WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has selected Lisa Curtis, a senior think tank expert, to advise the White House on South Asian affairs, which includes Pakistan’s relations with the United States and its dealings with India and Afghanistan.
Ms Curtis, who has accepted the offer and is now waiting for security clearance, is a senior research fellow at a conservative Washington think tank, the Heritage Foundation.
As Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the White House National Security Council, she will be in a unique position to influence President Donald Trump’s policy decisions on South Asia and on future US-Pakistan relations.
“She is the right person, for the right job at the right time,” said Marvin Weinbaum, a senior US expert on South Asian affairs. “Lisa is held in the highest respect by those in Washington’s think tank and academic community with expertise on Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
Ms Curtis advocates continued US engagement with Pakistan while maintaining a strong US partnership with India. She also supports a tough stance on terrorism.
In a recent report she co-authored with former Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani, Ms Curtis praised Pakistan’s achievements in Operation Zarb-i-Azb but also underlined the need for a nuanced pressure on Pakistan to make it align its policies on Afghanistan and terrorism with the US.
The report was an effort of 12 think tank experts, led by Ms Curtis and Mr Haqqani, who now works for the Hudson Institute, Washington, and was published jointly by Hudson and the Heritage Foundation. Scholars from Brookings Institute and Georgetown University were also consulted.
The report suggests a more vigorous effort to encourage Pakistan to break ties with the Taliban and other terrorist groups based in the country, like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is accused of attacking Mumbai in November 2008.
The report also recommends curtailing assistance to the military if it assists groups that kill Americans, including US troops in Afghanistan or American visitors in India. It recommends revoking Pakistan’s status as a major non-Nato ally in six months if the army does not change.
It also suggests a review of the option to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism if Islamabad does not change its policies. The report also lays out a roadmap for Pakistan to change its policies.
At the Heritage Foundation, Ms Curtis’ research focuses on the US-India strategic and defence partnership, US counterterrorism policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and trends in extremism and religious freedom throughout the region.
She regularly testifies before Congress on issues related to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, extremism and America’s image abroad.
Ms Curtis has commented on developments in South Asia during appearances on major broadcast and cable networks, including CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CBS, PBS and BBC.
Her commentary has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, US News & World Report, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, CNN.com and FoxNews.com, as well in South Asian publications.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2017