Tuesday, May 03, 2011

What Should The U.S. Do About An Ally That Harbors A Mass Murderer?

One has to go back go back to fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini to find an example of the kind of blatant hypocrisy that characterizes Pakistan.

Pakistan gobbles up billions of dollars in U.S. aid each year but has nothing to show for it, has not just been less than helpful in the dragnet for Osama bin Laden but has allowed him to hide in plain view -- giving new meaning to the term terrorist safe haven -- in a palatial compound adjacent to the nation's military academy near a city that also has a large military garrison and is chockablock with retired military and intelligence officers.

As Amrullah Saleh, the former head of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, declared: "Does Pakistan want the whole world to believe that the intelligence agency of a nuclear state did not know OBL was there?" Caught out, the directorate now says that it was part of the Navy SEAL operation that took out the Al Qaeda leader, which it most certainly was not. In fact, the special ops choppers had to fly low to the ground so they were not detected by Pakistani radar. Some ally.

Or as Christopher Hitchens, who has now unexpectedly outlived Bin Laden, puts it, "After all, who did
not know that the United States was lavishly feeding the same hands that fed Bin Laden?"

There also is speculation, notably in the Indian press, that the compound was built for Bin Laden as a safe house, while speculation is rife in the Pakistani press that it was Pakistani agents who discovered Bin Laden's hideout but tipped the U.S. to blunt the inevitable domestic backlash.

The only surprise here is that the man who gifted us the 9/11 attacks lived not in a mountain redoubt in a remote tribal land on the border of Afghanistan who in the lap of luxury, albeit a lap without telephones or Internet access.

A question is now begged: Despite its largess, the U.S.'s relationship with Pakistan has been a shambles for years. That relationship is now at a welcome if unexpected turning point, but what turn should be taken?

In its own way, Pakistan is every bit the basket case that Afghanistan is, which has been reduced to further rubble because of Osama bin Laden and his Taliban helpmates. (The big difference, of course, is that Afghanistan does not have a nuclear arsenal.) Pakistan will never be a constitutional democracy and it will never be trustworthy.

Any decision about the future of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan has to factor in Afghanistan, including how many troops can be withdrawn and when. It also is a sure bet here that Bin Laden's death will hasten calls for the withdrawal of NATO troops in their home nations.

All that noted, and with Bin Laden now in a watery grave, it is time for the U.S. to bid Pakistan's contemptible oligarchs a not-so-fond adieu and turn off the foreign aid tap while making it clear that since the government has little to no interest in tamping down the terrorists in their midst they can expect future raids, national sovereignty be damned.

This is letting the chips fall where they may and then some, and raises some troubling questions.

Will getting a divorce from Pakistan speed the rebirth of a safe haven across the border in Afghanistan? Possibly not.

Will it put the American homeland at greater risk? Probably not, because there have been a mere handful of efforts in that direction since 9/11 and hair-on-fire jihadists with box cutters are not credible threats.

Will another foreign power like Russian or China fill the foreign aid breach if the U.S. stops throwing taxpayer money at the Islamabad government? Possibly, but so what? Pakistan then becomes their headache.

Will it impact on Iran's shadowy role in funding regional terrorism? Possibly not, while the raid on the Bin Laden compound sends a powerful message that the U.S. under Barack Obama is not to be trifled with.

Will it throw the balance of power out of whack in South Asia? No, because it already is out of whack and will remain so until India takes the training wheels off the national bicycle and belatedly assumes responsibility for being the policeman of the region and not merely a country that endlessly feuds with Pakistan over Kashmir and a host of other issues.

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