A sham alliance the U.S. would be better off without.
Financial Times reported last week that “the Trump administration is considering dropping Pakistan as an ally as it examines tough measures to quell more than 20 terrorist groups it says are based in the country.” Here again, the President who is daily derided and ridiculed by foreign policy “experts” is right, and they are wrong: Pakistan is no ally, and has not been for years. This is a rupture that is much needed and long overdue.
President Trump has accused the Pakistani government of “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. And it’s true, with the most notorious of these being Osama bin Laden himself. Journalist Carlotta Gall, who reported from Afghanistan for the New York Times for twelve years, reported in March 2014 that
soon after the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s house, a Pakistani official told me that the United States had direct evidence that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The information came from a senior United States official, and I guessed that the Americans had intercepted a phone call of Pasha’s or one about him in the days after the raid. ‘He knew of Osama’s whereabouts, yes,’ the Pakistani official told me. The official was surprised to learn this and said the Americans were even more so.
He shouldn’t have been. It had been obvious for years at that point, and remains obvious, that the Pakistanis had been aiding the same jihadists that the U.S. government has been giving them billions of dollars to fight. The New York Times reported on that at length back in 2008. Not only did Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of the Pakistani government’s spy service, know the whereabouts of Osama, but so did many other top officials in the Pakistani government.
Those who are genuinely surprised by this news probably also think that Islam is a Religion of Peace that has been hijacked by a Tiny Minority of Extremists. After all, this is the country where the jihad terror leader Hafiz Saeed, on whom the U.S. has placed a $10 million bounty, lives openly and comfortably. International Business Times three years ago reported in that Saeed “lives as a free man in Lahore,” even though he is “chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JUD), a parent organisation of banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET). The organization was implicated in the 2008 attacks on Mumbai in India, which claimed 166 lives.” Not only that, but “Pakistan had twice placed Saeed under house arrest since 2001, but had let him go under suspicious circumstances.” And today, “JUD operates quite visibly in parts of Pakistan, with its own website and a twitter page.” None of this has changed in the intervening period.
The Pakistani government, meanwhile, is getting U.S. money to fight terrorists. This is what they’re using it for: Sky News reported in January 2014 that “Pakistani officials have reportedly used a secret counter-terrorism fund to buy wedding gifts, luxury carpets and gold jewellery for relatives of ministers and visiting dignitaries.” This is better than funneling to the terrorists themselves the money that the Pakistani government received from the U.S. to fight terror, but it shows how seriously the Pakistani authorities have taken their role in the “war on terror”: not seriously at all. Three years have passed since these facts were revealed; the Obama administration, of course, did nothing. Trump’s apparent willingness to grasp this nettle is greatly to his credit.
For even as there was an immense political shift in the U.S. with the election of Trump, Pakistan has been, if anything, consistent. In November 2013, after Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a drone strike, the Pakistani government was furious, and summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest. The Pakistani foreign minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said the killing of Mehsud was “not just the killing of one person, it’s the death of all peace efforts” and warned that “every aspect” of Pakistan’s relationship with Washington would be reexamined.
And in the summer of 2013, Pakistan’s Abbottabad Commission, which was an investigation into the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden, denounced the United States as “arrogant” and said that the killing of bin Laden was the “greatest humiliation” that Pakistan had suffered since the 1971 declaration of independence by East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
For far too many years now, the U.S. government has been suffering from a strange addiction: an addiction to shoveling huge amounts of money to old Cold War allies that aren’t really allies at all. The end of this farce with Pakistan should have come long ago; we can only hope that Trump will follow through on his remarkably clear-sighted view of this sham ally.