Pakistan: Public Enemy Number One
by RALPH PETERS
May 5, 2011
Pakistan has done the impossible: It’s bumped Saudi Arabia from the top slot as America’s number-one enemy. Al Qaeda is, at most, sixth or seventh on the list, a symptom, not a cause. Without Saudi money and Pakistani protection, al Qaeda would be about as relevant as VHS cassettes. Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI) and its military leadership have managed to hide Osama bin Laden since he fled Tora Bora; continue to harbor and support the leadership of the Afghan Taliban; collude with the savage Haqqani terror network; and nurture a range of anti-Indian terror organizations the ISI created. Iran plays in the terrorist bush leagues compared to our Pakistani “ally.”
Meanwhile, Washington continues to do the implausible: Kid itself that Pakistan, the world’s leading terror sponsor and haven, will ultimately reform and give up its vast investments in terrorism if only we send more money to Islamabad. One administration after another in D.C. convinces itself that we can break a junkie’s heroin habit by providing the addict with an endless supply of heroin.
There is no way that Osama bin Laden could have lived in an eyesore mega-compound in the shadow of multiple military installations in a key garrison town without anyone in the Pakistani security establishment knowing who was living there. On the contrary, the compound appears to have been custom built for bin Laden as a gilded cage: The deal would have been that the key insider Pakistani generals (who run the ISI, as well as the military) would protect him and allow him to continue to provide al Qaeda with strategic direction through couriers—but bin Laden would have to play by ISI rules, keeping them informed about his orders to his terrorists; remaining within the compound; and, essentially, staying on ice until the Pakistanis felt they could unleash him to their advantage. Meanwhile, an alive but undetected bin Laden guaranteed that billions in military and civilian aid programs would continue to flow from the USA to Pakistan. For the men who really run Pakistan, whether or not the military is formally in power, this was the perfect self-licking ice-cream cone.
Now the Pakistanis have been caught out with their salwar-khameez trousers around their ankles. And Washington, which has been oh so shocked by this massive betrayal, appears determined to help the Pakistanis get those trousers back up around their national waist as soon as possible. Yeah, we’re “demanding” explanations. But we’ll accept any Pakistani lies that allow this “important relationship” to go forward.
After all, the entire relationship with Pakistan has been built on lies and our enthusiastic self-delusion. The most recent whopper was the administration’s claim that the SEALs destroyed the helicopter that suffered mechanical problems so the top-secret technologies on board “wouldn’t fall into the hands of al Qaeda.” That’s pure bull. The al Qaeda thugs on that compound were dead or had become prisoners. We destroyed our helicopter—thoroughly—because we didn’t want the Pakistanis to grab the assorted black boxes, communication devices and night-flying avionics. We knew the Pakistanis would share anything they got with their real friends, the Chinese.
What do you do with an “ally” that hides your most-wanted enemy from you; actively helps kill your troops in Afghanistan; uses terrorists to attack the world’s largest democracy (India); tries to convince the Afghan government you’ve erected to boot you out and line up with Beijing, instead; and views terror as an essential tool of strategy and statecraft? Washington’s answer is to send billions more in aid.
Even as I write, the State Department and various members of Congress solemnly warn that cutting off aid to Pakistan could have dire results.
Really? Exactly how could this relationship get any worse? They were hiding Osama bin Laden from us, for Heaven’s sake.
The Pakistanis do have one practical hold over us: Idiotically, our Afghan strategy relies heavily on extended supply lines through Pakistan to support our troops. This is, and long has been, absolutely nuts. But you want it bad, you get it bad.
And bloated blusterers whine that “Pakistan has nuclear weapons! What if they fall into the hands of terrorists?” As if the current government in Islamabad would miss the right chance…
In the short term, if our special-operations forces can pull off a brilliant black op deep inside a hostile country such as Pakistan once, we can do it again. And again. And next time there could be devastating air cover at the ready, in case Pakistan’s punk military gets any ideas.
