In the Arena

Pakistan’s Game

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As I’ve been reporting here for several months, the Pakistanis allowed us to “arrest” Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the second in command of the Taliban, because they were upset that the Taliban and the Afghan government had launched peace talks without Pakistani participation. The ever-excellent Dexter Filkins reports out the story in detail in today’s Times. The insanity of our situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be summed up in one quotation:

“We picked up Baradar and the others because they were trying to make a deal without us,” said a Pakistani security official, who, like numerous people interviewed about the operation, spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. “We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.”

So here is a Pakistani official openly admitting what no one has been willing to say: our Pakistani “allies” support (specifically, they train, finance and protect) the very people who are killing U.S. soldiers and trying to overturn the Afghan government. This is extremely screwed up. And it way past time for the Pakistanis to decide which side they’re on. After all, the Taliban are not providing millions of dollars in flood relief in Pakistan right now, or $7.5 billion in economic aid over the next five years, or helicopters and other military equipment. We are.

Admittedly, we’ve been unreliable allies in the past. But the behavior of the Pakistanis has been outrageous. Several things need to happen now: The Pakistanis have to choose between the U.S. and the Taliban–and we have to make that choice easier on them by cobbling together an alliance of neighbors, backed by the United States, that will guarantee Afghan neutrality. This will relieve Pakistan of its greatest fear: that India will emerge as Afghanistan’s protector.

But our tolerance of Pakistan’s obfuscation and subterfuge should come to an end now.