Advancing a Free Society

Pakistan’s Double Game

Friday, May 6, 2011

The government of Pakistan has been duplicitous, claiming to be our partner in fighting terrorism while harboring our enemies.  That the government of Pakistan would be working as little with us as they could get away with and as much against us as they dare is discouragingly predictable.

It should also not be surprising that the military leadership of Pakistan is trying to divert focus from their choices to ours.  Because there is no explanation of Osama bin Laden living years in Abbottabad that reflects well on Pakistan: either their intelligence community and military are incompetent or they were complicit.  Or both.

Yet the varying reactions of Pakistan’s leaders are instructive.  Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington gave a good defense of ignorance early on, comparing criminals long sought by the FBI from it’s most wanted list who live in obscure safety in the U.S. to Osama bin Laden living in Pakistan.  He played a weak hand well.  Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zardari did even better, emphasizing our common threat from terrorists and a decade of cooperation.

More worrying has been the reaction by Pakistan’s Army Chief General Kiyani, who criticized the raid as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and publicly threatened to cut off cooperation with the U.S. should we conduct other such raids.  Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir likewise questioned the legality of our incursion into Pakistani territory.  They are fanning the flames of anti-Americanism by casting themselves as the victim of American aggression.

Pakistan’s elected leaders are proving more trustworthy but less in control than its military.  Every time the Pakistani people are given the opportunity to elect their leadership, they have opted for moderates -- even in areas thought to be sympathetic to terrorists.  The elected leadership is trying to preserve their relationship with the United States; its unelected power brokers in the military and political establishment are trying to undermine it.  That should suggest to us where to weight our effort.

We continue to need Pakistan’s help -- even grudging help -- for our fight in against al Qaeda and other terrorists, making their nuclear weapons establishment accountable, not endangering its neighbors or destabilizing the middle east by proliferation.  It’s been frustrating to deal with them, and it will continue to be.  But we need to keep trying to wring assistance from them and keep trying to make the elected government of Pakistan better at its job.

(photo credit: Kashif Mardani)