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Frenemies in Pakistan

Oct 10, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 04 • By ​MAX BOOT
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Nor is the Pakistani supply route as important as it once was for operations in Afghanistan. In recent years NATO has made a concerted effort to redirect supplies via the Northern Distribution Network running through Russia and Central Asia. This forces us to rely on some morally dubious regimes, but, bad as Vladimir Putin and the rest are, at least they’re not actively killing Americans, as Pakistan’s proxies are. There is also the possibility of a massive airlift to get needed supplies into Afghanistan. A shutdown of Pakistan’s supply line would still sting, to be sure, but it need not cripple combat operations in Afghanistan, and we can continue to reduce our logistical vulnerabilities. In any case, cutting NATO’s supply line would also kill a cash cow for Pakistan and inflict damage on its already battered economy.

So we should not let fear of reaction deter us from dealing with the menace Pakistan poses. The administration quietly decided this summer to withhold $800 million out of the $2 billion in U.S. security assistance to Pakistan. There is also talk that at long last the United States will formally designate the Haqqani Network a terrorist organization, opening up a variety of financial and diplomatic sanctions. These are welcome steps, but they do not go far enough.

What more could be done? For one thing, we could mount more unilateral strikes, using drones or Special Operations Forces against Afghan Taliban and Haqqani targets within Pakistan. The towns of Quetta and Miram Shah​—​headquarters, respectively, of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqanis​—​have been off-limits to our Predators because we didn’t want to offend the Pakistanis. That could now change.

But while drone strikes could disrupt Taliban and Haqqani operations, they cannot defeat these groups, which are far bigger, better funded, and more entrenched than al Qaeda. To defeat them will require a rethink of Pakistan’s policy of supporting them, and while we cannot force Pakistan to change its strategic calculus, we can at least prod it in that direction by making clear that ISI’s murderous misbehavior will no longer be tolerated.

We should start treating ISI the way we treated the Iranian Quds Force in Iraq. To stop the Quds Force from targeting our troops via local proxies, we mounted a multi-pronged campaign that included everything from the arrest of Quds Force operatives, to diplomatic pressure, to economic sanctions. The same model should be employed against the ISI. Apply economic sanctions against its vast range of business interests. Limit the travel and freeze the assets of its leaders, starting with its current head, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha. A designation of the ISI as a formal state sponsor of terrorism might also be in order. No doubt the Pakistani military would react angrily to such steps, but many civilians in Pakistan​—​including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani​—​who chafe under heavy-handed military dominance might quietly welcome them.

We do not pretend that such steps would be cost free. But neither is the current policy of letting Pakistani proxies kill our troops and their allies with impunity.

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