We have not been on good terms with Pakistan for a while, as evidence mounts that they are double dealing with the enemies that we are fighting across the globe. Recently, they asked us to establish some new rules of engagement for how we operate in their country, and we very quickly denied their request. Lightly veiled implications of their ties to terrorist networks have turned to strongly worded public declarations by the U.S. that their intelligence agency is working hand in hand with the Haqqani network. Pakistan naturally denies these claims as baseless accusations, and they are warning the U.S. against the possibility of losing them as an ally.
While addressing a Senate Armed Services Committe Hearing on Iraq and Afghanistan on 22 September, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, made some pretty damning and bold statements against Pakistan. He said that Haqqani, a terrorist group, acts as a “veritable arm of Pakistan’s Internal Services Intelligence agency”, and that Pakistan allows extremist groups to operate from Pakistani soil.
Haqqani was the group behind the recent truck bomb attack in Afghanistan, as well as the attack on the embassy in Kabul. Mullen clearly stated that “With ISI support, Haqqani operatives plan and conducted that truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy.” That strong statement goes past the argument that Pakistan is simply inept in dealing with extremists in their country and flatly accuses them of supporting terrorist actions against the U.S.
Even harsher in his criticism of Pakistan, Mullen said in his address “In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, the government of Pakistan, and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI, jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership but Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence. They may believe that by using these proxies, they are hedging their bets or redressing what they feel is an imbalance in regional power. But in reality, they have already lost that bet. By exporting violence, they’ve eroded their internal security and their position in the region. They have undermined their international credibility and threatened their economic well-being. Only a decision to break with this policy can pave the road to a positive future for Pakistan.”
These blunt statements, basically shredding what was left of Pakistan’s reputation in regards to their government, military, and specifically their spy agency, were followed by more hopeful and positive praise. Mullen congratulates Pakistan for their joint efforts with the U.S. to take down al Qaida, and reiterates that the way to go is to continue to look into the future, to work together and build a strategic partnership.
Pakistan is furious with the U.S. for linking Haqqani with any branch of their government. The Pakistani army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said that the accusations that Mullen was making were “very unfortunate and not based on facts.” Other officials from Islamabad have asked that the U.S. present real evidence to back up the claims that the ISI is linked to the Haqqani network.
Corruption and ties to these extremist groups are without a doubt holding back significant progress that could be made in the area to combat violence. Pakistan has clearly been at least inept in dealing with terrorist groups in their region, and more likely, they have played an active role in aiding these groups as they slip across the border into Afghanistan and perpetrate violent actions against U.S. and Afghanistan military personnel, NATO troops, and innocent civilians. If Pakistan can’t or won’t curb these groups acting out of their nation, we can only hope that a harder line is drawn by the government against the nation. The aid that we send to their country sure could be used in our own.