Friday, September 30, 2011

With Friends Like Pakistan . . .

Admiral Mike Mullen recently testified at the Senate Armed Services Committee that our "ally" Pakistan has allowed the Taliban-supported faction Haqqani to become nothing less than an arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency. This testimony comes from the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It wasn't very politic, and it has caused quite a stir.

We have been buoying up our Pakistani “allies” for years, often to the detriment of our much firmer ally, India. The Afghanistan War has opened wounds we either didn’t know we had or thought were healing. Pakistan makes no pretense of being a purely secular state. After all, its capital is Islamabad (“the abode of Islam”). But we counted on the fact that after the first round of Islamists were ousted from power decades back, the military would suppress the major jihadist impulses of the government and the Muslim clerics. They even elected a woman as head of state. It worked for awhile and up to a point.

The war in Afghanistan, a nation which borders Pakistan, has ripped the bandage off the long-festering wound. After successfully driving the largest groups of Taliban out of Afghanistan, we quickly discovered they were being given safe harbor and assistance in Pakistan, particularly the border province of Waziristan. Waziristan is comprised of two administrative districts, North and South, but for all intents and purposes, South Waziristan is an independent state under the very loose administrative control of the central Pakistani government.

Both parts of the province are comprised largely of warring tribes. In the South, the population is largely comprised of Waziris, Mahasuds and Burki. They are not ethnically close to the Pakistani Punjabis, Sindhi or Pashtuns, and consider Pakistan to be an occupying force. In the North, the main tribe is the Darwesh Khel, alternatively known as the Utmanzai Waziris. They are ethnically Waziri, but often at war with the southern Waziris. Unlike the South, which is largely uncontrolled, the North is actually under some direct control from Islamabad, but also unlike the South, the North shares an open border with Afghanistan. In fact, both North and South Waziristan sound a lot like Afghanistan just before the Taliban took over the government.

The battles between the North, the South and the central Pakistani government make this a slippery situation for both Islamabad and Washington DC. The problem that has come to light in recent years is that despite their internal battles, Pakistan and Waziristan are extremely Taliban-friendly. Pakistan makes occasional forays into Waziristan to stamp out open rebellions or arrest terrorists who want to blow up Islamabad. But by their own admission, the Pakistanis are unable to gain effective control of the province.

Though the government of Pakistan is still largely in military hands, those at the top are now more militantly Islamic and bellicose toward India and hesitant toward the United States. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) has been the recipient of complaints from the White House for its complicity in Taliban-sponsored terrorism since early in the Clinton administration. The army’s failure to gain effective control of the Afghan border regions has also been a source of considerable diplomatic maneuvering.

But it is only recently that a personage as important as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has publicly and clearly called Taliban-supported Pakistani terror group Haqqani a “veritable arm of the ISI.” American-Pakistani relations, already strained, were pulled to near-breaking by the honest words of an American Admiral. The official Pakistani response was very angry, indicating that the government believes America is interfering in internal Pakistani matters. The usual mad Muslims took to the streets in the thousands to warn America not to try to deal with Haqqani on its own (though there was no suggestion from any American official that America has any intention of doing anything faintly resembling acting independently on the Haqqani matter).

All that Admiral Mullen really did was point out the danger of an ally which officially claims to be doing its best, but in reality is at best neutral about Taliban/Haqqani terrorism and at worst, actively complicit. Having the truth pointed out in public caused the Pakistani government to announce that it would not tolerate American attacks on Taliban and Al Qaeda bases in Waziristan without prior permission from Islamabad. This, even though the government admits outright that it has scant control of the border regions. It doesn’t help that the Pakistani government at its highest levels has more leaks than a sieve, and that any forewarning to Islamabad about a pending American attack on terrorist bases would get to the terrorists faster than the drones and the bombs.

This is clearly a thorny problem. But pretending that we don’t know how treacherous Pakistan has been is simply no longer viable. The best example of all was the capture and killing of the greatest terrorist of the last half of the twentieth century—Osama bin Laden. He had been living comfortably in a very obvious compound a mere sixty miles from Islamabad, in a security zone, and practically on the grounds of a nearby Pakistani military base.

When a sophisticated American helicopter went down during the operation, the Pakistani government made sure the first people to get to it were the Chinese military experts. Yet we are expected to believe that our ally didn’t know about bin Laden’s compound, had no idea he was in Pakistan, and was acting in the interest of our alliance by allowing Chinese military operatives to sort through highly-sensitive war-making machinery before allowing the Americans in.

So how does the Obama administration react to the admiral’s statement? Just about as you would expect. It wussed out. Barack Obama has refused to publicly endorse the admiral’s statement, and is presently hiding under his desk. He has sent his better-half, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to soothe the Pakistani savage breast.

Despite recent border incursions from Pakistan into Afghan war zones aiding the Taliban, the Taliban-led attack on the US embassy in Kabul, and attacks on NATO outposts near the border, Clinton failed to address the fact that Haqqani was clearly linked to the attacks. Instead, she met for three hours with the Pakistani ambassador, repeating platitudes about cooperation and vital strategic interests.

