Pakistan overplays its hand
(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)
Pakistan is reportedly calling for a reduction in U.S. drone missile strikes against terrorists sheltering in its tribal border areas, greater transparency from the CIA regarding its counterterrorism activities inside Pakistan, and a reduction in U.S. military trainers in the country.
Following a meeting in Washington between the director of Pakistan’s intelligence service, Shuja Pasha, and CIA Director Panetta on Monday, a Pakistani official told The Washington Post that the CIA must share more information about what it “wants and is doing” inside Pakistan, adding, “They have to stop mistrusting [Pakistani intelligence] so much.”
The problem is that Pakistan’s handling of recent terrorism cases and its dealings with the Afghan Taliban have done little to inspire the trust Pakistani officials seek. Pakistan maintains links with the Afghan Taliban as well as deadly militant groups, such as the Haqqani network, that are responsible for some of the fiercest attacks against coalition soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan.
Moreover, Pakistan has failed to take substantive action against the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) terrorist group responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed nearly 166, including six Americans. Pakistan has dragged its feet on trying and prosecuting seven LeT members who are widely believed to be behind the Mumbai carnage that it took into custody over two years ago. In fact, one of the alleged ringleaders of the attacks, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, had been instructing LeT operatives while in Pakistani custody, raising questions over whether the Pakistanis were “protecting” rather than “prosecuting” him. In congressional testimony, U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Robert Willard expressed concern about the expanding international reach of the LeT.
Pakistani intelligence officials are seeking to take advantage of the Ray Davis episode to gain leverage in their dealings with the U.S. But the Obama Administration must remain committed to U.S. counterterrorism goals in the region and continue to pursue policies in Pakistan that prioritize protecting the U.S. homeland from additional terrorist strikes. Rather than seeking to change U.S. counterterrorism objectives in the region, Pakistan should propose strategies for jointly tackling the threat.
The trial of David Headley, the Pakistani-American arrested in Chicago in 2009 for involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, is set to resume in the middle of next month. The disclosures that come to light during that trial are sure to raise more questions about Pakistan’s relationship with the LeT. To avoid further international embarrassment over the issue, Pakistan must take action against the perpetrators of the attacks. Punishing the perpetrators would be the best way to quell accusations of official Pakistani involvement in the attacks.