By Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D.
Each year the United States sends Pakistan billions of dollars in aid.
In return, Pakistan provides safe haven and material support for our enemy the Taliban, while, through Pakistan’s network of radical Islamic schools “madrassas,” a continuous supply of jihadi recruits is produced to fill the ranks of the Taliban and other terrorist groups.
The policy towards Pakistan that U.S. politicians have pursued is not only stupid, but it could be considered willfully negligent.
It is a strategy based on bribery and submission, not unlike jizya, a tax historically levied by Islamic states on non-Muslim subjects known as “dhimmis” or, in our case, dummies.
It is a form of insanity, repeatedly giving Pakistan money in the vain hope that the Pakistanis will change an approach which they consider successful, the use of terrorism as an instrument of their foreign policy.
The U.S. cannot win in Afghanistan unless there is a significant change in the strategic environment, addressing the root of the conflict, which our politicians have refused to acknowledge.
The U.S. military has been largely relegated to killing the expendable foot-soldiers of the Taliban inside Afghanistan, Pakistan’s madrassa cannon fodder, but only occasionally attacking the inner circle of the Taliban inside Pakistan.
In other words, we have been whacking the wrong moles.
In the relatively rare instances when terrorist leaders have been targeted, they have been killed in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. Those include members of the Pakistan-based Haqqani network and Osama bin Laden, who was sheltered in Pakistan from 2005 until his death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011. The new al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is in Pakistan and, like bin Laden, has been protected by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, Emir of the Taliban was killed in the Nushki district of Balochistan, Pakistan in May 2016 by a drone strike on his car while he was returning from a trip to Iran where he was conferring with Iranian officials. Mansour was carrying an official Pakistani computerized national identity card and a Pakistani passport under the name Muhammad Wali.
The main Taliban group that was led by Mansour is known as the Quetta Shura, whose headquarters is in the Pakistani city of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan Province.
The time is long past to change U.S. policy, to take the war to Pakistan in ways that will alter the strategic conditions.
A first step to doing so would be for the U.S. Department of State to designate the Afghan Taliban as a terrorist group. Many Americans may be surprised to learn that the Afghan Taliban is not on that list, but the Pakistani Taliban, the Tehrik-i-Taliban, is, a group that directly threatens Pakistan’s internal stability.
The Afghan Taliban, without any doubt, meets the criteria for being declared a terrorist organization, that is, to engage in terrorism, deliberate attacks on civilians, and threatening the security of U.S. nationals or the national security of the United States.
The reason the Afghan Taliban is not on the list is political expediency, “a concern that applying the terror label to the group would restrict U.S. and Afghan government diplomatic contacts with the Taliban, making peace talks more difficult.”
Declaring the Afghan Taliban a terrorist organization would allow the U.S. to begin to apply pressure on Pakistan to dismantle the Taliban infrastructure inside its territory.
Additional steps could include cutting off foreign aid to Pakistan, declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, tilting towards India and supporting a Balochistan independence movement.
Pakistan has made Balochistan both an incubator and operational base for the Taliban and other terrorist groups like the Islamic State, which now has established a presence there and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a fully owned and operated subsidiary of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI.
It is in our interest to assure that Balochistan does not remain a Pakistan-sponsored launch pad for terrorist attacks into Afghanistan or internationally, perhaps by reversing the flow of insurgency.
I do not blame Pakistan for pursuing what they consider their national interests, but I do blame American politicians for agreeing to conditions in Afghanistan that are so lethally detrimental to our own.
Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of “Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution “. He receives email at email@example.com.