September 25, 2011

The Latest Ugly Truth About Pakistan

September 23, 2011

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a truth teller. He led the way among senior uniformed officers in urging repeal of the unconscionable “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military and pressed to shift more troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Now, as he prepares to retire next week after a 43-year career, he is telling another hard truth. On Thursday, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Pakistan’s spy agency — Inter-Services Intelligence — played a direct role in supporting insurgents who attacked the American Embassy in Kabul last week, killing 16 people. He also said that with ISI support, the Haqqani network of terrorists planned and conducted an earlier truck bombing on a NATO outpost that killed 5 people and wounded 77 coalition troops, and other recent attacks.

This was a calculated revelation after Admiral Mullen and other top officials made countless pleas and remonstrances to Pakistan trying to get it to sever all support and ties with the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other extremists who are killing American troops and spreading mayhem on both sides of the border.

Pakistan’s military was unapologetic. According to the Pakistani Army’s Web site, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of staff, dismissed the charge as “very unfortunate and not based on facts.” Pakistan’s foreign minister warned that Washington “could lose an ally” if it keeps humiliating Pakistan with unsubstantiated allegations.

The Pentagon hopes public exposure will shame the Pakistanis — who receive billions of dollars in aid — into changing their behavior. That didn’t happen after Osama bin Laden was discovered hiding in plain sight next door to Pakistan’s top military academy. But Washington needs to keep pushing and keep reminding the Pakistanis that the extremists pose a mortal threat to their own country.

We agree with Admiral Mullen and others who say the United States should keep trying to work with Pakistan. It has little choice. The Americans need access and on the ground intelligence to be able to go after Al Qaeda and Taliban forces on both sides of the border. They also need Pakistani routes to deliver military supplies to Afghanistan, although there are less attractive alternatives that may have to be looked at more seriously. And walking away could make the nuclear-armed government even more unstable — a chilling prospect.

But Washington needs to ratchet up the pressure as well. The Obama administration has already suspended or canceled $800 million in military aid this year, and more could be at risk. Without provoking war with Pakistan, the Americans are also going to have go after the Haqqanis whenever and wherever they can.

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