Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Pakistan - A Bridge Too Far
Osama bin-Laden's assassination in a luxury mansion in a town filled with Pakistani military has taken the lid off of a long standing dichotomy in our relations with that country.
The simple fact is that what passes for Pakistan's government has to walk a line between appeasing the significant portion of the populace who largely sympathize with Osama bin-Laden's goals and ideology and that government's desire to keep all that badly needed US aid coming in.
The essential contradiction was pointed out by the back and forth of Pakistan's official position on the bin-Laden mission.
Originally the Pakistani's were claiming that the killing of bin-Laden was 'a joint operation'. Later, as supporters of bin-Laden began making themselves heard, the story changed with Pakistan officially condemning what it called 'an unauthorized unilateral action'.
Even the US engaged in the game, first vaguely suggesting in a face saving gesture that the Pakistanis were involved, and later having no less a figure than CIA head Leon Panetta stating publicly and explicitly that the Pakistanis were deliberately kept out of the loop because they couldn't be trusted not to warn bin-Laden.
In Pakistan, like most Muslim countries, nothing happens without the knowledge of its intelligence and security services and its leadership. That's particularly true of any area like Abbottabad where there are military installations, especially given the precarious security situation in Pakistan. To say that Pakistan's notorious ISI was unaware of Osama bin-Laden's presence frankly invites jaw dropping disbelief.
In fact, as one commenter here suggested, the incident involving CIA contractor Raymond Davis may be part of the story. Davis was imprisoned after he gunned down two ISI thugs who tried to make him disappear after he apparently got too close to something they didn't want him to know about and was only released after the US government paid blood money to the families involved.
The Obama Administration went to enormous lengths and ultimately paid between $770K and $1 million to the three families involved to get Davis freed. It's quite plausible that what Davis found out was some information pointing to the fact that the ISI was hiding Osama bin-Laden in what has been described as an ISI safe house. As you can see in the aerial shot below, Osama bin-Laden's compound was huge compared to those around it and stuck out like a sore thumb, not only because of its size but because of the security walls,helipad, proximity to Pakistan's military academy and double security entrances:
This is hardly the first time Pakistan has been caught protecting, training and funding terrorists. According to the Wikileaks docs dump of diplomatic cables by our now former ambassador Anne Patterson, the ISI and the army support the al-Qaeda linked Haqqani and Hetmakyar Networks, The Afghan Taliban ( whom they want as allies against India after we leave) and Lashkar-e-Taiba, who carried out the Mumbai attack. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen said much the same thing in an interview with the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.
In fact, the Pakistani Army and the ISI were so deeply involved in Mumbai that the Obama Administration actually made a shameful plea bargain with Pakistani-born US national Daood Gilani AKA David Headly, the point man for the ISI who scouted out targets in Mumbai for the jihadis so that he would not be extradited to India and India's Security Services would not be allowed to interrogate him.
Pakistan is a basket case of a country cobbled together out of different nationalities that mostly hate each other almost as much as they hate the West. The economy is bankrupt, the government is even more than usually corrupt ( President Zardari is widely known in Pakistan by his nickname, 'Mr. Ten Per Cent'), and the country has a population of 187 million people it's incapable of supporting. Most of what passes for it's educational system is in the hands of jihad-spouting madrassahs and the only institutions that actually work are the army and the ISI.
It's a country that has been responsible for far more terrorism than ever emanated out of Afghanistan and one that even committed genocide in Bengal back in the 1970's , and I agree with Rep. Allen West that we shouldn't be giving them so much as a thin dime's worth of foreign aid. But unfortunately we'll continue to bribe them at least as long as we're in Afghanistan for allowing 75% of the supplies for our troops there to land at the Pakistani port of Karachi and be shipped through their territory overland through the Torkhum Pass.
In the end, that's what it comes down to, and there's no sense venting outrage over it. But let's not make the mistake of thinking of them as trustworthy allies. They aren't, and changing the basic reality of Pakistan is simply a bridge too far.
The sooner we confront that reality, the better.