National Press Club

British professor says Pakistan won't cease fight against terror

April 15, 2011 | By Robert Webb |

Anatol Lieven, author of the book "Pakistan: A Hard Country," and Myron Belkind, chair of the International Correspondents Committee

Anatol Lieven, author of the book "Pakistan: A Hard Country," and Myron Belkind, chair of the International Correspondents Committee

Photo/Image: Rodrigo A.-Valderrama

Despite all its internal distress, Pakistan will continue to help the United States and its Western allies fight terror, Anatol Lieven, professor in the War Studies Department of King's College, London, told an audience at the National Press Club on April 14 in an event sponsored by the International Correspondents Committee.

He said it would be a terrible blow to Pakistan, no matter what it thinks of the United States and its allies, to end its anti-terror partnership.

But he expressed alarm at the increasing number of American agents in the country. The Pakistan government, headed by Asif Ali Zardari, has called on the United States to reduce its CIA presence there. Lieven also questioned the wisdom of having such men as Raymond Davis "walking around in the country."

Davis, a CIA security officer, was jailed for killing two youths in Lahore. He said he fired in self defense but Pakistani authorities accused him of murder. He was released after secret negotiations between U.S. and Pakistani officials.

Lieven, a former longtime war reporter for the Times of London who was in Pakistan in March, was at the Club on a tour promoting his new book, "Pakistan, a Hard Country."

He was in Pakistan during the 1980s while covering the Soviet war in Afghanistan when the United States backed and armed the Afghans.

Lieven, who also covered a Russian war in Checknya, said the American government needs to know more about the people of a country before it presumes to help them fight a war.

Discussing his book, Lieven said its title comes from what is frequently heard in Pakistan, "Pakistan is a hard country." He called attention to the many historic rivalries among tribes in the Northwest, where the Afghan Taliban takes shelter.

As for Osama bin Laden, he said it was unknown whether he is alive.

"I think he probably is," Lieven said. "But I don't think it would make much difference in the war on terror if he is not alive."

He reminded the audience, however, that bin Laden had eluded the CIA and other U.S. efforts to find him.

Lieven said he has a "slightly alarmist" view of Pakistan, but he questioned India's current rapid increase in arms.

He said the Indian and Pakistan armies had reached what he called a kind of "detent like the U.S. and Soviet Union had in the Cold War." He said if India ever appeared about to invade Pakistan, the country would rely on help from China, a longtime ally.