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The Real Story
on January 24, 2011
This book is a very careful analysis of U.S.-Pakistani relations, especially over the last forty years. More importantly perhaps it provides the clearest explanation to date of why Pakistan appears to be so ambivalent towards Islamic extremism as manifested in what Riedel identifies as the "Global Jihad" and the Afghan Taliban movement. Indeed he does a brilliant job of guiding the reader through complexities of Pakistani politics and strategy. He makes clear that Pakistan regards India as an existential threat and treats both the Taliban and al Qaeda as pawns in its deadly game against India.
He does a particularly brilliant job describing the drivers of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate in relation to Islamic extremism, Pakistani internal politics, and Afghanistan. The ISI has a very complex agenda, which the U.S. has not always understood, but which always sees India as an overarching enemy.
As a genuine South Asia expert with close to forty years experience, Riedel is especially competent at putting the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in a regional context. This makes the problems of that troubled country much easier to understand. He builds a pretty convincing case that Pakistani co-operation and constructive involvement is vital to turning Afghanistan into a peaceful, viable nation state. He also identifies Iranian interests in Afghanistan that must be factored into this goal.
Riedel is the model of a professional analyst and for this reason the bulk of this book is descriptive not proscriptive. In his final chapters however he does offer some well informed suggestions on transforming Pakistan into a force for stability in South Asia. He also speculates on the appalling idea of Pakistan turning into an Islamic Fundamentalist State and supporter of the Global Jihad against the U.S. and West in general. This perhaps more than even Afghanistan is why the U.S. must be willing to develop a consistent and effective Pakistani Policy.
Riedel, who spent thirty years as an analyst at CIA also offers up a very good suggestion for the Director of National Intelligence (DNI): the DNI should prepare a quarterly all-source report on Pakistan and its role in counter-terrorism (positive or negative). This suggestion makes a good deal of sense and General Clapper (USAF ret.) would do well initiate such an effort. As Riedel points out the DNI is in the best position to asses Pakistan's behavior and actions. Such a reporting program should inform U.S. policy formulations towards Pakistan.
One final note: Riedel now retired from CIA, notes up front that he is a supporter of President Obama and worked as the campaigns South Asia lead analysts. His political preferences do not alter the validity of descriptions and prescriptions for South Asia. He is first and foremost a professional analyst who has served four presidents loyally and well regardless of party.