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Rogue State Pakistan

Interesting news, if “Dog Bites Man” stories can be considered interesting. Not on their surface, of course, but the implications which they contain. A dog biting man story begs the question “Who owns the dog?”. Our story though is not about something as mundane as a dog but of a putative ally, Pakistan.

Report: Pakistani spy agency supports Taliban

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s main spy agency continues to arm and train the Taliban and is even represented on the group’s leadership council despite U.S. pressure to sever ties and billions in aid to combat the militants, said a research report released Sunday.

….But the report issued Sunday by the London School of Economics offered one of the strongest cases that assistance to the group is official ISI policy, and even extends to the highest levels of the Pakistani government.

“Pakistan’s apparent involvement in a double-game of this scale could have major geopolitical implications and could even provoke U.S. countermeasures,” said the report, which was based on interviews with Taliban commanders, former Taliban officials, Western diplomats and many others.

Here is a text of the actual report (PDF):

The Sun in The Sky: The Relationship Between The ISI and Afghan Insurgents

I wager the case therein is understated when measured against the actual reality. 

Of course, I am not surprised. a while back, I asked why Pakistan was considered an ally rather than an enemy of the United States:

The horns of our dilemma is that our long time “ally” whom we have hitched ourselves to in a grand war effort against revolutionary Islamist terrorism is not our ally at all, but a co-belligerent with our enemy. By every policy measure that matters that causes the United States – justifiably in my view – to take a tough stance against North Korea and Iran, applies in spades to Islamabad. Yet none dare call Pakistan a rogue state.

It is the elephant in our strategy room – if the elephant was a rabid and schizophrenic trained mastodon, still willing to perform simple tricks for a neverending stream of treats, even as it eyes its trainer and audience with a murderous kind of hatred. That Pakistan’s deeply corrupt elite can be “rented” to defer their ambitions, or to work at cross-purposes with Pakistan’s perceived  “interests”, is not a game-changing event. Instead, it sustains and ramps up the dysfunctional dynamic we find ourselves swimming against.

What is interesting is how broad a consensus view of Pakistani perfidy this is coming to be across the American political spectrum. Let us take two blogfriends of starkly different political coloration as examples, Pundita and Steve Hynd of Newshoggers.com. First Pundita:

Miss Pundita is an inside the Beltway blogger with expertise and interest in the financial-economic and diplomatic nuances of American national security and foreign policy. She is quite conservative, tending, IMHO, to a mix of hard-nosed realism on economic realities and neoconservatism on potential security threats. Here is what she posted on Pakistan:

British report exposes Pakistani regime’s support for Taliban terrorism (UPDATED 2 X)

However, after I finally got to read Waldman’s paper I noticed that his conclusion repeats the canard that if only the Indian Kashmir problem could be solved, this would go a long way to tamping down the Pakistan regime’s murderous rampages. In other words, he’s saying that India bears a big responsibility for the Pakistani regime’s murder and mayhem against NATO troops in Afghanistan.Readers may recall the New York Times (or maybe it was the LA Times; I’d have to check my archives) reporting last year that the CIA station chief in Kabul accused his counterpart in Islamabad of Going Native; i.e., sympathizing far too much with the Pakistani regime’s view of things.

Even Hamid Karzai’s brother noted recently that the CIA had a strange habit of trusting no one but America’s enemies; he was speaking of Pakistan.

So — and pardon my thinking aloud — I’m wondering whether Waldman’s stressing of the Kashmir issue indicates that certain factions in the CIA and/or at State are still hell bent on placating Pakistan’s military/ISI.

