It’s time for some blunt speaking: Pakistan is trying to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan and that is an act of war. The Pakistanis have tried to deny it altogether or blame it on rogue elements, but 10 years after 9⁄11, these “rogue elements” are as active as ever. Our troops deserve to be protected, and their attackers don’t deserve taxpayer money. It’s time to treat the killers as killers.
The crisis in Pakistani-American relations reached a new height when Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused the Pakistani ISI intelligence service of being behind the attacks on the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul in mid-September. He also said the ISI orchestrated a truck bombing on September 10 that wounded 77 American soldiers and an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on June 28. The U.S. learned of the truck bomb headed towards its forces in advance, and two days before the explosion, asked the top Pakistani military commander to intercept it. Unintentionally confirming that Pakistan has the power to stop such attacks, he said he’d “make a phone call” to stop it. It wasn’t.
“The Haqqani network acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency,” Mullen said. It was the first time that a top U.S. official publicly said that the ISI as an agency was masterminding attacks on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. The White House tried to walk back from his remarks, but Mullen stood firm. “I phrased it the way I wanted it to be phrased,” he said.
The London School of Economics published a study in June 2010 debunking the notion that some uncontrollable rogue elements within ISI were responsible for such attacks. It bluntly stated, “ISI orchestrates, sustains and shapes the overall insurgent campaign” and it is “official policy” to back the Taliban and its allies. This support is “very extensive,” far more than is being acknowledged, the study said. Since then, the public has learned about an incident on May 14, 2007, where Pakistani gunmen, including ISI operatives and soldiers, ambushed American soldiers, killing one. It was kept under wraps so as to not affect the American-Pakistani relationship.
U.S. military commanders say that 80 percent of the improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan use calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer from Pakistan. Thanks to the Pakistani government’s anti-American rhetoric and hosting of Islamist infrastructure, almost 60 percent of the population views the U.S. as an enemy. As director of the CIA, Leon Panetta presented Pakistan with proof that terrorists running two bomb factories were tipped off less than a day after the U.S. provided the locations. Pakistan is denying that Ayman al-Zawahiri is in its territory and it has done next to nothing to tackle the Taliban command centers in Baluchistan or the networks of Haqqani, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harakut ul-Mujahideen. These are all allies of Al-Qaeda. Of course, Pakistan says “We have never paid a penny or provided even a single bullet to the Haqqani network.”
The Afghan government is fed up with Pakistan. It is accusing the ISI of orchestrating the September 20 assassination of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, the lead negotiator for peace with the Taliban. The suicide bomber who killed him was a Pakistani from Chaman and the operation was put together in Quetta, the home of the Taliban Shura Council in Baluchistan. Pakistan’s responsibility makes it clear that it does not want the war to end. President Karzai subsequently signed a “strategic partnership” with India, Pakistan’s worst enemy.
The U.S. has given Pakistan plenty of time since killing Osama Bin Laden to change its behavior. Rather than try to make amends, Pakistan angrily reacted to the raid with demands and reduced cooperation. The director of the ISI is even threatening the U.S. if it does not end its drone campaign—a campaign that would be unnecessary if Pakistan was a true ally.
The Pakistani government even gave China parts of the highly-advanced helicopter that Seal Team Six destroyed after it suffered a mechanical failure. Prime Minister Gilani recently said, in words meant for American ears, that his country’s friendship with China is “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey.” Fifty clerics in the Sunni Ittehad Council in Pakistan declared that all Muslims must wage jihad on the U.S. if “aggression” is committed against the country.
This cannot be allowed to stand and there are a range of retaliatory options to be considered. The State Department should designate the Haqqani network as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, allowing action against all those who support it. There should at least be talk of adding Pakistan to the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism or naming the ISI as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards were previously named as such, so there is a precedent for giving the label to branches of governments. In fact, documents released by Wikileaks show that Guantanamo Bay officials listed the ISI as a terrorist group.
Congressman Ted Poe has introduced a bill to cut off aid to Pakistan, and Senator Lindsey Graham feels that military options beyond drones, such as the use of bombers, should be on the table. Outrageously, Pakistan was not on the list of “Countries of Particular Concern” for violations of religious freedom despite the persecution of Asia Bibi, a mother who faces death for converting to Christianity and talking about why she feels it is better than Islam. That mistake should be rectified. It has now been revealed that there are far more border clashes than publicized, and U.S. forces “are not allowed to return fire to coordinates inside the Pakistan border.” Our soldiers deserve better.
Terrorism expert Richard Miniter has some other good ideas. He says the U.S. should develop supply routes for its forces in Afghanistan through Central Asia and India so it is no longer dependent upon Pakistan. The Voice of America broadcasts can “electrify the opposition” by promoting well-intentioned opponents of the government and exposing corruption. The U.S. can demand that AT&T and other businesses alter their arrangements with the Pakistani government.
We are not valuing our fighting men and women as we should if we let “allies” try to kill them. And that’s what Pakistan is doing and it’s time to hold the government accountable for it.