It’s time to tell the truth about our supposed ally in the war on terror.
Last weekend, Pakistan’s parliament threatened to cut off NATO’s ability to move military supplies through their nation into Afghanistan if U.S. drone attacks on Pakistani targets weren’t stopped. The resolution, passed unanimously in an unusual in-camera joint session, threatens to interrupt a critical supply line, putting U.S. and NATO troops at risk.
According to news reports, the special session of parliament was called to debate “the situation arising from unilateral U.S. action in Abbottabad.” The Pakistanis declared that continuation of the U.S. drone attacks was “unacceptable” and resolved that, “Such drone attacks must stop forthwith, failing which the government will be constrained to consider taking necessary steps including withdrawal of [the] transit facility allowed to NATO.”
Without the supplies that move across Pakistan by land and air, NATO operations in Afghanistan would slow and quickly cease, our troops — and those few NATO troops which actually fight — would have to just as quickly stop offensive operations and would almost certainly suffer increased casualties.
What to do about Pakistan? There may be little we can do, and what little there is we must undertake without delay. To understand why Pakistan is so committed to terrorism requires the observation of one key fact: terrorism is, and has been for decades, the weapon of choice Pakistan uses against India in the dispute over Kashmir. The large, rich province of Kashmir has a Muslim majority and was left in India’s hands when the British pulled out in August 1947. The two nations have repeatedly fought conventional wars over Kashmir and two years ago came to the brink of nuclear war.
Unable to wrest Kashmir from India, Pakistan chose terrorism as its strategy to undermine India in Kashmir and force its withdrawal. Pakistan-based terrorists have committed assassinations, airline hijackings and many bombing attacks against Indian targets. When India confronts Pakistan, the latter denies its obvious complicity and refuses to take action against the terror networks it harbors.
Among the worst examples are the November 2001 attack on India’s parliament and the 2008 Mumbai attack which killed 170, including six Americans. A Pakistani-born businessman, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, is scheduled to go on trial today in Chicago for aiding the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba in organizing the Mumbai attack. (Rana’s lawyers, in pre-trial motions, sought to block the trial because Rana said he believed he was working for the Pakistani ISI intelligence agency, not the terrorists. Among those also charged in the case is a “Major Iqbal,” believed to be a member of ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency. Iqbal and four other Rana co-conspirators are still at large.)
Last March, India gave the Pakistani government a list of fifty terrorists operating from Pakistan believed to have been involved in attacks, some going back twenty years. Among them reportedly were Dawood Ibrahim (wanted in connection with bombings in Mumbai in 1993), LeT chieftain Hafiz Saeed and LeT commander Azam Cheema as well as Illyas Kashmiri, one of the leaders of the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistan has not, and certainly will not, surrender the men because they are protected by the Pakistani military and/or the ISI. Their value to Pakistan as weapons against India outweighs, in Pakistani terms, the damage Pakistan may suffer from America and other nations for doing so. That judgment is right, because President Obama isn’t likely to hold Pakistan accountable.
More high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders, now including bin Laden himself, have been caught or killed in Pakistan than in any other nation. But Pakistan, before the bin Laden kill, was been able to get away with its harboring terrorists because of its vital role as a passageway to Afghanistan. Now that is threatened by the Pakistanis themselves.
The Pakistani parliament’s threat should serve as an uncomfortable backdrop for President Obama’s Thursday speech on the future of the Middle East after the so-called “Arab spring.” Obama wants another faux-reset of our relationship to the Arab world and is willing to sacrifice Israeli interests to gain some temporary quiet in the Middle East.
Obama’s speech is aimed at only one thing: reelection. To achieve it, Obama’s strategy is to play to the Islamist audience and delay any crises past November 2012. He is seeking Iraqi agreement to leave U.S. troops there past the 2011 deadline for withdrawal and minimize American withdrawal from Afghanistan so that neither of those nations will visibly fail before our election. Delay and obfuscation may divert our attention from those failed conflicts, but Pakistan’s deep commitment to terrorism will erupt in attacks here, in India and across the region without regard to Obama’s election plans.
Obama will want to keep Pakistan quiet, but neither they nor his incoming CIA director, Gen. David Petraeus, are likely to play along. Outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta — nominated to be the next Secretary of Defense — has insisted on continuing the drone attacks that the Pakistanis want stopped. The threat to cut off our supply route to Afghanistan has to be taken seriously, but neither Petraeus nor Panetta will be willing to accommodate the Pakistanis because they know that the drone attacks are our principal weapon against terrorists in Pakistan. If Obama tries to limit them to placate the Pakistanis, it will cause such dissention within his cabinet that he won’t be able to stand the heat that Republicans could — should — create.
It’s much more fun to talk and write about the Republican horserace or Obama’s latest polls than to try to reason through the Pakistan problem. But now that Huck is out, Mitt and Newt are in, and Sarah is playing coy at this stage, the campaign is only entertainment being passed off as news. The fact that the Taliban have their own Twitter page is not as important as the threats we face from Pakistan and the other nations that sponsor terrorism.
Just as the Pakistani commitment to terrorism results from the Kashmir dispute, so does the long-term solution to it. And here’s what some Republican presidential aspirant should say about it.
We have sacrificed too many American lives at the altar of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has failed in Iraq, and is failing in Afghanistan. We need to withdraw from both nations as quickly as we can and focus on forcing the nations that sponsor terrorism — Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — to cease doing so.
Pakistan is a natural enemy of the U.S., not a friend. Their cooperation in Afghanistan — which has been vital to the war in Afghanistan — comes at too high a price. Pakistan depends on our aid — now over $3 billion a year — to keep up the pretense that their government is stable and that they cooperate with us in the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. That aid should be stopped forthwith.
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