As a pertinent aside, it is CIA management that is most unhappy with the DoD and CENTCOM contracting out intel assignments to privately run networks to find the Taliban-AQ targets in Pakistan’s tribal belt who mysteriously always elude Pakistan’s otherwise completely ruthless intelligence apparatus when we have the CIA ask for such tactical intel.  Now for Steve:

Steve Hynd is a founding member of Newshoggers.com and one of its guiding voices. Steve is a Scotsman with a family political background in both the Scottish National Party and Scotland’s Labour Party, which puts Steve comfortably to the Left of Ralph Nader. Here’s what Steve had to say:

Report: Pakistani Intelligence (Still) Supporting Taliban

….Shocking! But only if you hadn’t read about a Spanish report in October 2008, the WaPo’s report on what US officials knew in April of this year, just about everything Afghan and Indian intelligence have ever said about the Taliban, NATO reports back in 2006 and, in fact, every bit of evidence since well before Richard Armitage threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the stone age if it didn’t play ball with Bush’s adventure in Afghanistan.

….America has painted itself into a corner. Unless it is willing to admit that its Afghanistan attempts are failed, failing and will fail then it needs Pakistan at any price to keep the occupation there going. And the domestic political costs of admitting failure are likely too great. Obama and Democrats have used Afghanistan as a shield against Republican accusations of being “soft on terror” and many within the White House and the Democratic establishment don’t want to remove that shield – no matter how much sense it may make strategically and financially – in the run-up to 2012. Republican support for Pakistan’s military has been loud and long and goes back even further. They’d be just as embarassed by an about-face.

The only folks unable to recognize Pakistan’s enmity are those drawing a paycheck from Uncle Sam. Ok, unfair. Many career officials in the military, foreign service and intelligence community, perhaps most, recognize it but this reality is not something their elected officials wish to expend any political capital to address when going along grudgingly with the status quo will not cause any damage to their careers ( Obama administration officials can’t bring themselves to breath the word “Islamist” in public, which is a worrisome sign of ideological overdrive). This is why the US has difficult constructing strategy – leadership requires assumption of risk and unpopular telling of truths before things get better.

What would I recommend? It’s actually pretty simple. Not easy, just simple.

1. Accept that Pakistan, for all intents and purposes, is an enemy of the United States for internal reasons related to domestic politics and regional ambitions and will be for some time. Begin to disengage from Islamabad’s embrace by dialing down the Afghan campaign to a level that can be supported only by air, even if it means dropping COIN for FID advisors, sponsorship of loyalist paramilitaries and selective use of air power.

2. Engage India and China in a strategic entente to contain Pakistan’s penchant for exporting various kinds reckless lunacy, from nuclear weapons technology to Islamist terrorists. Be willing to negotiate with Islamabad but inform them that bad actions – like training terrorists and sending them to the US or India – will be met with a stiff and severe military response against cherished institutions and individuals in the Pakistani state apparatus. 

3. Keep the door open to better elements in Pakistan’s society and be willing to meet positive changes by Pakistan with reciprocal gestures.  Eschew rhetorical demonization of Pakistan, pious public lecturing or empty promises (Pakistanis remember far too many of these) and concentrate on sincere actions, be they carrot or stick.

4. Expect this policy will take a long time to bear fruit and will initially spark much “rent-a-riot” rage in Pakistani streets and “testing” by Pakistan’s shadowy ISI string-pullers. Expect to have our bluff called and be ready to instantly demonstrate the utter seriousness of our change in policy with a response Pakistani leaders will rue. Things will get worse before they get any better.

Strategy involves making choices and giving up fantasies of having one’s cake and eating it too. That Pakistan is our ally in any normal sense of the word is one of those fantasies that is past the time for letting go. Pakistan’s ISI is biting us every day with each flag draped coffin that comes home from Bagram. Opposing every US goal in Afghanistan, taking our bribes does not make Pakistani leaders our friend, much less a reliable ally.

It is time to bite back.


Dr. James Joyner gives a well-considered rebuttal to my sour analysis at The Atlantic Council:

Pakistan: Friend or Foe?

….I share their frustrations but do think it’s more complicated than whether Pakistan is our friend or enemy or the military is fighting the Taliban or helping them.  In both case, it’s a mixed bag.

First, no country is any other country’s friend.  Pakistan is on our side when it serves their interest.  Which, oddly enough, is how we’ve long dealt with Pakistan.

