Our relations with Pakistan are like the battered wife syndrome. The country keeps doing us wrong, but promises that next time things will be different.
We’re desperate for the relationship to work out, so we believe them. We take their excuses at face value, rationalizing away their behavior. We seize on the few moments when things are good, as proof that they will change we just hang on a little longer….or try a little harder. But of course nothing ever changes, and we get in deeper and deeper.
We, like the battered wife, need to face the reality that things are only going to get worse, and it’s time to walk away and make some new friends. But it won’t be easy and it won’t be without major risks.
For ten years we have had a tortured relationship with Pakistan. We’ve needed their help in the Afghan War, and they’ve wanted our money. We’ve needed Pakistani supply routes to get our equipment and material into landlocked, mountainous and roadless Afghanistan. We’ve needed Pakistan to help take out the Taliban safe havens in the tribal areas inside Pakistan. We’ve needed Pakistan to help us find Bin Laden and destroy Al Qaeda. And we’ve given them some $20 billion in military and economic assistance as an incentive. And they have helped us….just enough…. to string us along and keep the relationship going.
But they’ve never been committed enough to the relationship to go all in. Why?
Because they see things differently than we do, and have different goals. Above all, they want a pro-Pakistan, government in Afghanistan after our inevitable departure, to give them strategic depth against their arch-enemy India. If we leave and the Karzai government stays in power, fine, Pakistan has helped achieve that outcome.
But if we leave and the Karzai government falls, as looks ever more likely, the Pakistanis are hedged because they have given safe haven to the Taliban group most likely to succeed Karzai.
Sound complicated? Not really. They’re just doing what they think is best for them.
They did the same thing with Usama bin Laden. For years the government denied that the terror mastermind was in Pakistan. Yet Bin Laden was found in a safe house near in a military complex in... Pakistan.
The Pakistanis were in the "finding" Bin Laden business. Once Bin Laden was found -- dead or alive -- they’d be out of business. So they did the sensible thing -- from their perspective -- and kept him alive and hidden. They pretended to help us look for him and they continued asking us for more aid to do so.
From our viewpoint, they’ve been double dealing. But from Pakistan’s viewpoint, they’re only doing what is in their best interest: hedging their bets against our departure, hedging their bets to get our assistance.
But we’ve got to do what is in our best interests, too. Those in favor of sticking it out with Pakistan cite three reasons:
First, if we don’t Afghanistan will descend into chaos and Al Qaeda will come back. Phooey. Al Qaeda has already moved on….to Yemen….to Somalia…. we don’t have 100,000 troops there. Who needs Afghanistan if they have all of cyberspace?
Second, they point to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons arsenal and say if we sever ties with Pakistan those nukes could fall into the hands of terrorists. Yet, by that logic we have just as much to fear from North Korea’s nuclear weapons and from Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Even our most militant neo-cons don’t think we should invade Iran.
To a certain extent, we’ve been Pakistan’s enablers. Hasn’t our military assistance allowed them to devote more of their own resources to their rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal? Wouldn’t it be better for us to take those billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan and put it towards intelligence gathering and covert operations so we can know where those nuclear weapons are and if need be stop them from falling into the hands of terrorists?
Finally, some of the aid we give Pakistan ultimately ends up supporting the Pakistani intelligence services which give safe haven to and work with the Taliban. As former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mullen said, the Haqqani Taliban network is a virtual arm of the Pakistani intelligence services. -- This is the same group responsible for a number of the recent attacks on NATO military and civilian targets.
Isn’t it unconscionable that we are paying Pakistan to kill our people in Afghanistan? Don’t we owe it to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country and who are still in Afghanistan to walk away from this abusive relationship?
Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland is a Fox News National Security Analyst and host of FoxNews.com's DefCon 3. She is a Distinguished Adviser to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. She wrote Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s November 1984 "Principles of War Speech" which laid out the Weinberger Doctrine. Be sure to watch "K.T." every Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET on FoxNews.com's "DefCon3"-- already one of the Web's most watched national security programs.