This flies in the face of the unrefuted testimony of Admiral Mullen who named names and tied Pakistan and the terrorists together: “With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted the truck bomb attack on September 10 which killed five and wounded seventy-seven coalition soldiers. We also have credible evidence that Haqqani was behind the June 28th attack on the International Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations.”

So what did our brave Secretary of State do? Her department leaked a memo to the Washington Post that said: “Adm. Mike Mullen’s assertion last week than an anti-American insurgent group in Afghanistan is a veritable arm of Pakistan’s spy service was overstated and contributed to overheated reactions in Pakistan and misperceptions in Washington.” She doesn’t contradict the admiral’s statement with any evidence whatsoever, but makes it very clear we mustn’t upset our “allies.”


T-Rav said...

I think it's likely that in the near future, Pakistan is just going to cross the line from "ally" to open enemy. What we need to be doing now is building up our relationship with India and supporting them all the way if Islamabad goes nuclear--in other words, the exact thing we will not be doing for at least the next 15 or 16 months.

On a brighter note, that American-born terrorist al-Awlaki or whatever his name is was killed by a drone strike in Yemen today. Another one bites the dust...

Anonymous said...

T-Rav: That's probably an accurate assessment. Pakistan became an ally of America because we exercised power. It had previously been very hostile, even before it got a nuclear weapons program. They understand they could quickly be isolated by an Indian/American alliance that actually exercises its will. We would no longer have to hold back on attacking the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Waziristan. But you're also right about that not happening while President Waffle is still in the White House. Just knowing that American has the will to kill the terrorists on their own territory could bring Pakistan back into the fold (after another military coup, of course).

That was a twofer in Yemen. We not only got Al Awlaki, but as a bonus, we got Samir Khan. Khan was from North Carolina, but coincidentally with today's article, of Pakistani origin. We killed a major Islamist recruiter and planner and a major jihad propagandist in one attack.

AndrewPrice said...

Yeah, Pakistan is a bad place. There were a couple articles the other day about some attacks on US troops by Pakistani intelligence and apparently they were even involved in the embassy attack the other day. I think it's time we sided with India in their disputes.

Anonymous said...

Andrew: Mullen did not include the embassy attack specifically in his testimony, but he did tell Hillary Clinton that Haqqani/ISI's fingerprints were all over it. And he told her that before she went to play nice-nice with the Pakistani ambassador. The only reason he didn't include it in his testimony is that the evidence was not yet clear and convincing, but more likely than not. When he was telling Congress the truth they needed to hear, he did not embellish it one iota by including conclusions that were not yet fully verifiable.

India both wants and needs us as a firm ally, but instead we treat them like poor relatives.

It is in the interest of both nations that we provide India with all the assistance we can to put a leash on Pakistani ambitions and terror-support while at the same time freeing India up to crush the Islamic militants within India who want to take over Indian territory in the Punjab.

Tennessee Jed said...

while believing that Pakistan, like many Islamic countries, represents a difficult and complex situation, I concur. By that, I mean that there are probably elements within Pakistan that are more friendly towards the west, there are so many jihadist sympathizers both inside and out government, that they cannot be counted on as an ally. While I can sympathize with the current administration that it makes life more difficult when employees speak out in ways not entirely vetted, it certainly has happened in the past, and I have no doubt the case made by the admiral is factual.

Failure to toughen our stance towards Pakistan plays right into the strength of the jihadist elements, and emboldens them.

Just as with the Iranian crackdown earlier, it is hard for the United States to back up tough talk short of engaging in a military conflict. But failure to at least come out and decry the actions sent a wrong message to the Iranian people. Likewise, we can talk tough with China, but are not in a position to do anything about it. I don't particularly trust India either, but at least they aren't as bad as Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Tennessee: I largely agree with you. But it is important to note that Pakistan's politics blow with the wind of the military leaders in charge. Right now, they're Islamists. But there are plenty of Muslim secularists in the army who are not so hot on the idea of martyrdom. Isolate them enough, and it's possible for their own survival that they could become the future leaders of Pakistan.

Unlike some past "revelations" that were testified to before Congress, Admiral Mullen was in the good graces of the administration, is not a "disgruntled employee," and was not told in advance to censor any of his remarks. The problem was created because the Obama administration is in complete disarray, a body without a head, and has a foreign policy that barely exists as it relates to Muslim nations. No doubt Mullen thought he was free to make his cogent remarks with the administration's blessings. It was only after the disorganized Keystone Kops in the White House and at State paid attention to what he was saying that they realized it could antagonize Pakistan. Mullen is too respected by nearly all political stripes to become a fallguy, so they now have to dance around what he said rather than outright deny it.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, they have neither decency nor shame.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Why is it we send money and material aid to any country that is not completly an ally?
Is it the Forest syndrom yet again?
Bin Ladin being found in Pakistan should have been all that was needed to place that country on the no support till concrete change has been made list.

Anonymous said...

Tehachapi Tom: You're asking the wrong person. I'm all for the concept that we give no money to those who harbor terrorists, and cut off foreign aid to any country in the UN which consistently votes against us on world issues. Charity begins at home, and we don't have money to be throwing around to fair-weather friends, let alone to enemies.

