A South Asia expert with a pro-India bent is set to become a top level official in President Donald Trump’s national security advisor’s office.
Lisa Curtis, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., has been tapped by National Security Adviser Herbert R. McMaster, to take up the position of senior director for South and Central Asia. Curtis has accepted and is currently being vetted, according to a report in the Washington Post.
The Post said with the departure of McMaster’s predecessor Gen. Michael T. Flynn, under a cloud, the new Trump advisor is looking to the think-tank world rather than military intelligence types, to fill key positions.
In numerous interviews with me over the years, Curtis has made clear her view of Pakistan as a harbor for alleged terrorists, and a flashpoint for conflict. In her most recent interview in mid-March, Curtis said “Pakistan is part of the global terrorism problem. ”
It was only a matter of time before the Trump administration will widen its focus from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan, Curtis opined. “If they remain committed to Afghanistan, then the Trump administration will have to adopt a tougher policy toward Pakistan,” she said, especially as it applies to providing sanctuary to terrorists, some of whom attack India. “They will have to toughen the demand that Pakistan crack down on terrorists,” Curtis said.
She also added during that interview that both Defense Secretary James Mattis, and the current head of CENTCOM, Gen. Joseph Votel, have indicated the relationship with Pakistan will continue as is. There is little chance of following up on a demand by a few U.S. lawmakers that Pakistan be listed as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” Curtis added.
Curtis also has wide ranging experience in different parts of government – as an analyst at the CIA, an adviser to the State Department during the George W. Bush presidency, and on Capitol Hill at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In picking Curtis, the Post said, McMaster scuttled Gen. Flynn’s choice of Brigadier Robin Fontes, currently the defense attache at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi.
A White House official told the Post, Curtis’ appointment among others, “… is going to give us significant person-power in an area where we need it.”
According to the Post, Curtis will end up being the only senior official appointed in the Trump administration till now, who deals with the South Asia region. There’s no assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs in the State Department after Nisha Desai Biswal vacated the post, and no Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is also no assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Pentagon.