An Ally of Necessity
The much publicized leaking of several thousand classified documents relating to the war in Afghanistan may have provided the war’s American critics an opportunity to press their objections. It does not, however, make the case against military and political cooperation between the governments of the United States and Pakistan, made necessary by the challenge of global terrorism.
Under elected leaders, Pakistan is working with the U.S. to build trust between our militaries and intelligence agencies. In recent months, Pakistan has undertaken a massive military operation in the region bordering Afghanistan, denying space to Taliban extremists who had hoped to create a ministate with the backing of al Qaeda. Pakistan-Afghanistan relations have been enhanced to an unprecedented degree. And exchanges of intelligence between Pakistan and the U.S. have foiled several terrorist plots around the globe. The WikiLeaks controversy and the ensuing speculation about Pakistan’s role in the global effort against the terrorists should not disrupt the ongoing efforts of the U.S. and Pakistan to contain and destroy the forces of extremism and fanaticism that threaten the entire world.
Pakistan is crucial for helping Afghanistan attain stability while pursuing the defeat of al Qaeda led terrorist ideologues. For that reason the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department have denounced the leaking of unattributed and unprocessed information implicating Pakistan in supporting or tolerating the Taliban. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, a Democrat, warned Monday against judging Pakistan’s role in the Afghan war by “outdated reports,” adding that Pakistan had “significantly stepped up its fight against the Taliban.” Most Americans and many Pakistanis agree on the need for improvements in Pakistan’s efforts, but that is not the same as suspecting lack of cooperation.
The tragedy that has unfolded in South Asia is the product of a long series of policy miscalculations spanning fully 30 years. The U.S., in its zeal to defeat the Soviet Union—a noble goal indeed—selected Afghanistan as a venue. Pakistan became caught up in an ideological battle between communism and a politicized version of our Islamic faith. The most violent and most radical elements of the Mujahedeen resistance were empowered to fight the surrogate war against the Russians. Concerns—such as former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s warning in 1989 while visiting the U.S. that the world had created a Frankenstein monster in Afghanistan that would come back to haunt us—were generally ignored.
Alliances and relationships forged among supporters of the Afghan jihad 30 years ago have not been easy to dismantle within Pakistan. But they have been dismantled. After 9/11, Pakistan made a deliberate and courageous decision to confront the terrorists as the civilized world’s first line of defense. Since the return of democracy in 2008, Pakistan has paid a terrible price for its commitment to fight terrorism. More Pakistanis have been killed by terrorism in the last two years than the number of civilians who died in New York’s Twin Towers. Over the past nine years more Pakistani than NATO troops have lost their lives fighting the Taliban. Two thousand Pakistani police have been killed; our mosques and hotels have been savagely attacked; scores of billion dollars of foreign investment were frozen; and tens of billions of dollars of funding for education and health have been diverted to the battlefield against the extremists.
We cannot undo the past, but we can certainly alter the course of the future. The democratically elected government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has followed a clearly laid out strategy of fighting and marginalizing terrorists, even when that decision was less than popular with a public still cynical because of what it believed was the political manipulation of the past. The course laid out by Pakistan’s democratic leaders has been executed brilliantly by Pakistan’s military and intelligence services.
The documents circulated by WikiLeaks do not even remotely reflect the current realities on the ground. For example, a retired Pakistani general is named as the master planner of the Afghan Taliban’s strategy. But this is a man who hasn’t held any position within Pakistani intelligence or the military for more than 20 years. For its part, Pakistan’s current leadership will not be distracted by something like these leaks. We have paid an unprecedented price in blood and treasure over the last two years. We will not succumb to the terrorists.
As we speak, the military of Pakistan is engaged in a bloody battle, taking enormous casualties, in the mountains of South Waziristan to purge the tribal areas of terrorist sanctuaries. Our intelligence forces are gathering information across the country and targeting terrorist cells in North Waziristan to thwart their designs for destabilizing our government and terrorizing our people.
This is Pakistan’s war as much as it is a battle for civilization. Pakistan’s very existence and traditional way of life are at stake. We fight alongside our friends from all over the world to protect freedom. The U.S could not have a more committed ally in this defining battle of the third millennium than the people, the government and the military of Pakistan.
Mr. Haqqani is Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.