Turning to the Haqqanis, Pakistan has made its choice

The ISI’s ties to an insurgent network undermine any hope of real cooperation with the US

A pitfall of writing for this newspaper as frequently as I do is that sometimes a major event comes along and I find that I’ve already said most of what I wish to say. Such is the case with Admiral Michael G. Mullen’s recent admonishment of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence for its ties to the Haqqani insurgent network.

It’s difficult for me to add more than what I’ve already written in “While Karachi Slowly Burns” (Sept. 10, 2010), or “Mission Accomplished” (May 6, 2011). Pakistan is a state with a major security problem — India — and two mutually-exclusive strategies to deal with that problem: a stable security partnership with the United States, or an increasing reliance on jihadi proxies. The former is a realistic path, as Pakistan and the United States have considerable mutual interests, while the latter is a monumental blunder, built on the quixotic notion that terrorists and guerrillas can somehow bleed India down to parity despite its seven to one advantage in men and materiel.

We have long hoped that Pakistan would choose America, not terrorists, as the guarantors of its security, but that hope has been in vain. Now, Admiral Mullen, Pakistan’s greatest remaining booster in the U.S. foreign policy establishment, has delivered what amounts to an ultimatum: either Pakistan severs its connection with the militant groups that are attacking NATO forces in Afghanistan, or America will sever its connection with Pakistan. The Pakistanis have refused to abandon the Haqqanis, and so the die is cast. The dissolution of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan is a fait accompli; it is inconceivable that the U.S. Congress will renew billions of dollars of aid for a country that is actively (and now publicly) engaged in the killing of U.S. troops.

The decision by the Obama administration to deliver the ultimatum to our nominal ally is not without its downsides. Our counter-terrorism efforts, as well as our war-fighting in Afghanistan, rely a great deal on Pakistan’s cooperation. However, in the long run, given Pakistan’s behavior, long-term U.S. interests in South and Central Asia are best served by a realignment toward India. The Obama administration deserves praise for its execution of this realignment. Years have been spent carefully setting the stage, giving the Pakistanis every opportunity to edge themselves back from their suicidal geopolitical strategy while simultaneously testing the waters of a U.S-India partnership. And the choice of timing is impeccable: U.S. forces in Afghanistan are higher than they have ever been before, giving the U.S. its maximal leverage against Pakistan, but the president’s political capital to remove those forces is also at its zenith, which undercuts Pakistan’s main source of leverage over the U.S. — namely, its supply routes to Afghanistan.

It is important that Obama (or the next president of the United States) appreciates the gravity and finality implicit in Pakistan’s rebuff of Mullen’s ultimatum. Already, some pundits are selling the cutesy notion of the U.S. being “frenemies” with Pakistan, as if international relations followed a script out of some Hollywood high school drama. But there is no intermediate status between friends and enemies to be found here — as the U.S. withdraws its support from Pakistan, Pakistan will compensate for this loss by relying even more strongly on militant groups like the Haqqanis to provide for its national security. The break-up, once initiated, can only accelerate.

In the long run, the U.S. playbook on Pakistan should grow to resemble that of India’s. The way to neuter an enemy is to carve them up into multiple states — such was Germany’s treatment by the allies after World War II, as well as the Soviet Union’s fate after its fall. India has already cut Pakistan in half, dividing it between modern Pakistan and Bangladesh. It seeks to do so again, exploiting the ethnic fault lines in Pakistani society to carve it up even further. With its parting shots in Afghanistan, the U.S. should use its military might to aid in this strategy. In its least extreme form, this strategy might merely ensure that Baloch-dominated provinces within Afghanistan retain a high degree of autonomy from the Afghan federal government. In its most extreme form, the U.S. could funnel arms to Baloch nationalists in southern Pakistan or take direct action in support of a free Balochistan. Where the U.S. should fall on this spectrum of policy choices is open to debate — what must be avoided is the naive optimism that Pakistan will have a Damascene moment and suddenly become the ally that the U.S. requires. Now is the time to restructure Afghanistan in the way that makes Pakistan weakest, not to dither in a nonexistent middle ground.

