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Security Strategy and Foreign Policy: Global Threats and National Solutions?

Security Strategy and Foreign Policy: Global Threats and National Solutions?

By Priyashree Andley

The recent threat by the Taliban against execution of its militant members in Pakistan’s jail clearly shows that the al-Qaida affiliates Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harakat ul-Mujahidin continue to play an important role in the insurgency and instability in the region and beyond. The Taliban has warned of a war against the current ruling party (Pakistan Muslim League or PML-N) and government led by Navaz Sharif if any execution is carried out. Such statements clearly indicate that it would hamper any Pakistani peace talks with Taliban and also affect relations with India and the Unites States. The UN Security Council’s latest report clearly states that the al-Qaida remains a dangerous threat to global security as evident from the shutting down of 19 US missions in different countries last week. Based in Pakistan, the global terrorist group is taking up local issues and planning targeted violence that poses threats to regional and global security.

In this context, how does a state plan or review its security strategy and foreign policy? The concept of security sector reform emerged in the early 1990s, building largely on the experiences of reforming the security sectors in the post Soviet states and South Africa. A number of different factors affect their implementation including; a) expanded notions of ‘human security’ and changed understandings of sovereignty, b) a growing concern for ‘good governance’ in the developing countries, which has meant that aid donors have moved into new and highly sensitive areas including judicial reform, human rights and the security sector, c) the need in the post Cold War world for western militaries to find an important role in ensuring security.  Peacekeeping and national security, have become a new growth area one justification used to counter arguments for reduced military spending.

Today Western governments’ growing concern is that states in developing countries often pose a threat to their own populations. It implies a more transformative agenda where a more democratic relationship between state and population and greater concern for human rights is institutionalised.  So, does armed conflict and state collapse offer perhaps the best opportunity for comprehensive reform of security sector and governance? Although security sector reform programmes can be applied in countries where no peace or ceasefire agreement has been signed, they typically aim to instil a peace building approach to security which focuses on finding non-violent solutions to disputes.

But can this be implemented in today’s states where militants and terrorist groups play on local disputes? The example of this is evident in Pakistan, Syria and the beginning of Islamist retaliation on the Rohingya clashes with the Buddhists in Myanmar.

It is not easy to adopt an evaluative approach aimed at generating ‘best-practice’ models for security forces today.  The key measures in such a model include: providing training to military and police force, creating effective civilian oversight mechanisms, ensuring military and polices forces are democratically accountable and fostering a strong civil society capable of monitoring their progress.  We need to focus on two factors – the growing importance of fostering regional cooperation in security policy and the need for local ownership of the processes.

As Global security experts have emphasised there is a need to grapple with the decentralised nature of security providers in many contemporary post-conflict states in Asia and Africa.  Security reforms have tended to be about strengthening state capacities, negating the role of non-state actors such as armed militia, private security and military companies, vigilante groups and MNCs in the security sector.  They have tended to be about importing a formal template of how security sectors should run based on the experience of western developed countries, ignoring the possibility for alternative (and often more informal) systems to emerge in other contexts.

Post 9/11 and the tilt back to ‘hard security’ we can argue that security sector reforms have tended to focus more on strengthening the intelligence gathering and internal security arms of the military – thus undermining the supposed broader goal of the democratic accountability of the security sector.

For example, in Afghanistan, unlike Tajikistan, the talks excluded key protagonists in the conflict, which have hampered subsequent peace efforts. International actors had different and contradictory goals – on the one hand the coalition pursued the war on terror which involved arming and financing regional strongmen, whilst simultaneously attempting to push through a programme of radical institutional reforms including security sector programmes. Whereas in Tajikistan a process of absorbing strongmen into the new political dispensation may have worked, in Afghanistan warlord democratization was only partially successful since it excluded key power holders in the south. In Tajikistan there has been a form of co-opted peace building, whereas in Afghanistan it’s been a case of conflict (ual)   peace building.  Moreover, the drug economy in Afghanistan has provided a source of revenue for the insurgency and more importantly enabled the Taliban to generate political capital by standing as the protectors of the Afghan peasantry from drug eradication programmes.

Thus, issues of terrorism often turn focus from civilian engagement to military incidents that rally people and nation states against each other reversing the entire process of restoring peace. So to counter growing global threats states need to work together to build a stronger security strategy for their own national security and regional peace.

 An independent analyst and focuses on International Relations, Foreign Policy and Current Affairs. She has several years of experience working in both the public and private sector. Her research has taken her across India with publications appearing in national as well as international media. Priyashree is a Felix Scholar from SOAS, London and has degrees from JNU and St. Stephens College, Delhi.

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