Homeland Security

Pence: Trump Has Put Pakistan on Notice

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Gen. Nick Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, in a hangar at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)

Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to Afghanistan last week, during which he had strong words for our putative friend and ally Pakistan.

Bravo, vice president: It’s about time Pakistan received pressure from a U.S. administration.

“For too long,” Pence said, “has Pakistan provided safe haven to the Taliban and many terrorist organizations, but those days are over. … President Trump has put Pakistan on notice. As the president said, so I say now: Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the United States, and Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”

Yet they are still doing this. The Pakistani government just weeks ago released Hafiz Saeed from house arrest. Saeed was the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai jihad massacre; he had a $10M U.S. bounty on his head.

Despite being our “ally,” the Pakistani government didn’t release Saeed into U.S. custody, but to freedom and the adulation of his jihad-supporting countrymen and Muslims in India. Saeed is immensely popular in Pakistan, which may be why the Islamic Republic ignored U.S. calls to re-arrest Saeed.

If they had arrested him again, Pakistan could have faced even more riots by Islamic hardliners. Pakistani government officials are still reeling from the recent riots in Islamabad in which six people were killed and 200 wounded, as Islamic supremacists demanded the arrest of a government official on blasphemy charges.

Those riots were hardly the hallmark of a “moderate” or Western-oriented nation. They were yet another clear reason why the sham alliance between the U.S. and Pakistan needs to be ended.

Financial Times reported in September that “the Trump administration is considering dropping Pakistan as an ally as it examines tough measures to quell more than 20 terrorist groups it says are based in the country.” President Trump needs to follow through on this.

Trump has accused the Pakistani government of “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.” And it’s true, with the most notorious of these being Osama bin Laden himself. Journalist Carlotta Gall, who reported from Afghanistan for the New York Times for twelve years, wrote in March 2014:

[S]oon after the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s house, a Pakistani official told me that the United States had direct evidence that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The information came from a senior United States official, and I guessed that the Americans had intercepted a phone call of Pasha’s or one about him in the days after the raid. ‘He knew of Osama’s whereabouts, yes,’ the Pakistani official told me. The official was surprised to learn this and said the Americans were even more so.

He shouldn’t have been surprised. It had been obvious for years at that point, and remains obvious, that Pakistan had been aiding the same jihadists that the U.S. government has been giving Pakistan billions of dollars to fight. The New York Times reported on that at length back in 2008. Not only did Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of the Pakistani government’s spy service, know the whereabouts of Osama, but so did many other top officials in the Pakistani government.

Meanwhile, here’s how Pakistan is spending the money granted them by the U.S. to fight terror: Sky News reported in January 2014 that “Pakistani officials have reportedly used a secret counter-terrorism fund to buy wedding gifts, luxury carpets and gold jewelry for relatives of ministers and visiting dignitaries.”

This is at least a better use than funneling the money that the Pakistani government received from the U.S. to fight terror to the terrorists themselves. Yet it still shows how cavalier the Pakistani authorities have been with their role as a supposed U.S. ally in the “war on terror.”

Three years have passed since these facts were revealed. The Obama administration, of course, did nothing to pressure Pakistan. Trump needs to take action.

For far too long, the U.S. government has shoveled huge amounts of money to old Cold War allies that aren’t really allies at all. This farce with Pakistan should have ended long ago; we can only hope that Trump will now act upon his remarkably clear-sighted view of this sham relationship.