Pakistan -- the Real Enemy
President Obama said last week, “Al Qaeda's leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated.” Two recent books disagree, and question who is the true enemy, possibly Pakistan. Both Carlotta Gall in The Wrong Enemy: American in Afghanistan, 2001- 2014, and Husain Haqqani in Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding, take a critical look at relations between Pakistan and the U.S. Their significant résumés qualify them to explore why the nation of Pakistan can be considered a “frenemy” at best. American Thinker interviewed these authors to understand their point of view.
Carlotta Gall, Afghanistan’s bureau chief and correspondent for the New York Times between 2001 and 2011 and Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to Washington from 2008 to 2011, believe that the Pakistani military and ISI has never permitted a democracy to flourish in Pakistan. They cite irrefutable evidence that the ISI has been deeply involved with the Taliban and other Islamists on both sides of the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.
They write that since its foundation in 1947, Pakistan has been obsessed with trying to defeat and counter its perceived enemy, India, as well as trying to exert influence in Afghanistan. Retired Colonel Joseph Collins, a scholar of the Afghan Wars and now a Professor of National Security Strategy at Georgetown University, agrees with these authors that as far back as the 1990s it became clear that Pakistan was behind the Taliban, allotting them weapons, advisors, and vehicles. “We have to understand that the Taliban does Pakistan’s bidding. One of the largest problems the U.S. has in Afghanistan is Pakistan as they try to undermine the Afghanistan government.” Former CIA Director Michael Hayden agrees and is not optimistic that Pakistan will play a positive role in that region. “Pakistan and our interests are still quite dramatically different and the Pakistani government remains largely dysfunctional.”
Everyone interviewed agrees with the authors that the Pakistani government has to step up and reduce the military and ISI’s power. Haqqani told American Thinker, “Pakistani leaders have yet to come to grips with the fact that the Islamic extremists are undermining the global order. The Taliban, Jihadi groups, various Islamist militants are actually an impediment to Pakistan becoming a modern state. Pakistan is invested with these elements and looks upon these groups within a regional conflict, seeing them as a useful tool. They have not realized they have created a monster trying to divide parts of this country.”
Gall points to the Bin Laden incident as proof that the Pakistani military and ISI are in bed with the terrorists, that instead of fighting Al Qaeda they allow them refuge. “I believe that Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism that encourages insurgency. After Bin Laden was killed the Obama Administration keeps saying that Al Qaeda is degraded, but that is not true; they are still there and have conducted operations across the border into Afghanistan.”
Haqqani agrees and worries that Pakistan is in the midst of a major conversion where the extremists have infiltrated the military, intelligence service, and politics. He refers to how “no one had gone to prison in Pakistan for aiding Bin Laden. Yet, someone has gone to prison for helping the U.S.” He was referring to Dr. Shakil Afridi, who assisted the CIA in the Bin Laden Operation and is now imprisoned by the Pakistani government.
Apart from covertly aiding the extremists and hindering the U.S. efforts concerning the war on terror, Pakistan is also inciting its citizens with anti-American propaganda. 83% of the Pakistani population has a negative perception of the U.S. Haqqani in his book points out how the public figures rip America instead of shaping public opinion in favor of its supposed friend. He told American Thinker, “People are told that all the earthquakes and floods are due to America and that 9/11 was an inside job to create a reason to attack Muslim nations. All of this is being fed by extremists.”
Gall in her book shows how the ISI whips up anti-Americanism through the media. “I noticed the change within the last twenty years. It has never been as hostile as it is now. If the military and intelligence groups would stop its media campaign and the religious parties would stop indoctrinating the people there would be a significant reduction in the hatred towards Americans.” As evidence the author points out how journalists, including herself, are intimidated. In fact, this book is not available in Pakistan and when the Express Tribune tried to run a story on it the only thing people saw was a blank page.
What both authors are advocating is for the U.S. to stop thinking that giving military aid and economic assistance will move Pakistan toward supporting America’s interests. Gall is hoping America will start to put conditions for aid to the military. Haqqani agrees and wants U.S. leaders to start confronting Pakistani leaders publicly. “Nothing will improve in Pakistan until its political and military leaders face reality and until the political leaders in Washington stop catering to the delusions of the military and its intelligence agencies. I have advocated in my book that America should not have an oversimplified approach and needs to get clarity from Pakistan. I tried to show how there has been episode after episode when they publicly say one thing and privately say another. America never forced Pakistan to reconcile its private and public outlooks. It is receiving $40 billion in aid compared to the vital country of South Korea that receives $15 billion. Pakistan needs to figure out if it wants to be a North Korea or South Korea, an Iran or a Turkey.”
The authors wrote their books as a word of warning, fearing that the moderates are losing ground. America has to stop reinforcing the thinking of the Pakistanis that they are so strategically important to the U.S. there will never be much pressure put on them. Instead they want American leaders to point out that the source of the problem is the support of extremism. These books are an important read for those who want to understand the role Pakistan plays in enhancing terrorism in the region.
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.