But Safranski is right:  I do think the report calls into question, yet again, who’s running the show in Pakistan.  The answer, generally, has been “The army, of course” but the ISI is theoretically a part of the army, which seems genuinely to be treating the Taliban as a threat.  Pakistani soldiers are killing Taliban forces in great number and dying in the process.

How do we square this circle?

Discover Dr. Joyner’s answer here.

17 Responses to “Rogue State Pakistan”

  1. Antoinett Says:

    "Pakistan’s ISI is biting us every day with each flag draped coffin that comes home from Bagram".

    "It is time to bite back."


    Nothing makes me angrier than knowing that my tax dollars, routed through Pakistan and the ISI, pay for Taliban bullets.

  2. Eddie Says:

    Great analysis (though I doubt China gives a damn about Pakistani terrorist activity at this point given their firm and deepening support for the Pakistani military and intel agencies to include submarine and missile sales). Do we figure the big reset is going to happen once some Pakistani is successful in attacking us on our soil? HRC and Obama won’t be able to smooth that one over without serious and lethal repercussions on Pakistani soil against the target-rich roster of near-do-wells that have been threatening us. Our response will provoke matters and we may very well have to make harsh choices about Pakistan and shift towards India/Afghanistan. 

  3. MM Says:

    An interesting problem.  Who says the the US has the power to lead events in this and is the de-facto manager of it?  Our track record in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine may not be the best resume to tell the people who live there every day to "trust us," we can fix this and make it all orderly and democratic.Obama may be a do nothing President, but he is correct in seeing the limitations of American power to impose a solution, or lead a coalition of the willing, or spread democracy or whatever 20th Century title you want to give.America does not have the military might or the economic carrot or the moral standing or the Harry Potter wand to make it all better over there.  It is in our national interest to contain it and steer it, but how?We can stand and wring our hands like the government response is to the BP spill or we can invent new balances of power and new answers to old problems.  Emotion, past glories, grand military chess games, easy answers won’t contain Pakistan or stop the oil.  But that may be the point of your post?

  4. Dave Schuler Says:

    Our current policy WRT Pakistan is the only one available unless we’re willing to start taking a harder line towards China.  We’ve maintained a solid diet of Marshmallow Fluff in our foreign and economic policies for more than 20 years now.  I see little likelihood we can wean ourselves from it any time soon.

  5. T. Greer Says:

    I am with Dave on this one. Indeed, this was the entire point of the NewsHogger post – America has backed herself into a corner where supporting Pakistan is the only option we have. Absent a radical change in the region’s geopolitics (say, an American about face on Iran…) we are wedded to the Pakistanis.

  6. zen Says:

    Much thanks for the comments gents – Dave is correct that we have largely ourselves to blame for our current predicament.
    Our current policy is to fund a considerable portion of the war effort of the folks shooting at us as a bribe to get sufficient logistical access in order to shoot at the folks who are shooting at us. Yes, it is that crazy.
    This, in my view, is untenable as a policy and should be changed. The only way to change this scenario is to suck it up and alter our own aims in regard to Afghanistan so that Pakistan’s assistance can be dispensed with and we will have a freer hand to make progress in areas that actually matter to US national security. That means scaling
    nation-building ambitions down to reality and narrowing our aims to that which can be accomplished by a deployment heavy in air power, advisors, arms shipments and bags of bribe money.
    Getting tougher on China may be, as Dave suggests, part of this in the long-term but directly going after Chinese interests elsewhere should wait until we’ve extricated ourselves at least from the immediate lose-lose position we find ourselves in.

  7. Pakistan ISI Backing the Taliban? Says:

    […] Mark Safrasnki agrees but argues its time to “Accept that Pakistan, for all intents and purposes, is an enemy of the United States for internal reasons related to domestic politics and regional ambitions and will be for some time.” […]

  8. Pundita Says:

    Mark, Thank you for the link and for your insightful comments, which of course I’ll feature at my blog.

