For several years, under the ostensible leadership of Moeed Yusuf, the Washington DC-based United States Institute of Peace –working on global conflict reduction – has furthered a relentless pro-Pakistan policy. He has been promoting Pakistan’s interests at US taxpayers’ expense.
I have complained about it many times, and have also reported him to the FBI and to every serving member of the US House Oversight Committee. The institute was founded by the US Congress, which continues to pay its bills.
My concerns about Yusuf were vindicated last week when The Dawn announced that he will assume a newly-created position – the chairperson of the Strategic Policy Planning Cell (SPPC) of Pakistan, which functions under the country’s National Security Division.
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP)’s pro-Pakistan stance is evidenced in the editorials and programme documents written by Moeed Yusuf and his colleagues, including Steve Hadley, another well-known pro-Pakistan former official in the George W. Bush administration, as well as in media interviews and congressional testimonies. Persons familiar with USIP employees have told me that they note that “we [USIP] are pro-Pakistan.”
The USIP has been the premier venue for hosting a variety of Pakistani officials. The events are by invitation-only and not open to a general audience. This policy is odd given that the USIP is funded exclusively by the US government. They also explicitly preclude critics of Pakistan or of the USIP’s position such as myself.
During the last event that I was permitted to attend at USIP in 2014, the USIP hosted a Pakistan Defense delegation after which I posted a searing recount of the event. The man behind the event was an oddly well-heeled Pakistani-American Dentist named Nisar Chaudhury who latter confessed to illegally lobbying on behalf of Pakistan. (Pakistan had long ousted me from such events but Chaudhury was keen to broker some kind of a rapprochement with me and the deep state and invited me. That rapprochement did not happen, obviously.)
In what functioning government is it appropriate for a US citizen (perhaps with dual citizenship now), after years of selling Pakistan’s interests while drawing a salary from the US government, to take up such a position in Pakistan government without consequence? The USIP must be asked important questions: Was it harbouring and nurturing a ‘Pakistani asset’? Will it re-employ Yusuf when his tenure in Pakistan ends?
Who is Moeed Yusuf
The South Asia policy community first heard of Moeed Yusuf around 2008 when he was a doctoral student in Boston. Leading male South Asia scholars nurtured him. In 2010, Ambassador William B. Taylor hired Moeed Yusuf as a “South Asia Adviser”. At the time of hire, he was not an American citizen, and as per my conversations with USIP staff, he was hired as a consultant initially. Early in his tenure, I raised issues with Taylor as well as Andrew Wilder.
In 2010, another female scholar of Pakistan told me that she had given Yusuf a sensitive proposal and that she believed Yusuf had conveyed it to “Pakistan’s agencies”. Unfamiliar with Yusuf, I presumed that—if this had occurred at all—it would have been by accident. I suggested to this very anxious scholar that perhaps Yusuf sent it to a reviewer who may have forwarded it. I told her that I would raise the matter with Ambassador Taylor, which I did. To my surprise when Ambassador Taylor raised this issue with the scholar, she recanted her story and bizarrely insinuated that I fabricated this to embarrass her.
To this day, I do not know what motivated her to reach out to me with this account or to recant it. What I do know is that it undermined my credibility when I raised subsequent questions on Yusuf, which I did again, in the spring of 2011.
In May 2011, I received a threatening email indicating that I would be “gang raped” by an entire regiment if and when I returned to Pakistan. These emails are never signed: “Affectionately, the ISI.” I immediately phoned the ISI station chief in the Pakistan embassy in Washington DC, who was defence attaché Brigadier Nazir Butt. He and I had a very heated exchange during which I demanded to know why I have received this threat. Nazir offered two reasons. He said he had seen a document that was the prospectus for my future book Fighting to the End. Only one person had that prospectus who was also in a position to forward it Nazir. That person was political analyst Shuja Nawaz. (The only other possible explanation was that the organisation had hacked my computer or his.) The other piece of information he recounted was reported from a briefing that I did, along with Moeed Yusuf and Marvin Weinbaum, for the outgoing ambassador to Islamabad, Ambassador Cameron Munter.
Nazir and I also had a heated follow-up conversation at the Pakistan embassy. I reported this to Andrew Wilder, who was his supervisor at the time. Wilder raised this with Yusuf who denied saying anything inappropriate and wrote an indignant email to me a few days later. From that point onward, I refused to be in any meeting with him that was “off the record” and warned people that he may be compromised.
Meanwhile, Yusuf continued his ascent within the USIP as did his authority over the organisation’s remit. He even organised an exclusive, invitation-only “Young Professionals Working Group on Pakistan,” which featured officials from the US and Pakistani government including the ISI station chief, Brig. Butt in 2011.
