In the Arena

Pakistan Is Not Our Ally

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Carlotta Gall has a terrific piece in the Times today, interviewing a former Islamist militant, who maintains that the Pakistani military is behind much of the terrorist activity in south Asia. This is not new, but the level of detail is fascinating. Take, for instance, this tidbit about how the Pakistani military–using a retired general, as is often the case–helped reorganize the Taliban after the U.S. defeated them in 2001:

Maj. Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam Abbasi, a former intelligence officer who was convicted of attempting a coup against the government of Benazir Bhutto in 1995 and who is now dead, was one of the most active supporters of the militant groups in the years after Sept. 11, the former commander said.

He said he saw General Abbasi several times: once at a meeting of Taliban and Pakistani militant leaders in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province as they planned how to confront the American military in Afghanistan; and twice in Mir Ali, which became the center for foreign militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, including members of Al Qaeda.

There were about 60 people at the Taliban meeting in late 2001, soon after the Taliban government fell, the former commander said. Pakistani militant leaders were present, as were the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, and Muhammad Haqqani, a member of the Haqqani network.

Several retired officials of Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, were also there, he said, including a man known as Colonel Imam but who was actually Brig. Sultan Amir, a well-known trainer and mentor of militants, and General Abbasi. The militant groups divided Afghanistan into separate areas of operations and discussed how to “trip up America,” he said.

This is entirely outrageous, of course–and mega-dumb on the part of the American policy-makers, of both parties, who funded these activities through hefty, no strings attached, military aid to the Pakistanis. President Obama has been more prudent about this than his predecessor–in part because of the amped-up intelligence capability that his predecessor provided–but it is now time to set the reset button. The military aid spigot has to be turned off; the economic aid spigot has to be reevaluated (although I’m told that the Pakistanis has spent only a fraction of the economic aid, because they don’t like the precautions we build into the grants). President Bush said on September 14, 2001, that our enemies were those who funded and harbored terrorists. Pakistan does both. The Pakistani military has played us for suckers for a decade. It’s time to cut them loose.