What would you call a country that employs terrorism as part of its foreign policy, that allows its intelligence agencies to coordinate attacks on U.S. forces, that purposely outs CIA agents operating in its territory, that provides support to groups that wage bloody attacks on its neighbors, that participates and even bankrolls attacks on U.S. embassies and U.S. bases, that allows its army to ambush U.S. troops, that cedes its territory to America’s enemies, that knowingly, even willfully, provides safe haven to the most-wanted, most-notorious terrorist in history?
Most people would call that country an enemy, and they would be right. This enemy regime is better known as Pakistan, and it receives some $2 billion in American aid annually.
For a while, in the early days of the post-9⁄11 campaign against terror, Pakistan changed its ways and behaved like an ally. It wasn’t easy. After all, Islamabad had helped spawn the Taliban in Afghanistan. But an enraged superpower can be very persuasive. Hours after the 9⁄11 attacks, Washington warned Pakistan to get on board, get out of the way or “be prepared to be bombed…be prepared to go back to the Stone Age.”
The government of Pervez Musharraf got the message and sided with the United States—for a while.
Then came phase two of Pakistan’s post-9⁄11 relationship with the United States. This second phase—call it the “frenemy phase”—was marked by cooperation in some areas and duplicity in others. For instance, hundreds of Pakistani troops died fighting the Taliban and its al Qaeda partners, and a high percentage of NATO’s equipment in Afghanistan was carried into the landlocked country via Pakistan. But all the while, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) was hatching plots against the post-Taliban government of Afghanistan, arming people who wanted to kill American troops, and providing training to groups with designs on destabilizing India and Afghanistan.
In this frenemy phase, Pakistan was not a black-and-white problem, but rather a gray area.
If the frenemy phase of the relationship didn’t end on May 1—when SEAL Team 6 found Osama bin Laden “hiding” in a mansion just outside Pakistan’s capital, in a city that serves as host to the Pakistani military academy—then it certainly is over now.
Today, we know that “with ISI support,” in the words of Adm. Michael Mullen, Haqqani operatives in Afghanistan have planned and conducted truck bomb attacks on U.S. and NATO bases, assaults on the U.S. embassy, and deadly attacks on commercial and government facilities in Kabul. The ISI-backed Haqqani network is responsible for the 2009 attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan, which killed seven CIA operatives. According to The International Herald Tribune, ISI’s “S Wing” is helping coordinate Taliban operations in southern Afghanistan.
In other words, Pakistan has now come full circle. It supported terrorist groups in Afghanistan before 9⁄11 in pursuit of its own craven interests, and it has returned to what it knows best.
Pakistan-backed attacks have killed countless Americans—sometimes in cold blood. It is now known that the 2007 attack by Pakistani troops on U.S. forces, which occurred at the conclusion of a collegial meeting to hash out a border issue, was not carried out by some rogue soldier. Rather, it was a cold-blooded ambush. Details of the attack prompted The New York Times to conclude that Pakistan “behave[s] as an enemy.”
“The support of terrorism is part of their national strategy,” Mullen bluntly concludes.
This is something neighboring India knows all too well—and has never doubted. Elements of ISI are reported to have provided support to the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group involved in the Mumbai siege, which killed 183 people. ISI’s fingerprints are also on the attack against India’s embassy in Kabul, which killed 54 people in 2008.
Since 9⁄11, there has been a debate in Washington over the dysfunctional Pakistani government, with one side arguing that Islamabad is doing its best to rein in its unwieldy intelligence service and military, and the other arguing that the Pakistani government is complicit in what its intelligence operatives do—and what its military won’t do.
That debate is an academic exercise—and a meaningless one given what’s happening on the ground in Afghanistan. Whether Pakistan’s government is unable to control its intelligence services and military (an unlikely and, given Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, unsettling prospect) or tacitly supports what the ISI is doing (the more plausible possibility), the result is the same: Elements from inside Pakistan are killing Americans, arming and training people who are killing Americans, hiding America’s enemies, and undermining an independent, democratic, civilized Afghanistan.
After ten years of trying, it’s clear that America cannot change Pakistan. In fact, the roles of Afghanistan and Pakistan have effectively reversed in the past decade, as Afghanistan’s territory is increasingly used by U.S. forces to launch strikes into Pakistan. What America can change is how it interacts with, treats and identifies Pakistan. Labeling Pakistan what it is—an enemy regime—is a good place to start.