After a decade of war in Afghanistan and a seemingly endless search for Osama bin Laden, the terrorist kingpin was finally found—in Pakistan. The inability of Pakistan to police extremists inside its own borders raises troubling questions about a country that US officials would still like to consider an ally in the war on terrorism. Can we ever consider Afghanistan stable, if it has an unstable relationship with Pakistan?
“Please do not say [the violence] is because of Afghan tribalism, and the fever of violence in Afghan blood. No, we want life. A very civil, normal life. But we are in a very bad neighborhood. A country to our south promotes Sunni extremism and a country to the west supports Shiite extremism. And in the middle, we are like an asphalt flower trying to survive.”
“I think the present US and NATO strategy is deeply flawed. They’re focusing on the military transition, and I have no doubt that will work out all right. But the real issue at stake is the political transition. The elections coming up in 2014—how much leverage or pressure can the West bring to bear to ensure those elections are free and fair? If there’s another rigged election, Afghanistan very well could fall apart. We could face a civil war or a crisis that we’ve never faced before.”
Modern warfare is advancing faster than our ethical framework can keep up with it. This leaves us struggling to make sense of a new kind of war, in which unmanned drones can hit targets from miles away, and a computer virus can do as much damage to a nation’s infrastructure as a cruise missile. How can we adjust the rules of war—and our sense of right and wrong—to account for these new technologies?
“Drones in a way are like a lawn mower. You have to keep using it or your grass keeps growing. It’s a tactic, not a strategy.”
“We shouldn’t overreact, and we must remind ourselves that cyber security is first and foremost the responsibility of each nation. We have an alliance responsible for global defense, but each nation is responsible for its own security.”
November 18th marked the closing of the 4th Halifax International Security Forum, a community for thoughtful and engaged decision-makers from governments, militaries, business, academia, and the media, who work together to meet emerging threats in a changing world.
Convened in Halifax, Nova Scotia every year, the Forum provides an unscripted, discussion-based atmosphere. This year, the Forum hosted 300 leaders from 50 countries who participated in 32 panels, dinners and night owl discussions, covering dozens of topics from Syria and Gaza to energy independence and cyber attacks.
In their closing remarks, Canadian Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay and Halifax International Security Forum President Peter Van Praagh reflected on the weekend’s conversations, the importance of the Forum in the foreign policy community, and how the discussions at Halifax can lead to action moving forward.
As the 4th annual Halifax International Security Forum drew to a close, Canadian Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay spoke to the press about the importance of the Forum, and fielded questions from reporters on Canada’s national defense and role in conflicts around the world. Minister MacKay sounded an optimistic note on the future of Afghanistan, where Canadian troops will withdraw by 2014, but noted that Pakistan must play a more constructive role in securing the transition to democracy.