February 1, 2014
Ten Fictions that Pakistani Defense Officials Love to Peddle
C. Christine Fair
War on the Rocks
January 31, 2014
The U.S.-Pakistan “strategic dialogue” has restarted yet again. I would be remiss if I did not point that it has never been strategic and it has certainly not been a dialogue. No doubt the Pakistanis are worried that wary American taxpayers and their congressional representatives may close the checkbook for good when the last U.S. soldier departs from Afghanistan. In the spirit of perpetual rent-seeking, Pakistani defense officials have recently alighted upon Washington to offer the same tired and hackneyed narratives that are tailored to guilt the Americans into keeping the gravy train chugging along.
Here are the top ten ossified fictions that Pakistani defense officials are pedaling and what you need to know to call the “Bakvas Flag” on each of them.
1. “Our relationship should be strategic rather than transactional.”
Nonsense and here’s why. For the U.S.-Pakistan relationship to be “strategic,” there should be a modicum of convergence of interests in the region if not beyond. Yet, there is no evidence that this is the case. In fact, Pakistan seems most vested in undermining U.S. interests in the region. In the name of the conflict formerly known as the Global War on Terror (GWOT), the United States has given Pakistan some $27 billion in military and financial aid as well as lucrative reimbursements. However, during these same years, Pakistan has continued to aid and abet the Afghan Taliban and allied militant groups such as the Haqqani Network. These organizations are the very organizations that havekilled American military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan along with those of our allies in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and countless more Afghans, in and out of uniform. This is in addition to the flotilla of Islamist militant groups that Pakistan uses as tools of foreign policy in India. Foremost among them is the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is proscribed by the United States and which is responsible for the most lethal terror operations in India and, since 2006, has openly operated against Americans in Afghanistan.
2. “The United States has been an unreliable ally.”
Rubbish. Pakistani officials enjoy invoking the two treaties, the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and the Southeast Treaty Organization (SEATO) through which the United States and Pakistan ostensibly were allies. They lament that despite these partnerships and commitments, the United States did not help Pakistan in its wars with India (1965 and 1971) and even aided non-aligned India in its 1962 war with Communist China. It should be noted that Americans were never party to CENTO; rather, they maintained an observer status, and Americans were leery of letting the Pakistanis join SEATO, fearing that it was a ruse to suck the alliance into the intractable Indo-Pakistan dispute. In point of fact, Pakistani officials beginning with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, and General Ayub Khan repeatedly sought to join American military alliances in exchange for money and war materiel.
While Pakistan professed a commitment to America’s anti-Communist agenda, it sought these partnerships to build its military capabilities to continue challenging India. Until the 1950s, the United States had no such interest in Pakistan.
When the United States finally embraced such partnerships, the treaties were specifically designed to combat Communist aggression ensuring that the United States had no obligation to support Pakistan in its wars with India. The United States certainly had no obligation to support Pakistan in the 1965 war with India, which it started. Pakistan’s grouses about the American position during the 1971 war is particularly disingenuous. As Gary Bass has detailed, President Nixon violated numerous American laws to continue providing military support to the abusive West Pakistani regime as it prosecuted a genocidal campaign against the Bengalis in East Pakistan.
3. “The United States used Pakistan for its anti-Soviet jihad.”
More fiction. Pakistan and Afghanistan came into conflict immediately after Pakistan’s independence because Afghanistan rejected Pakistan’s membership in the United Nations and laid claim to large swaths of Pakistani territory in Balochistan, the tribal areas, and in the then-Northwest Frontier Province. As such, Pakistan began instrumentalizing Islamists in Afghanistan as early as the 1950s. Following the ouster of King Zahir Shah by Mohammed Daoud Khan in 1973, Daoud began prosecuting Afghanistan’s Islamists who opposed his modernizing policies. Shia Islamists fled to Iran and Sunni Islamists generally fled to Pakistan. In 1974, then-civilian Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto established a cell within Pakistan’s Interservices Intelligence Directorate (ISI) to mobilize these exiled dissidents for anti-regime operations in Afghanistan. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq continued the nascent “Afghan jihad” after seizing power from Bhutto in 1977.