Let’s accept we can’t place trust in Pakistan

Freedom New Mexico

As the discussion about Osama bin Laden’s death shifts from the operational details to the long-term repercussions, no issue is more important than how bin Laden’s death will affect America’s tenuous relationship with Pakistan.

Formally considered an ally, the Islamic nation has received more than $18 billion in U.S. aid during the past decade’s “war on terror.” Understandably, many Americans question what all this money is buying us. After all, how could the world’s most notorious terrorist live in a three-story mansion about a mile away from Pakistan’s leading military academy?

Members of Congress, too, have been quick to question whether the U.S. should suspend the $3 billion earmarked for Pakistan in President Barack Obama’s 2012 budget, as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., did at a recent hearing on U.S.-Pakistan relations.

It isn’t shocking that bin Laden was living in Pakistan nor is it surprising that terrorist organizations have friends inside of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the ISI. The U.S. has long operated under this assumption.

Yet, the U.S. has continued its Faustian bargain with Pakistan out of fear that the alternatives are far worse. In a recent telephone briefing, which we joined, by the Council on Foreign Relations, Daniel Markey, a Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia, laid out the worst-case scenarios for Pakistan if the U.S. withdrew support. In the first scenario, the nuclear country would become a rogue state that was overtly hostile to the United States, supportive of terrorism, and possibly joined under a “Chinese security umbrella.”

The second scenario would see the slow disintegration of Pakistan’s major government institutions, which would ultimately produce a lawless state akin to Somalia. If this scenario occurred, Markey warned that “it would be almost impossible to put the pieces back together again.” Most security experts believe that the collapse of the Pakistani state could allow al-Qaida to gain control of a nuclear weapon.

Neither a hostile nuclear state nor a terrorist organization with nuclear capabilities is an acceptable option for America’s security. Then again, the status quo policy with Pakistan no longer seems to be a viable option, either. As a starting point for a longer-term approach, it’s time for the U.S. to drop the feigned ignorance about Pakistan playing both sides in the fight against terrorism and acknowledge that Pakistan, in all likelihood, will never be a trusted ally.