Commentary Magazine


Stating the Obvious in Pakistan

The C.I.A. has shown Islamabad evidence of what Islamabad knows better than the C.I.A. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is intimately involved with al Qaeda-related operatives in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Specifically, the Directorate for the ISI has strong ties to Maulavi Jaluddin Haqqani’s militant network. The Haqqani group, among others, is responsible for the recent up-tick in violence in Afghanistan.

There is nothing new here. The ISI’s jihadist connections have threatened Pakistan’s stability for many years, and in turn have kept that country’s leadership from fully complying with U.S. demands to crack down on terrorism. The various attempts on President Musharraf’s life are believed at least to have been made possible by members of the ISI and that inescapable threat certainly contributed to Musharraf’s ultimate ineffectiveness. Not only is the ISI supporting terrorism in the tribal areas, but they’re doing the same in India and Iran. Pakistan’s new civilian government seems willing to do something about it, but not quite motivated. The Pakistani military is making every effort to keep the ISI under their control and safe from government intervention.

The question is: what is the U.S. going to do about it?

Intelligence agents show documentation while jihadists based in the tribal region continue to kill Americans in Afghanistan. Shall we simply ask Islamabad more earnestly for help? Somehow American foreign policy has devolved into making requests and living with rejections. At the same time, we’re forced to play whack-a-mole and suffer a scolding for every piecemeal effort. On Monday an unmanned U.S. drone took out al Qaeda biological weapons expert Abu Khabab al-Masri in the tribal region and before the day was done Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani expressed his dismay, even though the U.S. has express permission to take out high level targets with drones.

John McCain and Barack Obama offer the exact same boasts about their willingness to take out targets inside Pakistan, but what’s to be done about Islamabad’s compliance? McCain simply asserts that he has a better relationship with Pakistan’s leadership than Obama does. Obama, for his part, has a disastrous idea. He wants to reward Pakistan by tripling our non-military aid to that country. Consider the absurdity: Obama wants to increase aid to Pakistan’s citizens in the hope that the country’s rogue intelligence community will cooperate with America and turn on themselves.

Asking and giving does not diplomacy make. How’s this novel idea: Instead of tripling aid to Pakistan, let’s cut it way back and set some conditions with the reasonable civilian government. If they make genuine progress in cracking down on the ISI, American beneficence gets boosted to unprecedented levels. And then the U.S. can begin training Pakistan’s Frontier Corps as true anti-terrorism soldiers. If not, Pakistan will continue to feel the pain. Anything is better than asking and giving while troops are under fire. The U.S. has leverage by virtue of being the U.S. Washington has either forgotten this fact or forgotten how to use it.