The circumstances of Osama bin Laden’s demise and his ability to survive as long as he did require a heroic reality-denial act on the part of Washington in order not to see the clear complicity of the Pakistani military in the terrorist-in-chief’s remarkable longevity. A related delusion popular in the State Department is that, if there are terrorist sympathies in the Pakistani military, they’re limited to a few rogue elements in the Inter-Services Intelligence. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The ISI is very much part of the military, run by a line officer and seconded army personnel serving at the pleasure of the Chief of Army Staff. It was set up as a political police to serve the domestic interests of the military, and it in turn set up the Taliban and numerous other terrorist groups as proxies of the military. It is, thus, the Pakistani military — which sees itself as the only legitimate authority in the country — that is and will continue to be our problem.
Pakistan will continue this alliance charade with us as long as we let them, providing a modicum of support to our efforts in exchange for huge financial injections. But we should immediately let them know that they are by no means an indispensable, let alone a strategic ally, and that our fundamental regional interests are an independent Afghanistan, a stable and prosperous India, and, last but most important, draining the jihadist swamp that Pakistan has become. If they cannot support these goals, our unhappy marriage of convenience is heading for a nasty divorce and Pakistan, already close to a failed state, risks falling into the precipice.— Alex Alexiev is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.
I think it is time to do what some of the better Pakistani analysts have long suggested, and cut off aid to the Pakistani armed forces. As so often with badly conceived welfare systems, America’s generosity to Pakistan’s military has had the perverse effect of provoking resentment among the beneficiaries: not just among Pakistani liberals but among the Pakistani military itself.
Talk to Pakistani officers and you will hear an endless litany of American crimes: the suspension of aid over the nuclear program, the withholding of promised F-16s, the “betrayal” involved in America’s handling of India’s nukes, America’s “abandonment” of its vital, brave, selfless ally — and indeed the whole region — in the fight against the Soviets once that war was won, America’s secret Islamophobic desire to make Pakistan weak. . . . It goes on.
The real history of Pakistani-American relations is of course very different. America earned lasting Indian enmity by backing Pakistan when it came to the crunch in 1971 and Nixon ordered the 7th fleet into the Bay of Bengal. And it was Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who, despite that support, turned away from America in the early Seventies and made Red China the country’s main backer and arms supplier. As for betrayals, what could be more of a betrayal than Pakistan’s active support — including training and leadership by Pakistani special forces — of the Taliban campaign against American, Coalition, and Kabul-government forces in Afghanistan?
However, the narrative that has America abandoning Pakistan after the defeat of the USSR and its puppet regime in Kabul has become gospel throughout Pakistan. (Never mind that Pakistan’s role in the war against the Soviets was hardly disinterested: It wanted the pro-Indian USSR out of Afghanistan even more than we did. And when the U.S. and the Saudis outsourced almost all the arming, recruiting, and training of the Mujahedin to Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, it was very much to the benefit of Pakistan and its regional ambitions.)