The U.S.-Pakistani relationship is continuing its fast downward spiral. The Pakistani government has expelled over 100 American advisors and is demanding the closure of a base used for drone strikes. The U.S., fed up with Pakistani duplicity, is now withhholding $800 million in military aid. The U.S. needs to prepare for the day when the Pakistanis fully cease their meager cooperation.
The cut equals about one-third of the $2.7 billion in military assistance given to Pakistan annually. About $300 million of it was supposed to reimburse the Pakistanis for deploying forces to the border with Afghanistan, an action any responsible government would have done on its own. The decision came after Pakistan further restricted counter-terrorism cooperation, including ending a program to train paramilitary forces in the tribal areas. The Pakistanis are also asking the U.S. to leave the Shamsi Air Base where drones are dispatched from, and have forced out over 100 U.S. trainers while limiting the visas for other personnel.
At the same time, there is a row over a statement by Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen said that the Pakistani government “sanctioned” the torture and killing of Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani journalist who reported on terrorist infiltration of the military and ISI intelligence service. Shahzad had received threats from the ISI for three years, and the Obama Administration believes the intelligence agency is behind his death. The Pakistani government is outraged. The ambassador to the U.S. says that a commission to investigate his murder has been established, and the U.S. should pass along any information it has. The Information Minister said Mullen’s statement was “extremely irresponsible and unfortunate.”
The Obama Administration initially tried to use the death of Osama Bin Laden, and the embarrassment of his safe haven in Pakistan, to get the Pakistani government to become more cooperative. In President Obama’s speech announcing that Bin Laden had been killed, he said “It’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to Bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.” He characterized Pakistan as an enemy of the terrorists. The deterioration in relations since the raid has forced a change in policy.
Pakistani support for the War on Terror has always fallen far short of what should be expected from an “ally.” Deputy Director of the CIA Michael J. Morell was asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee to rate Pakistani counter-terrorism participation on a scale of 1 to 10. He gave Pakistan a “3.” Apparently, the U.S. has been too afraid of losing this minimal level of cooperation to forcefully confront Pakistan until now.
The U.S. has given Pakistan until the end of this month to help capture or kill five senior terrorist leaders, including Mullah Omar and Ayman al-Zawahiri, or unilateral raids like the one that killed Bin Laden will take place. Pakistan is again passing the buck to the U.S., complaining that it is not being forthcoming in providing intelligence about al-Zawahiri’s location. Of course, the Pakistanis fail to mention their habit of tipping off terrorists about forthcoming operations. Then-CIA Director Leon Panetta recently presented the Pakistanis with proof that terrorists running a bomb factory were given notice to evacuate before the military arrived.
The stress on the American-Pakistani relationship climbed immediately after the killing of Bin Laden. Rather than vow to destroy the safe havens on its territory, Pakistani officials called the operation “cold-blooded.’ The parliament warned of “disastrous consequences” if another unilateral raid happened. Prime Minister Gilani reacted angrily, stating “Any attack against Pakistan’s strategic assets, whether overt or covert, will find a matching response.” The Pakistani Army threatened to reduce cooperation with the U.S., and Pakistan delayed in giving access to those arrested at Bin Laden’s compound. The Pakistanis even arrested five suspected CIA informants who may have helped bring about Bin Laden’s demise, including an army major who passed along the license plates of visitors to the compound.
The Pakistanis then lashed out at the New York Times for revealing that Osama Bin Laden’s courier had contact with Harakut ul-Mujahidin (HUM), a terrorist group that has close ties to Pakistani intelligence. The Pakistani government said it was “part of a well-orchestrated smear campaign against our security organizations.” Pakistani sponsorship of a wide range of terrorist groups including HUM, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani network, the Taliban and various others is easily provable and widely known.
The Pakistanis now have the audacity to demand that U.S. drone strikes into their territory end, even though they are only necessary because of Pakistan’s tolerance of terrorist safe harbors. “We will be forced to respond if you do not come up with a strategy that stops the drone strikes,” threatened Ahmad Shuka Pasha, director of the ISI.
If it weren’t for Pakistan’s support for terrorism, the war in Afghanistan may well be over. If it weren’t for the Pakistani safe havens, various terrorist groups would be in an incredibly weaker position. And if it weren’t for Pakistan’s treachery, Bin Laden likely would have met his fate years earlier. This is not an ally worth our taxpayer dollars.