Pakistan’s long history of duplicity
Backing terrorists while proclaiming U.S. friendship is not the act of an ally
The United States has many complex foreign relationships. Being the world’s only superpower requires dealing with the good, the bad and the ugly of nation-states. The good are obvious. They are America’s allies and partners who we share common interests and values. The bad are America’s adversaries, who often sponsor terrorism, undermine our goals, and flaunt their disdain for the United States. Then there are the ugly. The Benedict Arnold of states that say they are our friends, take billions in U.S. aid, then back the very terrorists that are killing Americans. The ugliest of the bunch is Pakistan.
Pakistan has a long duplicitous relationship with the U.S. Throughout most of the Cold War, America and Pakistan worked closely to contain Soviet advances in South Asia. This working relationship peaked in the 1980s when the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, partnered to bleed the Soviet Union in Afghanistan by providing covert assistance to the Afghan anti-communist rebels. But even as the U.S. bolstered Pakistan’s own defenses, Islamabad was covertly developing a nuclear weapons program that it would later use to proliferate nuclear technology to Libya, North Korea and Iran — the who’s who of bad actors.
After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan continued to back militants in the country, giving rise to the Taliban. By 1996, after receiving extensive support from the ISI, the Taliban managed to seize much of the country and institute a strict and repressive form of Islamic law. In this jihadist paradise cultivated by Pakistan, al Qaeda was able to take shape and plan its war on the United States. Pakistan didn’t just turn a blind eye to al Qaeda’s ambitions — it assisted by providing ISI advisers. Some of these ISI agents were killed in 1998 when American cruise missiles struck an al Qaeda training camp in response to the terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa. Yet, Pakistan condemned the strikes and may have even tipped off Osama bin Laden beforehand, allowing his escape. If Pakistan was a true ally, it would have assisted the U.S. to kill bin Laden after the embassy attacks and September 11 may have never had happened. Instead, Islamabad sided with the terrorists.
After the September 111 attacks, as the U.S. rained justice on bin Laden, his al Qaeda thugs and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistan provided the escape route. Despite pledges of support, Islamabad opened the door to thousands of terrorists fleeing American forces, including bin Laden himself. According to former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, the ISI’s support was critical to the survival and revival of the Taliban after 2001. Sixteen years later, the Taliban along with its al Qaeda allies are retaking parts of Afghanistan as the Pentagon prepares to send thousands of U.S. troops to beat them back. Pakistan is at fault.
The U.S. has been reluctant to cut ties or meaningfully confront Pakistan over its treachery because the supply line that keeps the coalition fed and equipped in Afghanistan runs through Pakistan. However, this key link does not come free and has even been severed by Pakistan on multiple occasions after violent incidents between their forces and our own. The Government Accountability Office found in 2008 that of the $2 billion the U.S. had given Pakistan to run that key supply line, more than a third could not be accounted for, possibly because of fraud. Moreover, the Pentagon decided last August it would not pay Pakistan $300 million in reimbursement because it could not verify Islamabad was taking steps to combat the Haqqani Network — another terrorist organization with ongoing ties to the ISI that is actively targeting Americans in Afghanistan.
When the U.S. finally tracked Osama bin Laden to Abbottabad in May 2011, it was clear Pakistan had been playing us for fools. For a decade, Pakistani officials denied his presence in their country, while the al Qaeda leader lived comfortably directing his network of terror. By this point, however, the U.S. military and intelligence community knew Pakistan could not be trusted. To prevent bin Laden from being tipped off by his hosts, the U.S. excluded the Pakistanis from the raid and ordered the use of secret stealth helicopters to evade Pakistani radars. It worked, and the world’s most wanted terrorist finally met American justice. When Pakistan learned what was happening, it immediately dispatched F-16 fighters we had generously given them to shoot down our Navy SEALs as they flew back to Afghanistan. Fortunately, they were too late.
In the aftermath of the raid, Pakistan struck back. They invited their Chinese allies to collect samples of our crashed stealth helicopter, poisoned the CIA station chief in-country, and jailed the Pakistani doctor who assisted U.S. efforts to locate bin Laden.
Despite all these cases of bad behavior, we still give Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars every year in aid. We don’t need to pay Pakistan to betray us — they will do it for free. That is why I have introduced two bills that would put pressure on Pakistan. H.R. 1499, the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act, would require the State Department to assess Islamabad’s long history of cooperating with terrorists and determine whether or not Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism. H.R. 3000 would revoke Pakistan’s Major Non-NATO Ally status, an exclusive and preferential designation that Pakistan definitively does not deserve. We must hold Pakistan accountable for the American blood on its hands.
Despite all these cases of bad behavior, we still give Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars every year in aid. We don’t need to pay Pakistan to betray us — they will do it for free.
Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade.