The Skeptics

Pakistan Becomes the Recipe for Endless War in Afghanistan

Adm. Mike Mullen, America’s top military officer, accused Pakistan of being behind the recent attack on the American embassy in Afghanistan. This is a bit too convenient. As the United States prepares to withdraw most of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, it seems that fighting Pakistan by proxy will become Washington’s new reason to stay.

Pakistan’s spy agency, ISI, has always been reluctant to counter the Haqqani network, the insurgents U.S. officials accuse of carrying out the attack. If that’s true, it’s no surprise as that’s been the backdrop of the entire war: America’s young volunteers have been attacked by ISI-affiliated insurgents operating from Pakistani soil. Of course, America’s mainstream establishment media failed to elaborate this simple fact and instead repeated Mullen’s blunt assessment absent that broader context.

But let us remember that as in Iraq, the ingredients for interminable conflict remain the same. A neighboring country—Iran or Pakistan—has ethno-linguistic and historical ties to a country—Iraq or Afghanistan—in which the U.S. is fighting a war. Then, U.S. officials excoriate the neighboring country—Iran or Pakistan—for doing the unspeakable: exercising its influence. Never mind the wars Iraq and Iran, and Afghanistan and Pakistan, have fought between each other in the past. In Washington-speak, if the U.S. government claims to have interests on the other side of world, then countries adjacent to them should not have interests there as well. Thus, among the U.S. government’s plethora of justifications, when pesky neighbors get in the way and are divorced from the intractable realities of history and geography, fighting them becomes a recipe for endless war.

With Pakistan, of course, nuclear weapons and American aid compound this equation. After all, those nukes are the reason the coalition must stay, and being duped into giving billions in aid to a country makes U.S. officials feel wronged. (Of course, if Washington stopped giving aid to Pakistan, so I am told tirelessly in Washington, then Pakistan might behave even worse. This argument defies reality, as billions in aid has not made Pakistan behave differently.)

For almost a decade, however, U.S. officials have refused to confront the most obvious truth: Pakistan is unwilling to abandon its support for militarized jihad. That’s because decades of assisting select militant groups have cemented ideological sympathies for radicalism among elements of that country’s armed forces. A stabilized Pakistan is not on the horizon, and so long as Western troops are fighting an all-out war in neighboring Afghanistan they will only continue to be fodder for radical aims.