At the end of this Washington Post article on the strained ties between the US and Pakistan after al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden was killed in a US raid in Abbottabad, is this nugget that highlights how the Pakistanis have for years resisted US pressure to take on terror groups:
A July 29, 2008, Washington meeting between Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and his national security adviser, Mahmud Ali Durrani, and then-CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, his deputy Stephen R. Kappes and Anne W. Patterson, then the U.S. ambassador to Islamabad, illustrates the wariness on both sides.
The previous day, a U.S. drone-launched missile had killed Abu Khabab al-Masri, described as al-Qaeda’s chief bomb-maker and chemical weapons expert, in South Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghanistan border.
Hayden apologized for collateral damage (news reports said three civilians were killed), and the strike had occurred during Gillani’s visit to the United States. The CIA director noted that the ISI had not contributed any targeting information.
Both sides referred to repeated Pakistani requests that the United States place Baitullah Mehsud, a leader of Pakistan’s increasingly lethal domestic insurgency, at the top of the hit list.
Kappes agreed that Mehsud was a legitimate target, but said that Sirajuddin Haqqani, a North Waziristan-based Afghan whose insurgent network regularly attacked U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, was a far higher U.S. priority.
Pakistan’s insistence that it had no intelligence on Haqqani’s whereabouts was disingenuous, Patterson said during the meeting. The ISI was in “constant touch” with him, and the madrassa where he conducted business was clearly visible from the Pakistani army garrison in North Waziristan. (Mehsud was killed in an August 2009 drone strike. Haqqani remains high on the U.S. target list.)
In a series of December 2008 meetings following the terrorist attack in Mumbai that left nearly 200 people dead — including six Americans — top Bush administration officials told Pakistan there was “irrefutable” intelligence proof that the Pakistani group Lashkar-i-Taiba was responsible.
A written communication delivered to Pakistan said that “it is clear to us that [Lashkar-i-Taiba] is responsible .?.?. we know that it continues to receive support, including operational support, from the Pakistani military intelligence service.”
As the Obama administration continued efforts to persuade Pakistan — while escalating the number of drone strikes — Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, as well as Durrani and other officials, were repeatedly told that the United States would reach a breaking point.
In a November 2009 letter to President Asif Ali Zardari, Obama offered a new level of partnership — later buttressed with increased military and economic assistance. But he warned that the existing state of affairs, with Pakistan seeing insurgent groups as proxies for influence in Afghanistan, could not continue.
The following May, a Pakistani immigrant, the son of an army officer, allegedly tried to explode a car bomb in New York’s Times Square. Subsequent investigations traced his training to Pakistani insurgent camps.
It should be noted that the Haqqani Network isn’t just a local Taliban group focused on fighting in Afghanistan. The Haqqanis are linked into the global jihad and are closely tied to al Qaeda.
The Washington Post article merely scratches the surface of Pakistan’s complicity in aiding terror groups in South and Central Asia [see LWJ report, Pakistan’s Jihad, for details up to December 2009]. Yet, as the article notes at the beginning, there is little political will in Washington to do anything more than complain about Pakistan’s ties to terror groups:
But few officials are eager to contemplate the alternatives if Pakistan makes the wrong choice. No one inside the administration, the official said, “wants to make a fast, wrong decision.”
Despite heated comments from Obama administration officials, the likelihood is that little will change in the US’ policy toward Pakistan. The billions in US aid will likely continue to flow to Pakistan, for two reasons: 1) the probable threat to US supply lines into Afghanistan through Pakistan (Pakistan has closed them before in protest against US actions); and 2) the arguable threat to the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal (the theory being that the US’ billions will strengthen the Pakistani military establishment and not any of the terror groups it supports, and that accordingly the terror groups won’t get access to the weapons).
The Bush administration showed no desire to radically change US policy towards Pakistan, and the Obama administration will likely follow suit. And Pakistan will continue to serve as an engine of jihad.