Journalist and author Tariq Ali warned that U.S. military action in Pakistan and escalation of the war in Afghanistan would create widespread instability in the region. Speaking Tuesday in a public discussion with Chicago Council on Global Affairs president Marshall Bouton. Ali said he was “extremely disturbed” by President-elect Barack Obama’s assertion during the presidential campaign that he would be willing to strike al-Qaeda targets inside of Pakistan with actionable intelligence if the Pakistani government was unwilling or unable to do so.
Ali, a native of the Pakistani city of Lahore, disputed what he called “the most common view on Pakistan in much of the Western world,” that Pakistan is “a nuclear state and a group of bearded jihadi terrorists might be on the verge of capturing this nuclear facility.” Rather, Ali insisted, jihadi groups in Pakistan represent a “tiny minority of the population as a whole,” and said it is “virtually impossible” that these groups would be able to capture the nuclear facility.
Ali urged Western leaders to develop a “serious exit strategy” for the war in Afghanistan, and questioned the premise of the war’s start. The al-Qaeda group responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 disappeared in the weeks before the war’s beginning, he said. “They had no particular links to Afghanistan as such they could function from everywhere,” Ali said, noting that no Afghan or Pakistani citizens were implicated in the attacks.
For more analysis and research about Pakistan and U.S. policy, see this CFR.org Issue Guide.