Without consequences to Pakistan, the fight is futile.
On Saturday, Pakistan showed how dismissive it is of U.S. pressure. Only days after Secretary State Clinton’s visit to Pakistan and one day prior to her trip to Afghanistan, the Pakistan-based Haqqani network carried out the deadliest bombing in Afghanistan since the war began. Thirteen NATO personnel were killed by a suicide bomber and there is every reason to believe it will be traced back to Pakistan’s intelligence service.
The attack is a challenge from Pakistan. Haroun Mir, an Afghan analyst, said, “The Pakistanis are sending another message, too: They are not willing to abandon their support of the Taliban.” The Pentagon’s latest report on the war in Afghanistan states that the Pakistani safe havens and the weaknesses of the Afghan government present the most serious problems to the war effort. The fact that Pakistan allowed the Haqqani network to carry out such an operation shows it has no intention of changing its behavior.
Saturday’s attack is particularly brazen given the direct accusations leveled at Pakistan by senior U.S. officials. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, bluntly called the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani ISI intelligence service. When asked to clarify, he responded, “I phrased it the way I wanted it to be phrased.” He also accused the ISI of orchestrating a truck bombing on September 10 that wounded 77 American soldiers, attacks on the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters and a June 28 attack on an Intercontinental Hotel. The Afghan government accused the ISI of organizing the September 20 assassination of former Afghan President Rabbani, who was leading negotiations with the Taliban. Pakistan’s reaction has been to brush it off.
The unfortunate reality is that until Pakistan stops facilitating acts of terrorism in Afghanistan, the country cannot be stabilized. This support is also critical to Al-Qaeda’s survival. The Pentagon report says that the Haqqani network is the group’s “most significant enabler” and Al-Qaeda views the Taliban as “integral” to its own campaigns. In a new BBC documentary titled “Secret Pakistan,” a Taliban fighter says that Al-Qaeda operatives identify candidates for suicide bombings in Pakistani terrorist camps run by members of the ISI. These candidates are then set apart for specialized instruction.
The documentary interviews other mid-level Taliban commanders about their time in Pakistan. One says that Pakistan’s help plays a “significant role” and the safe havens are “really important.” They say that their network of training camps are overseen by members of the ISI or those closely tied to it. “They are all the ISI’s men. They are the ones who run the training. First, they train us about bombs, then they give us practical guidance,” a Taliban commander says.
The film also brings to light new evidence that Pakistan did know Osama Bin Laden’s location. A former Afghan intelligence chief said he told President Musharraf in 2006 that Bin Laden was in a town called Manshera, only 12 miles from Abbottabad, where he was ultimately killed. An arms smuggler for the Taliban said he personally helped shuffle Bin Laden from one location to the next. In addition, Abu Farraj al-Libi, a senior Al-Qaeda operative who was in charge of finding a safe haven, brought his family to Abbottabad in 2003 for a period of time.
The Pentagon report shows that the U.S. is indeed making progress in Afghanistan, but this progress will be limited because of the Pakistanis, and once U.S. forces leave, the progress could be jeopardized. The report found that the levels of violence in Afghanistan fell for the first time in five years in May. The number of attacks in September was 26% less than the previous year. However, cross-border attacks are again increasing and much of the fire comes from areas near Pakistani military posts. This again proves Pakistani culpability.
The U.S. drone has been the weapon of choice in striking at Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorists. In mid-October, two senior Al-Qaeda leaders were killed, both involved in planning attacks overseas. One was a member of the terrorist group’s Shura Council. On October 26, the drones killed between 13 and 22 members of the Taliban in South Waziristan, including a deputy to the chief of the Pakistani Taliban. On October 30, the fourth strike in five days happened, killing 6 terrorists in North Waziristan. The drone campaign has been decisive in the war on terror and in making progress in Afghanistan, but Saturday’s attack shows that it alone cannot defeat the Pakistan-based terror networks.
The progress in Afghanistan is encouraging, but the cost of it may be for naught if the Pakistan-based terrorists unravel it as U.S. forces depart. American soldiers in Afghanistan deserve to have a winnable mission and to be protected. Instead, they are fighting a war that cannot be won until Pakistan is held accountable for trying to kill them. It is time to honor our soldiers by making Pakistan pay a steep price for its actions.
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