America's Pakistan Policy Is Sheer Madness

America's policies fuel the exact types of outcomes they are made to avoid.

This week, the Congressional Research Service published a list of all major U.S. arms sales and grants to Pakistan. Washington claims that these transfers enable Pakistan to be better a partner in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The evidence belies these claims. In fact, Pakistan undercuts key U.S. interests in the region and it perdures as a source of Islamist terrorism at home and abroad. The items that Washington has conveyed to Pakistan have little utility in fighting insurgents and terrorists; rather, they enable Pakistan to better fight India, a democratic American partner that has long endured Pakistani predations. A new American policy towards Pakistan, rooted in sober realism, is long overdue.

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Since 9/11, the United States has lavished Pakistan with nearly $8 billion in security assistance, $11 billion in economic assistance, and $13 billion in the lucrative program known as Coalition Support Funds (CSF). Since then, Pakistan has availed of significant U.S. weapons systems and armaments, including: a used Perry-class missile frigate; 18 new and 14 used nuclear-capable F-16s; an array of munitions (i.e. 500 air-to-air missiles, 1,450 2,000-pound bombs);  1,600 kits that allow Pakistan to convert gravity bombs into laser-guided smarter bombs, 2,007 anti-armor missiles, 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 500 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, seven naval guns, 374 armored personnel carriers, and much more. A transfer of 15 reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles is also under way. This list suggests that Pakistan’s insurgents have developed air, naval and ground-force capabilities.

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What tangible benefits has Washington secured for these emoluments? Very few it appears. Victory in Afghanistan was long ago lost. Pakistan is more unstable than ever. Even though Washington justified this largesse in terms of securing Pakistan’s cooperation in the Afghan war, Pakistan unrelentingly supports the Afghan Taliban, which has killed 2,356 U.S. military personnel, and is responsible for 677 coalition military deaths, as well as the deaths of thousands of civilian contractors (for whom there is no official count), more than 21,000 Afghan civilians since 2001, and more than 20,000 Afghan police and army personnel since 2003. Insurgents killed more than 5,000 ANSF in 2014 alone. Pakistan continues to support the Jalaluddin Haqqani network, which launches sophisticated suicide operations against U.S., NATO, Afghan and Indian targets in Afghanistan. Without Pakistan’s direct military, diplomatic, political and financial support—as well as secure sanctuaries—in Pakistani territory, the insurgents would not be as lethal or as capable as they are. And, of course, Osama Bin Laden was discovered a short distance from Pakistan’s famed military academy at Kakul. Pakistan has not even bothered to investigate who facilitated his tenure in the country. Apparently, this is what cooperation looks like.

These U.S. policies towards Pakistan have guaranteed a more dangerous world for several reasons.  

First, this assistance better situates Pakistan to wage war against India while doing nothing to shape Pakistan’s will or capabilities to target terrorists and insurgents. This should vex Americans, Indians, Afghans and even ordinary Pakistanis who are the terrorists’ most common victim.   

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Second, U.S. efforts to bolster Pakistan’s ability to fight its rebelling clients are stymied by the simple fact that Pakistan continues to create terrorists while fighting a selective war against others. Pakistani soldiers and citizens are dying at the hands of recalcitrant elements of the Pakistani Taliban, yet the deep state continues to churn out “good terrorists” such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (now operating under the names of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Filah Insaniyat Foundation) and Jaish-e-Mohammad. It even tolerates sectarian killers who reliably mow down any Shia who may be suspected of being a “fifth column” for Iran.

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