There are few, if any, countries that have the schizophrenic distinction of being friend and enemy at the same time. When an exasperated Hillary Clinton tells Pakistani audiences that “someone” in their government knows where Osama bin Laden is located and proclaims, in the same breath, that the government in Islamabad is an ally, she only politely paraphrases what is the essential nature of that country. It also shows her impotent rage that she knows what this US “ally” is up to.
If there was any evidence needed, one just has to take a cursory look at the 92,000 documents on the US’ Afghan war from 2004 to 2010 posted online by WikiLeaks (http://wardiary.wikileaks.org). The posted items show how Pakistan is working purposely to defeat US war aims in Afghanistan. Since 2001, Islamabad has been a beneficiary of US financial largesse. A conservative estimate of the payouts would be around $1 billion per year. Yet this has not prevented it from keeping the Taliban alive as an insurance policy for a post-US Afghan world.
It has succeeded spectacularly. For years, US diplomats, politicians and leaders of armed forces have repeatedly told Pakistan about the existence of a “Quetta Shura”, a group of key Taliban leaders, including Mullah Mohammad Omar. The existence of this group has been denied blithely by Islamabad. At the same time, US armed pressure, drone attacks and hard intelligence have failed to finish off the Taliban. If they continue to receive sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal areas and its North West Frontier Province (now renamed Khyber-Pakhtun-khwa), this should surprise no one, least of all the Americans.
In hindsight, one can say that US strategy in Afghanistan kissed death the day it signed up Pakistan for help. Even at the height of the post-9/11 shock and awe, Islamabad was secretly flying Taliban operatives by the thousands out of Kunduz province in Afghanistan to safety in Pakistan. This was with the consent of the US. Such “black operations” were signal enough for the generals in Rawalpindi to continue with business as usual. If today, nine years later, Islamabad has the US on a hook, the mavens in Washington have no one but themselves to blame.
The fact is that Pakistan is a deeply insecure and cussed country. No amount of patience, understanding or friendship can deter it from the dangerous course it has chosen. It only backs off when confronted with brute force. If the US thinks that suasion and money can alter Islamabad’s behaviour, it should re-read the WikiLeaks documents. Hopefully, it will inject some realism into its decision makers.
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