History will look upon Pakistan’s embrace of jihadists as one of the greatest geopolitical missteps of the 21st century. To prevent itself from appearing with Pakistan in history’s list of blunderers, the U.S. must make its break with Pakistan a decisive one and resist the urge to force nuance into a situation that deserves none.

Amer over 10 years ago

Grow up from being a war mongerer. Pushing arms into Balochistan to break Pakistan is not going to help neither will propping India up against Pakistan be of use. The USA needs to learn to be honest and not use Pakistan as the fall guy. The Haqqanis rule 5 Afghan provinces why doesn't the USA go after the network there?

Ram over 10 years ago

I do not agree with the fundamental premise of the article 'Pakistan is a state with a major security problem India'. I do not believe India is a security threat to the extent it is made out to be. Never has India initiated a war against its neighbors nor has there been a overt attempt to break. India did not break Pakistan into two...its the Pakistanis who did it to themselves. You might to refresh your history. If they were united, strong and have allowed democratic traditions to flourish in their country and respect the Bengali populace' legitimate need for representation in polity, there would have been a singular Pakistan. The last thing India wants is a war with Pakistan or see instability in the region. Frankly speaking, Indians are not obsessed with China and no one really bothers or cares about Pakistan. Just as much as the Chinese are obsessed about the US and no one in China really cares about India.

The smartest solution is to put pressure economically and knock the wind out of their economic viability. This will bring out the saner voices of Pakistani society to course correct and come to a win-win situation for itself and the world around it. The biggest enemy Pakistan has today is its own demons. The last thing you want is to have blood in your hands. Too much has been spilled in vain already.

jabbar over 10 years ago

I can't believe what the writer has said. the US has used pakistan for its own interest. siding with US has cost pakistan a lot of lives and economic destruction. Pakistan has lost US $ 70 billions in the war against terror. The US has so far given just 9 billion dollar. what a mockery and propaganda such articles have made.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

Pakistan's creation was the biggest blunder of history of man kind and its maintaince is even the worst mistake. As long as Pakistan exist it will continue to be a parasite and will continue to bleed the people of India, Afghanistan and Balochistan. It is time to break apart this country to reduce its power to export and promote terrorism. Without breaking up Pakistan there is no way that Paki army and its ISI will let the people of this region to have any peace. No any other option should be on the table but to break up this country and dismantle its ISI and its terrorist military. It will be a great favor to humanity and specially people of Pakistan who will take a big deep breath of sigh and relief once Pakistan is gone. Every one will be FREE.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

Pakistan is a rogue state. The sooner the US and global community realize this fact, the quicker the world can take necessary steps of dismantling Pakistan to stop this cancer from spreading violence throughout the world.

It is a fact that all leads to terrorism (and nuclear proliferation) emanate from Pakistan. Since the inception of this country in 1947, Pakistan committed the genocide of millions of Hindu and Sikh during the break-up of India, then in the 1970s the murder of millions of Bengalis in East Pakistan (Bangladesh), and the kidnap-torture-dump (corpses) of Baloch nationalist. Pakistan has perfected the art of genocide and terrorism, and we need to wake up and stop this menace.

What is ironic and appalling is that Pakistan enjoys total impunity from the civilized world in committing such acts of human rights violations! After Adolf Hitlers treatment of the Jews, we vowed that as a global community, we will Never Again allow genocide to occur anywhere in the world. The creation of Bosnia, East Timor and Darfur is a testament to that promise.

But, we have totally ignored the plea of the Baloch people for the past 63 years when Pakistan forcibly occupied Balochistan in 1948. Ever since then, the Baloch nationalist have resisted the illegal occupation of their country. Human Rights Watch has finally taken notice of the atrocities committed in Balochistan by the Pakistani military apparatus. The Baloch people deserve to be heard, and have every right to be free.

It is high time for the sane voices around us to question the support we provide to Pakistan, and decide on how to terminate this monster that we created by giving billions of dollars in aid to facilitate the severest form of human rights violations. Pakistan must cease to exist.