But that’s short-term operational stuff. We need to deal in imaginative strategies. And the clear way to cope with Pakistan’s nukes comes down to one word: “India.” Instead of supporting a nut-case, treacherous, Islamist-infiltrated regime that helps kill our troops, we should cut all aid—and all ties—with Pakistan. We need to remove most (not all) of our troops from the brainless boondoggle in Afghanistan anyway (the only reason any U.S. service member should stay in Afghanistan is to keep killing terrorists in Pakistan—forget trying to break the death-grip of extremist Islam by teaching Afghan villagers better hygiene). We should not have one more soldier or system in Afghanistan than we can resupply or evacuate by air in an emergency (crazily, our back-up supply lines run through Russia—yeah, we’re strategic geniuses, all right). Then we should close our consulates in Pakistan and the embassy in Islamabad. Treat Pakistan as exactly what it is: A lawless rogue state.
Simultaneously, throw all of our support, military and diplomatic, behind India. India’s democracy may be flawed—our own isn’t exactly perfect--but it has proven robust for over six decades (with one brief hiccup under Indira Gandhi). And India is a country of the future with vast potential, a natural long-term ally for the U.S. (we’re both worried about China, too). Pakistan has only a wretched past that repeats itself in a deteriorating cycle.
India could deal with Pakistan’s nuclear “threat” just fine. As it is, Pakistan launches terror attacks on India, confident that, before India can retaliate, we’ll jump in and prevent New Delhi from taking action—making us complicit in Pakistan’s terrorism. Think the Pakistanis would continue their provocations if we weren’t there to protect them from India’s outrage? Think the Pakistanis, with their 175-million anti-American Muslims, believe they can take on 1.3 billion Indians in a nuclear exchange? Pakistan would be a cinder…
But don’t hold your breath. Our “strategic thinkers” in Washington still live in the Cold War, when we “needed” Pakistan. Perhaps, in twenty or thirty years, when someone on the Potomac notices that we’re living in the 21st-century and that, uh, the Congress of Vienna isn’t especially relevant, we might get an initial glimmer of strategic innovation. For now, though, you can bet your life that the aid dollars will still flow to Pakistan; we’ll avidly accept Islamabad’s promises to be really, really good; and we’ll go back to pretending that the Pakistani whore can be reformed for a successful strategic marriage.
Osama bin Laden is dead, no thanks to the Pakistanis. The only qualifying note I can offer is that it’s quite possible that President Zardari, who’s regarded as a buffoon by his own security services, was never read in on the secret that Pakistan’s generals had cut a deal to protect bin Laden. But the man who knows all is the army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, for whom many of us initially had some hope. General Kiyani’s previous job was as head of the ISI. And it’s utter nonsense to pretend that bin Laden might have been shielded all this time—and in the garrison city of Abbottabad (which translates, loosely, as “Heeeeyyyy Abbottttt!)—by “rogue elements within the ISI.” It beggars belief that renegade operatives in the tightly controlled ISI could shield bin Laden; support anti-India terrorists; protect and aid the Afghan Taliban; and collaborate with the Haqqani network without a succession of ISI chiefs knowing what was going on and signing off on the activities. Just not possible.
Oh, and our old buddy, General Pervez Musharraf, former chief of staff and Pakistani president, had to know, too.
But Washington will go on playing pretend. It’s a whole lot easier than thinking.
Meanwhile, we’ve lost the only man in Pakistan we could trust: Osama bin Laden. He, at least, meant what he said.
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer, a former enlisted man, a journalist and a bestselling author. He has experience in seventy countries on six continents. His latest books are “The Officers’ Club,” a novel of the post-Vietnam military, and “Endless War: Middle-Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization.” Ralph Peters worked briefly with the Pakistani military and intelligence leadership during in the mid-1990s. His military report on his on-the-ground experience warned of growing Islamization within the Pakistani forces. Nobody in Washington cared.