    I’m in profound agreement with your prescription for dealing with Pakistan although an air campaign would need to be used very sparingly in Afghanistan if the other parts of your prescription are deployed; that’s because so much of the insurgency in Afghanistan is driven by Pakistan’s military.  (This doesn’t speak to the low-grade war between two factions in Afghanistan that finds Iran involved, but which has little if anything to do with the vaunted insurgency.)
    My only quibble is that I wish you’d brought up your essay about COIN’s limitations (The post-COIN era is here.)  From where I sit the U.S. military command has yet to confront that population-centric COIN tactics (which as you know were elevated to the level of strategy in Afghanistan) haven’t worked, and they’ve worsened an already-bad situation, simply because the lion’s share of the insurgency is actually a proxy war fought by Pakistan against ISAF. 
    It’s because of the great influence of COIN backers on Obama’s decision about how to wage the Afghanistan campaign that I can’t place all the blame for the debacle on him, even though technically the buck does stop at his desk. True, he liked the COIN approach for domestic political reasons but last year he picked Petraeus’s plan for Afghanistan over others that were not COIN-oriented.  So to my mind, it’s Petraeus (and Gates) who have to go back to Obama and say, ‘Um, the plan needs revisions.’
    Regarding Dave’s comment about China — things have changed since his analysis held true.  U.S. troops have been guarding China’s copper mining enterprise in the country and China wants to expand  mining/mineral exploration in the country. However, Beijing is loathe to put boots on the ground in Afghanistan so they’re happy to have Uncle Sam do guard duty. 

    .WRT China’s long involvement in Pakistan’s affairs – Beijing is looking with horror at the escalating violence inside Pakistan (which they fear will interfere with their port and other development projects in Pakistan). And their worry about the threat from their Muslim population has increased greatly since the early days of the Afghanistan campaign. Similar arguments can be applied to the Saudis, who’re also heavily invested in Pakistan.
    In short, Uncle Sam holds all the high cards in Afghanistan right now  – although if I recall he foolishly threw one to the British government by allowing a Briton to be put in charge of deciding development projects in the country.  However, Uncle Sam has not been playing his card hand; indeed, he seems to have confused poker with a game of checkers. 

    So observers shouldn’t mistake confusion for lack of wiggle room. Yes it’s a tight corner but the US has plenty of options with Pakistan and Afghanistan – and without starting an all-out war with Pakistan. 
    Speaking of copper mining, and with reference to Bill Roggio’s colorful way of asking yesterday why it was news that Pakistan was behind the Taliban:  the question isn’t why "a bear shits in the woods" but why the bear decided to shit on the highway.  Twice this weekend, news that was actually an old story (ISI’s involvement in Taliban terrorism in Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth) suddenly burst into the mainstream media. See my post this morning about the latter story. 
    In my opinion the U.S. command got into such a tight corner because they listened to the wrong policy advice about Pakistan. The advice was based on very incomplete or highly distorted information about the society. Several of the more outlandish distortions, I darkly suspect, came from the ‘Get Russia’ faction at the U.S. Department of State. They want the U.S. to hold onto Pakistan as a client state at any cost. This just in case the Soviet Union reconstitutes later this century, or Earth comes under attack from Klingon battleships being fed intelligence by the Kremlin.

    You may recall that starting last fall I began to rectify the knowledge gap with posts such as Alden Pyle in Pakistan, Part 1.  (At the time I got letters from people in the U.S. military who told me that until they read the post they had no idea there was a caste system in Pakistan.)
    But clearly my work is not done.  So with the possible exception of a few forays into the Gulf oil spill crisis, I’m going to spend the rest of this month at Pundita blog focusing on Pakistan, Afghanistan, and maybe a little about India. The U.S. command, and their civilian bosses, need to wise up fast about Pakistan because their continued ignorance is hurting many Americans, Afghans, Pakistanis, and Indians — and setting back the U.S.-led war against globalized terrorist groups.

    WRT to your comment about my association with the Neocon viewpoint:  I got tired of dealing with loons who pasted hawk feathers on their faces.  I’m all for Pax Americana but after I saw how many Neocons it took to change a light bulb in the Green Zone it occurred to me that having the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough and neither is theory. One also has to be able to chew and walk while off the battlefield. 

