In 2004, when the so-called "War on Terror" was at its height and it was thought that Pakistani support would be crucial in that effort, President George W. Bush designated Pakistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally of the United States (MNNA). This official designation has been extended to more than a dozen countries since it was first created by Congress in the late 1980s. All countries which are classified as MNNA receive several material advantages, such as financing from the United States to purchase military hardware, priority delivery of certain military equipment, participation in military research and development projects, specialized training, and many other such benefits that are denied to other countries.
Over the years, and especially in light of recent events, it has become clear that Pakistan is utterly unworthy of MNNA status. Consequently, its MNNA status should be terminated immediately.
In the weeks since the killing of Osama bin Laden by American special forces on May 2, it has become increasingly clear that high-level elements within the Pakistani army and intelligence services and perhaps members of the Pakistani government itself had to have known hat the Al Qaeda leader was hiding in Pakistan and quite possibly knew exactly where he was. After all, the man's hiding place was a mere thirty miles from the Pakistani capital and inside one of the most important military communities in the country. Although it will be years, if ever, until the full extent of Pakistani complicity in protecting Osama bin Laden will be revealed, to suppose that there was absolutely no complicity at all is laughable.
The fact that the United States did not notify Pakistan of the operation until after it was over illustrates the basic lack of trust perfectly well. We didn't tell the Pakistanis that we were coming to get the Al Qaeda leader because we assumed that the Pakistanis would warn him and thus enable him to escape. This has apparently happened a number of times in recent years, when the CIA attempted to capture various other militant leaders.
Beyond the possibility that they actively or passively protected Osama bin Laden, the Pakistani intelligence service (Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI) has for years been playing both sides in the conflict between NATO and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Indeed, as pointed out by Cato Institute foreign policy expert Malou Innocent in a recent op-ed piece, reports have been regularly surfacing that former Pakistani military officers with ties to the ISI have been assisting then Taliban in their attacks on American and allied troops in Afghanistan and are even represented within the Taliban leadership.
Pakistan unsurprisingly rejects these accusations and points to the offensives launched by the Pakistani Army in the Taliban-dominated tribal regions of the Northwest Frontier Provence, where the Taliban shelters on the Pakistani side of the border. But despite occasional heavy losses incurred by the Pakistanis, it always seems as though these offensives come to a halt just before they inflict serious damage on the Taliban. The Pakistani Army always seems to shy away from engaging the Taliban in a truly decisive manner. Needless to say, this pattern is highly suspicious.
We extended MNNA status to Pakistan because we expected their help in defeating the Taliban and winning the larger struggle against global Islamist-inspired terrorism. But has become perfectly clear that they have determined it to be in their interest to ensure that the Taliban is not defeated and that allowing America to remain embroiled in Afghanistan is a price worth paying in order to achieve this. Their intelligence agency is actively supporting our enemy and their military refuses to engage in decisive action against them.
About the only remotely plausible reason for maintaining our existing relationship with Pakistan is that the land supply routes to our forces in Afghanistan run through Pakistan. But as we pointed out in an earlier blog post, we should be wrapping up our military campaign in Afghanistan. Since we should be in the process of withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan anyway, this argument carries little weight.
More telling is that fact that Pakistan apparently doesn't want to be our ally any longer. On May 14, the Pakistani parliament condemned the American raid which killed Osama bin Laden, labeling it "unacceptable" and threatening to cut off the land supply route to our forces. The next day, The Sunday Telegraph reported that the ISI had stopped providing intelligence data to the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies. Is this truly the behavior of an ally?
A key plank of American foreign policy in the 21st Century should be a gradually lifting of the American military footprint around the world. Rather than using military "hard power" so often, we should be withdrawing our troops from their overseas deployments and instead building economic ties through the expansion of free trade and better diplomatic relationships by working through the United Nations and other international organizations. Needless to say, allowing Pakistan to keep its MNNA status does not fit into this picture at all.
Pakistan is a strife-torn, schizophrenic state. Rather than staying in bed with them, we should be keeping them at arm's length. We certainly should not be pumping money into the coffers of their military and intelligence services, as those funds are as likely than not going to be used to attack American forces in Afghanistan. We should not be giving them access to military research and development and they should not be given specialized training. After all, had we discovered that one of our allies was aiding and abetting Imperial Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, does anyone seriously think we should have remained allied to them?
MNNA status for Pakistan should be terminated forthwith.