On December 18th the United States of America reimbursed Pakistan $688 million for the cost of its 140,000 troops on the border with Afghanistan. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter notified the American Congress the payment will be for Pakistan’s expenses incurred from June through November of 2011. The December 6 letter to Congress specifically states that the “reimbursement is consistent with the national security of the United States and will not adversely affect the balance of power in the region”.
On more than one thought, one wonders why Pakistan deserves this reward, instead of being punished for its lack of trust and positive action. As a matter of fact, the 2001 war in Afghanistan began because the Taliban were harboring Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda organization, which were accused of attacking the US on 9/11. Despite billions of dollars, and hundreds of soldiers lives lost in Afghanistan, it turned out that, despite Pakistan’s adamant refusal, Osama Bin laden was hiding in a military city close to Pakistan’s capital and not Afghanistan.
After Osama Bin laden was tracked inside Pakistan, suspicion grew that Pakistan was not only supporting Osama bin Laden, but it was actively hiding him. The suspicion was highlighted by the fact that Osama Bin Laden was living in a new, specially build compound only walking distance from one of Pakistan’s premier military academy. How is it possible that a newly built mansion walking distance from a Pakistani military academy went unnoticed by the Pakistani government? Either the Pakistani government is inept or it was actively hiding Osama Bin Laden. The latter appears to be the case for more than one reason. The US intelligence agencies are well aware of Pakistan’s double dealings, and it was for that reason that the Pakistani government wasn’t notified on the night of the assault on Osama bin Laden.
It is clear in the intelligence communities that Pakistan most likely harbored Osama Bin Laden, and through its assistance caused not only human and monetary losses to the international community, but also to the poor villagers of Afghanistan. It is for that reason that the Afghan government continuously opposes foreign troops in Afghanistan’s villages, and it is for that reason that President Hamid Karzai is quoted to state the war on terror is not in our villages, but outside of Afghanistan — a veiled reference to Pakistan.
After the death of Osama Bin Laden, the war on terror essentially came to an end in Afghanistan, but the war against Taliban continued and continues. Osama Bin Laden, and the Taliban are essentially the flip sides of the coin that are supported and nurtured by Pakistan’s intelligence organizations. In 2011 America’s top military commander, Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recognizing this support to the Taliban by Pakistan announced that Pakistan was actively undermining America’s effort against the Taliban. Pakistan has not only been supporting Taliban and like minded organizations for influence in Afghanistan, but has been actively attacking high profile American targets like the American Embassy in Kabul in 2011. In a hearing to the Senate Armed Services Committee Admiral Mullen complained that “with ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted that truck bomb attack (NATO outpost south of Kabul on Sept. 10, 2011), as well as the assault on our embassy”. He further stated, “the Haqqani network (Taliban) acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.”
With this knowledge that Pakistan was actively hiding Osama Bin Laden, and is actively supporting the Taliban and like minded organizations, why does the United States continue to reward Pakistan with financial assistance? It defies logic to support a nation that has been actively killing your soldiers and has been undermining your efforts and interests. It is this contradiction that makes Afghans question why the international community is in Afghanistan. If it is to rid the world of Al-Qaeda and Taliban, then why fight in the villages of Afghanistan, when the head of the snake is in Pakistan.
Moreover, Deputy Defense Secretary Carter’s notification to the American Congress that the $688 million won’t change the balance of power in the region is misleading. Based on Pakistan’s track record, despite receiving $2 billion for security assistance from America annually, it has neither stopped Al-Qaeda, nor helped curb the flow of Taliban from Pakistani territory. On the contrary, Pakistan has used the resources to intimidate Afghanistan by launching multiple rockets into Afghanistan under the guise of chasing Pakistani Taliban, and has continued to support the Taliban reach previously unaffected regions of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the new reimbursement will provide the Pakistani military more funds to support the Taliban and like minded organizations. The new funds will be utilized by Pakistan to continue to destabilization Afghanistan, until it installs a proxy in Kabul.
In 2011, the government of Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership with the United States, which amongst other provisions granted the United States access to and use of Afghan facilities by American personnel, in return for the Americans providing Afghanistan economic and security guarantees. Unfortunately, the Americans haven’t been able to provide their end of the bargain. As mentioned previously, despite the knowledge of Pakistan’s active support for destabilizing extremist organizations, and despite Pakistan’s multiple border attacks on Afghanistan, the United States has not only been silent, but it is providing Pakistan more funds.
The American behavior in Afghanistan makes the citizens wonder if the Americans are double crossing them, just to utilize our soil. On one hand the US states it is fighting terrorism, and on the other it is supporting Pakistan, which American leaders themselves have accused of supporting terrorism. It is uncertain why the Americans are not taking a strong stance against Pakistani rocket attacks on Afghan villages and demanding from Pakistan to cease its support of its destabilizing proxies. The recently agreed strategic partnership becomes worthless if the Americans do not take a serious and meaningful approach towards Pakistan’s support for extremism and violation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty.
It is truly perplexing to see the United States on one hand declare a war against terror, and on the other hand support the sponsors of terrorists. It appears there are behind the scenes politics that is driving the war on terror and it is perhaps bigger than the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, or the Taliban. Actions on the ground indicate a balance approach to maintaining a volatile Afghanistan with neither side capable of winning. The Taliban and Osama Bin Laden are perhaps the fronts for a bigger geopolitical strategy, which will come to light in the future. Nevertheless, the sacrifice for these political games once again appears to be the Afghans and Afghanistan.