A Baloch Nationalist

Anonymous over 10 years ago

Pakistan occupied Balochistan and busy in balochicide process by killing Baloch youth on daily basis, the tactics recently learned adapted by frequent visit of Pakistani foreign minister to Iran, as Iran is practicing Balochicide by hanging average two Baloch youth daily since long time, on the other hand Pakistan army which is 70 extremists keep blind eye on taliban and religious fundamentalist, any kind of moral help from western civilized world to Baloch people is welcomed.

basanti over 10 years ago

Its a thought provoking article with valid solution.Until now since 2001 usa had been fighting WOT on two wrong front ie Afghanistan and Iraq.Real front was pakistan which usa came to realise after 10 years of WOT.World in general has realised that its the Pakistan which is problem to world peace but not Afghanistan.Killing of Osama in Pakistan proves that its pakistan which is the problem.What author of this article has suggested is freeing Balochistan.USA can go one step further to erase the durand line and merge Pakhtoonwa province with Afghanistan.that way Pukhtoons which were divided by durand line carved by british can ultimately unite.Even Taliban dont recognise durand line.coming to east of indus sindh can be carved as separate country coz they have been marginalised by the majority punjab and punjabi dominated army.Azad kaskmir and Northern areas should be merged with Indian state of jammu and kashmir as it were so before 1947.

Keith Yost over 10 years ago

1 and 3) You're letting Pakistan off way too easily. I feel bad for doing this, but I don't care enough to provide you with evidence, since from the sound of things you'd just shrug it off.

2) I think you're letting off India too easily here. India has shown little but unremitting hostility towards Pakistan. To go to a specific point: while the civil war began in Pakistan, and was largely the result of callous indifference by the Pakistani government toward the Bengali people, but without Indian military intervention, Pakistan would likely have retained control over its eastern half.

Let me put it another way: Who developed nuclear weapons first, India or Pakistan? I like India, but I think the good guy picture of India is overly simplistic.

4, 5, and 6) I think you are raising an important point here. I wrote this article with my real politik glasses on, but there is also the question of what foreign policy would be most in line with American ideals. America, as a matter of ideal, supports the self-determination of all peoples. An independent Balochistan, in my view, is the foreign policy that is most in line with the U.S. sense of right and wrong.

7) Good point re: Pakhtoonwa.

Anonymous over 10 years ago

Keith, who developed nuclear weapons first? India or Communist China?

Regarding India and Pakistan, India has not shown "unremitting hostility" towards Pakistan. Look at the 1965 war, where India could have captured Lahore but chose not to do so. Or, look at the 1971 war, where India returned 90,000 Pakistani POW's for little in return. No, India has not been perfect, but most Indians want to forget about Pakistan and move on with their lives.

Regarding the creation of an independent Balochistan, many serious people have reservations:


Anonymous over 10 years ago

"..while the civil war began in Pakistan, and was largely the result of callous indifference by the Pakistani government toward the Bengali people, but without Indian military intervention, Pakistan would likely have retained control over its eastern half." Yost

This must be one of the more depraved statements I have read on The Tech. Somewhere between 1 and 3 million people were murdered in East Pakistan by Pakistani forces before India sent its army to end the genocide. R.J.Rummel, the scholar who coined the word "democide", estimates 1.5 million people were killed by Pakistanis and he lists Pakistan as a "megamurderer state", just below Nazi Germany, Communist China and the USSR, and in the same league as the Khmer Rouge regime. I am appalled that Yost whitewashes this crime against humanity as just "callous indifference." Even some Pakistanis now acknowledge there was a genocide of Hindus in 1971 - here is a recent article by Colonel Nadir Ali of the Pakistani army who served in east Pakistan at that time:


What next? An article by Yost decrying the Allied invasion of Europe - yes, yes, the Germans exhibited "callous indifference" to the Jews but had the Allies not invaded Germany, the Reich would have become a peaceful state within Europe?

It has become fashionable for Americans to ask why other people hate them. Your depraved indifference to the wholesale slaughter of people in other countries by your stooges is one reason even people like me, who are usually gung ho about the US, wonder sometimes what really goes on in the hearts of Americans.

Keith Yost over 10 years ago

To 10)

The "callous indifference" that I referred to as precipitating the civil war is Pakistan's response to the Bhola cyclone.

The events that you are referring to happened during the civil war.

Either you misread my words, have a limited understanding of "post hoc ergo propter hoc" as a necessary (though insufficient) component of causality, or are just an angry person who wants to feel outraged.

Sincerely, an American who doesn't understand, nor give a care, why you hate him.