In 2017, I encouraged an Indian journalist, Seema Sirohi, to submit an FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for all emails between Yusuf as well as Hadley and officials at the Pakistani Embassy. Amazingly, the USIP declined this saying these communications constitute “inter-agency or intra-agency communications” and are thus exempt. How can communications with a foreign entity be so-classified by an organisation such as the USIP? Equally appalling, Yusuf, chided Sirohi about the request when they next met at a function.
My concerns about Yusuf intensified when a foreign agent informed me that they believed Yusuf and/or Hadley, most likely via Hadley’s private firm, had taken funds from the Midwest Fertilizer Co. LLC in Indiana. The operations of this firm were not without controversy because its lead investor was Fatima Fertilizer Group, a Pakistan-based firm that was supplying some 80 per cent of the fertilizer that the Taliban used in its improvised explosive devices (IEDs, or bombs), which were responsible for most of the deaths of Americans soldiers and their Afghan and NATO allies. A British military officer argued that the firm should change its production method because the Fatima Group is the “lone source of the problem in Afghanistan”. The firm refused to be a part of a solution. For this reason, then-governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, suspended state support for the project.
However, Pence reopened talks with Midwest Fertilizer, after which the Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered the company $300,000 in conditional incentives from the Hoosier Business Investment tax credit. The foreign agent refused to provide information about his source.
In December 2017, I reported this to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to a personal contact at the National Security Council as well as to a senior official at the Central Intelligence Agency. I had planned to meet with staffers at the House Oversight Committee to discuss this and other concerns, but the FBI asked me to demur from doing so.
I complained to and about the USIP most recently on 25 July when I sent an unanswered email asking how the USIP justifies excluding persons such as myself when it hosts senior Pakistani officials. That same week, I sent a fax to every member of the US House Oversight Committee and the Subcommittee on Government operations. Not a single member responded to my note.
Yusuf’s new job
Moeed Yusuf has now accepted a recently-created post in Pakistan under the National Security Division, which was created in January 2014 and its mandate includes:
“provision of secretariat services to the National Security Committee (NSC), drafting of National Security Policy (NSP) and engagement with international partners in a dialogue on issues relevant to national security of Pakistan. The Division is headed by Minister for National Security…. The National Security Committee (NSC) is the principal decision-making body on National Security matters.”
Yusuf will serve in an ex-officio capacity to the NSC.
Pakistan has a decent track record of placing its citizens in sensitive posts. Zain Qureshi, son of Shah Mahmood Qureshi who was then the foreign minister under President Asif Ali Zardari, worked for Senator John Kerry as an intern in 2009. Qureshi returned to Pakistan, where his father is now the foreign minister under Prime Minister Imran Khan. Zain Qureshi is now a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly and is currently serving as the federal parliamentary secretary for finance.
Brigadier Gen. (Retired) Feroz Khan might be the most audacious placement. For more than a decade, he has been a faculty member at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in California. Khan, who was promoted to brigadier without ever commanding a brigade, was related to Pervez Musharraf through marriage. (Khan’s daughter was married to Musharraf’s son. They have since been divorced.) What makes Khan so controversial is that prior to joining the NPS, he worked for General Khalid Kidwai in Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which is the premier organisation responsible for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme.
Several persons at the NPS have expressed considerable concern about the procedures involved in hiring Khan, who was not a US citizen. They told this author that he was hired as a consultant. He is now a US citizen.
In what country does a retired general from another hostile nuclear programme join a military-educational institution where he has the ability to not only shape the perceptions of hundreds of personnel each year, but also garner deeply personal insights about personnel being deployed to Pakistan? Khan’s colleagues at the NPS continue to raise doubts with me about his funding for his lifestyle, which seems inconsonant with his NPS salary.
Similarly, Moeed Yusuf’s tenure at USIP may well be another example of a US-taxpayer-funded institution hosting a deep-state asset. One should be very clear about the nature of US-Pakistan relations. Pakistan is single-handedly responsible for not only undermining US interests in Afghanistan, but also having proxies such as the Haqqani Network and the Taliban, who are directly responsible for murders of American personnel as well as their Afghan and NATO allies.
The USIP must be held to account as must Yusuf. He should at least be compelled to give up his US citizenship as is standard for others who have joined foreign governments. The USIP should not be permitted to hire him back.
Equally, the American taxpayer deserves to know why organisations such as the FBI and the House Oversight Committee never cared about Yusuf and its actions when it actually mattered?
Americans deserve to know the answers. And so do the families of victims of Pakistan-sponsored militant groups.
C. Christine Fair is the author of Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War and In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of her employer or those of the ThePrint.
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