By Jeffrey King
“From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
President George W. Bush before a Joint Session of Congress, September 20, 2001
Nearly a decade has passed since President Bush proclaimed the above as a pillar of U.S. foreign policy, fundamentally altering geo-political relationships around the world.
The American “War on Terror” has left an indelible mark, especially in the Middle East region wrought with fierce Islamic extremism and weak governments. Pakistan epitomizes the weak Islamic state struggling to placate American demands for extremist crackdowns coupled with strong internal social upheaval. Part of the turmoil is rooted in the Muslim nation’s disdain for U.S.-Pakistani cooperation against the very people they purportedly support.
The recent events that have transpired in light of Osama Bin Laden’s death at the hands of the world’s most specially-trained commandoes leave many serious questions lingering in its wake. Most importantly, how did the world’s most hunted man ($25 million dollar reward from the U.S. State Department alone) live largely unnoticed and somewhat protected within U.S.-allied Pakistan for what appears to have been several years? Apparently, the Bush era doctrine, continued under the Obama Administration, did not resonate loud enough with the political establishment in Islamabad.
The black-and-white foreign policy on terrorism forced Pakistan to accept billions of dollars in military aid from the United States in exchange for aiding in the apprehension or death of Al Qaeda members. There were obvious provisos attached to the money to prevent it from being used against U.S. interests. In 2009, President Pervez Musharraf had admitted that U.S. foreign aid had in fact been diverted to support its defensive capabilities against longtime enemy India. This was an obvious breach in the aid agreement.
With this admission, it isn’t hard to believe that the money could actually be used to undermine counterterrorism efforts within the state. It was suspected and later confirmed by U.S. intelligence that weapons had been smuggled across the border from Pakistan into neighboring Afghanistan. These weapons and munitions later found themselves aiding the Taliban insurgency in what is considered a classic case of “blowback.” Whether U.S. aid directly funded those weapons or not is irrelevant. Pakistan made it clear that their commitment to the U.S. was resolute.
Prior to the heroic military incursion on May 1, U.S.-Pakistan relations had already begun to deteriorate at an alarming rate. The CIA’s Special Activities Division was well known to have operated within Pakistani sovereignty for several years.
Just a couple of weeks ago, CIA agent Raymond Davis was apprehended, incarcerated and sequentially released in connection with the murder of two Pakistanis he believed to be threatening him. The initial consequence of Davis’s actions resulted in a brief freeze of U.S.-Pakistani diplomatic relations, although communication has since been restored.
In the post-bin-Laden era, Pakistan is outraged. They believe that we invaded their sovereignty, penetrating deep into the nuclear-armed nation without any prior approval. How can Pakistan justify that they had no knowledge of the world’s most wanted man residing within their country for possibly six or more years?
What is most telling about the operation is how the U.S. conducted it. It was done without any aforementioned warning sent to Islamabad from Washington. It appears there was a general consensus among the U.S. intelligence community that Pakistan could not be trusted for fear that leaks could warn Osama of the impending raid.
While the United States has won a most important victory in bin Laden’s death, the War on Terror is far from complete. It is clear that a symbiotic relationship exists between Pakistan and the U.S., but it is severely strained by mistrust on both sides.
Pakistan itself is stuck between a rock and a hard place as it struggles to placate the internal strife predicated on its cooperation with the American counter-terrorism objectives. Therefore, it is imperative that the U.S. stays the course and continues to support the Pakistani state, while keeping a close, watchful eye on the allocation of aid.