Anonymous said...

T-Rav: You said it, brother!

BevfromNYC said...

Why is it that Obama is free to kill anyone at anytime at any location and no one finds that scary? Don't get me wrong - I'm thrilled that these two are dead, but, when did it become okay for us to drop bombs anywhere we pleased? Has the world just gone all goofy? The Libs are so pleased with themselves over this.

Oh, and by the way, I am in complete agreement with pulling funding from any country that is not with us on terrorism.

Anonymous said...

Bev: You've missed the obvious. Since Obama is a god, he can kill anyone he wants, any time he wants, and anywhere he wants. He'll shortly announce that he didn't actually use the military, he used his own thunderbolts. LOL

We not only need to stop giving money to our erstwhile allies, but we need to stop borrowing money from our enemy China to do it.

T-Rav said...

Bev, I'd be lying if I said I cared much that these two were killed without due process. I get the principle, but I simply can't get that worked up about it. And even for this administration, it'd be a big leap (I think) from that to claiming the power of life and death over all citizens.

Although, I do find it odd that Obama or Holder or whoever couldn't be bothered to run this by a court first. As was pointed out during Bush's wiretapping controversy, there were courts which could speedily and even retroactively approve the measure; I assume there's something similar in place for this. And presumably there wouldn't be much trouble getting a favorable rating. Whatever.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, if I banked with them, I'd be giving serious consideration to changing banks right now. Although, in their (partial) defense, this is what happens when Obama and Congress demagogue against financial institutions as "exploitative" and force them to stop doing business in a certain way--they've got to get the money from somewhere.

P.S. That should be "ruling," not "rating," on my last comment--idiot me didn't check it first.

Anonymous said...

T-Rav: It's vitally important not to do what Obama, Holder, and the Dummycrats have done time and again. We gave the miserable s.o.b.s all the process they were due. This is not a civilian matter within the confines of America or its territories. This is war, and the sooner we act like it the better. Screw habeas corpus for terrorists operating on foreign soil sending their killers into America. We had permission from the government of Yemen, and that was all that was needed. If it makes the "war on crime" boys feel better, let 'em have a trial for the corpses.

The MSM and the left would have you believe that there is a legitimate argument for "due process" in this matter. These promoters of mass murder were at war with the United States and they were not acting within the purview of American civil law and they were not on American soil. No court--and I repeat--no court has jurisdiction to tell the Commander-in-Chief how to conduct a war on foreign soil.

If these two terror-masters had been caught on American soil, there is an argument that they are entitled to due process, though I don't believe the Constitution requires that. But that argument simply doesn't come close to applying in this case.

For once, Obama has exercised a power the Constitution actually grants him.

Anonymous said...

T-Rav: And I forgot to mention that terrorist wiretapping is arguably a civil law matter when one of the parties is on American soil. If both parties are on American soil, it is clearly a civilian matter.

This overseas vermin-control action is not and should not be determined by civil law. It was determined by the rules of war, as it should be, and is in no way, shape or form anything like the Bush wire-tapping issue.

If Holder had run this past a court, I would be screaming like a wounded legal eagle. The Commander-in-Chief need not and should not hesitate to take quick and decisive military action overseas, during a war. The domestic courts are absolutely irrelevant and have no jurisdiction over matters of war.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, I defer to your judgement. :-)

Anonymous said...

T-Rav: No need, I value your opinion. I just happen to get very prickly when people like Ron Paul make arguments that are not only stupid, but also echo the Holder/Obama line (when they're not flip-flopping on the issue). If captured and returned to the United States, these two (or three, if the latest report is right) might or might not be entitled to civilian trials. But due process does not mean civilian trials if they were making war on the U.S. The due process they are entitled to as terrorists is a military tribunal.

But how do you give "due process" to a mass murderer hiding out in a foreign country, sending terrorist agents into America to commit murder and mayhem? In Ron Paul's estimation, we should just let these barbarians continue on their merry way until we can capture them. Alternatively, we should risk American lives unnecessarily by invading a foreign nation to capture the terrorists.

Paul called the righteous kills "assassinations," and stated that they had not been proven guilty of anything. So what? How much death and destruction could have been avoided if someone had taken Hitler out? Would Paul have let the mass killing go on until we could capture Hitler and prove him guilty of genocide before killing him? The word "assassination" has no meaning outside the civilian arena, and killing a terrorist making war on America from a foreign base is most definitely not an assassination.

The issue of them being US citizens is irrelevant when they're outside the US and making war on America. But assuming they are nothing more than common criminals entitled to due process, isn't every common criminal entitled to the same treatment? Which is to say, have they never seen an FBI poster which depicts a dangerous domestic criminal with the caption: "Wanted, Dead or Alive?" Our military chose dead.

Your question was valid, given that even the smartest Americans rarely have heard the entire issue framed properly. All they heard was "American citizens" and assumed that nullified the right of the military to kill the s.o.b.s. That was only one small piece of the puzzle, as I've discussed. They were at least guilty of treason, and yet we convicted the "American Taliban" of a lesser charge. Better to kill them in their foreign holes and be done with it.

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