These are the two most successful immigrant groups in American history."
Riedel implored the South Asian American community to "avoid the kinds of scandalous attacks on each other which we see in the South Asian press already. We've already got Pakistani television -- one commentator saying that this was a Mossad-Indian plot dreamed up to put the blame on Pakistan -- an exact repetition of the kinds of scandalous, scurrilous attacks that we saw after 9/11."
Earlier, he had told rediff.com that while the LeT has been banned in Pakistan, its leadership as well as its training centers continue to operate in that country.
"The fact is that the organisation has been tolerated in Pakistan despite the 2002 ban. It still has its leadership there and trains its fighters in both Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and the badlands along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border," he argued.
He had pointed out that the Al Qaeda and its allies like the LeT and Jaish-e-Muhammed would see the growing rapprochement between India and Pakistan "as a threat to their interest".
"They thrive on the hatred the Indo-Pakistan conflict produces," Riedel had observed.
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