The Trouble With Pakistan

ABC News reports that Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is among the many in Congress who are “deeply disturbed” about Pakistan’s role in sheltering Osama bin Laden.  Billions of dollars per year in foreign aid are on the line, so Levin has “launched an informal investigation into whether high levels of the Pakistani government knew Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.”

Levin says he has “questions about whether or not the top level of the Pakistan government knew or was told by the ISI, their intelligence service, about anything about this suspicious activity for 5 years in a very, very centralized place.”

I wish the Senator good luck in getting the answers to those questions, but I don’t know how one can extract those answers from the notoriously shaky and secretive Pakistani government with an “informal investigation.”

                CARL LEVIN: Hey man, thanks for taking my phone call.  I just wanted to know if you guys knew that Osama bin Laden was living in a huge walled compound, in the middle of a military cantonment, right next to your largest military academy.

                PAKISTANI INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR AHMAD SHUJA PASHA: No problem, Senator!  No, we knew nothing about bin Laden.  We were as shocked as you.

                LEVIN: Would your answer change if I told you the CIA has been watching the bin Laden compound from a nearby safe house for months?

                PASHA: (laughing) No, not really.  You are too funny, my friend.  Say, did you happen to get any useful information from the eleven hard drives you took out of bin Laden’s house?

                LEVIN: We only told the world we found ten hard drives, Ahmad.

                PASHA: D’oh!

Reuters published a long article yesterday about the “troubled relationship between Pakistan and the United States,” in which “Washington has long believed that Islamabad, and especially the ISI, play a double game on terrorism, saying one thing but doing another.” 

Our intelligence community “long ago learned to play its own double game. It works with Islamabad when it can and uses Pakistani assets when it’s useful but is ever more careful about revealing what it’s up to.”  For example, we didn’t tell them a couple squads of the most dangerous fighting men in the history of the human race would be swinging through Abbottabad last Sunday night in top-secret radar-evading super-helicopters.  That was probably for the best.

We’re stuck dealing with Pakistan and the ISI because they are frequently helpful, but many in Washington are growing tired of the double games.  Representative Allen West (R-FL) said in a letter to the House Appropriations Committee, “I think it is quite clear that unless we get a clear explanation of what the Government of Pakistan knew about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, all foreign aid from American taxpayers to this nation needs to cease.”

“It is quite disturbing,” West continued, “that this revelation comes on the heels of Pakistan’s President admonishing Hamid Karzai to not support a long term security agreement with the United States.  I served in Afghanistan for two and a half years, and I’m familiar with the sanctuary being provided to Islamic terrorists in Pakistan.  Many believe the central headquarters of the Taliban, and Mullah Omar, are located in Quetta, Pakistan.” 

I don’t think we’ll find that headquarters with an “informal investigation.”  West’s position has growing bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, as Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) expressed similar sentiments in an MSNBC interview earlier this week.

Representative Kay Granger (R-TX), who chairs the House State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing “grave concern over funds in the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill being used for direct government-to-government assistance in Pakistan,” and declaring “the American taxpayer would be appalled to know that the United States is going to provide cash to the Pakistani government to distribute debit cards to its citizens to rebuild their homes.” 

Granger added that her opposition to the program “has only been heightened by the discovery of the most notorious terrorist in the world living hundreds of yards from a Pakistani military installation for more than five years.  This reinforces my greater concern that the Government may be incapable of distributing U.S. funds in a transparent manner that allows proper oversight of taxpayer dollars.” 

Granger would have trouble maintaining “proper oversight” of the Pakistani mess, even if her first name was “Hermione.”  It’s time for the relationship between the United States and Pakistan to become much less complicated.