    .The final straw for me was Wolfy’s adventure at the World Bank. He was correct about the need to address corruption attached to Bank projects in a truly meaningful way. So all he had to do was learn his lines and not bump into the furniture before he made real changes in the Bank’s culture.  But no, first he had to start a war with the Bank’s mandarins before he understood how things worked at the Bank.  The mandarins chewed him up and spat him out as carpet tacks.  I think that about sums the Neocon approach to foreign policy and defense. 

  9. Miscellany, Blatantly Stolen From Others « The Committee of Public Safety Says:

    […] Rogue State Pakistan: Zenpundit continues his crusade against Pakistan. He proposes the following plan: […]

  10. onparkstreet Says:

    (cross posting my comment from CB):
    With all due respect to Dr. Joyner, it’s pretty easy to square that circle. There are “good” Talibans and “bad” Talibans according to the Pakistani national interest (as defined by a section of the “governing” elite within the military and civilian world.).
    You keep the “good” Taliban in reserve, right? Because they – in your national interest calculation – are not destabilizing Pakistan. The destabilizing guys you go after. The others? Well…..
    And you take the Kerry-Lugar aid money and you spend whatever you “save” on conventional weapons directed toward India. .
    – Madhu
    PS: None of the above is at all original, and is stolen from, well, a whole bunch of other people.
    Pundita, I look forward to your posts. Actually, maybe "look forward" isn’t quite right. More like, I’m depressed that you have to do it, but I think you need to. It’s not sinking in for some reason.
    Crocker said something about a "second" Kerry-Lugar bill in his CNAS panel talk, but I admit I only listened to a few minutes of it. What is it with the constant dumping of money at problems? We don’t even know how Kerry-Lugar I has worked out yet (although I have my suspicions.) We haven’t had time to assess the proper metrics, even if we could do such a thing accurately. To restate what I said at Inkspots: "my fellow Americans – we suck at South Asia."

  11. Dave Schuler Says:

    Let’s change the diction a bit.  Rather than friends and enemies perhaps we should be talking about strategic assets and strategic liabilities.  The question then becomes in which column to place the Pakistani government.  Note that I don’t say “Pakistan” because the two are distinct..As long as we want to engage in largescale active military operations in Afghanistan, the Pakistani government is an asset.  If we were to alter our strategy there (something I’d prefer), the Pakistani government would probably become a net liability to us for the reason that Mark points out:  they’re arming our enemies to oppose us.

  12. ShrinkWrapped Says:

    PC as Pathological Psychological Defense: Foreign Affairs…

    Psychological defenses protect us from knowing things that would frighten, discomfort, or depress us. All psychological defenses involve compromises of our ability to accurately perceive reality. Most of the time, in reasonably healthy people, our perc…

  13. Purpleslog Says:

    "Engage India and China in a strategic entente…"

    Zen: This assumes China wants to help us…be a the friend of the US. I don’t think that is accurate. China sees the US as its prime opponent long-term and acts accordingly. Why would they help the US on this? What’s in it for them?

  14. Watcher of Weasels » Council Submission June 16, 2010 Says:

    […] – Rogue State Pakistan Submitted by The Glittering […]

  15. zen Says:

    Re: China
    China does not want to "help" the US per se. What the Chinese have done is a) tie most of their last two generations’ surplus  to the dollar, b) tie a substantial portion of their GDP to exporting goods to America ( Wal-Mart by itself is one of China’s largest trading partners) and c) predicate political stability on continuing high rates of economic growth which are requiring greater access to foreign commodity markets and secure maritime shipping. Both parties can cause one another great difficulties in the economic sphere and each would have a hard time causing significant harm without imjuring their own interests which is why confrontation is generally avoided.
    We  don’t need huge amounts of activism by China on Afghanistan-Pakistan, we need China to avoid actively making trouble.

  16. Bookworm Room » Watcher’s Council submissions for 6/16/10 Says:

    […] – Rogue State Pakistan Submitted by The Glittering […]

  17. Watcher of Weasels » The Council has Spoken 061810 Says:

    […] – Rogue State Pakistan Submitted by The Glittering Eye Sphere: Related Content […]

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