Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

U.S. relations with Pakistan: Heading south so fast it ain’t funny, and so what happens to the war in Afghanistan?

If I could short a relationship, it would be the United States with Pakistan. I think the jig is up. Of course, a collapse of relations with Pakistan means we would not longer be able to supply the U.S. military in Afghanistan through Pakistan. And that means the war there is likely going to end ...

Shaun D Metcalfe away in Thailand/Flickr
Shaun D Metcalfe away in Thailand/Flickr

If I could short a relationship, it would be the United States with Pakistan. I think the jig is up. Of course, a collapse of relations with Pakistan means we would not longer be able to supply the U.S. military in Afghanistan through Pakistan. And that means the war there is likely going to end sooner rather than later.

I’ve never seen a bipartisan consensus emerge so quickly on Capitol Hill. Also, I think the leaders in both parties are trailing the mood of the rank and file. Here’s Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., NJ) on MSNBC: “they are among the largest recipients of foreign aid, $8 billion; over eight years, $20 billion. And proposed now, almost 4 billion (dollars). We don’t have that kind of money to spend around with people who are not our friends.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Peter King (R., NY) said on Fox that, “Pakistan should also realize that many members in Congress are raising serious questions, why should we be giving $3 billion every year to Pakistan if they can’t capture the world’s most notorious terrorist living right in their midst? Now, I believe we have to maintain a relationship with Pakistan. I want to do it. But it’s becoming harder and harder to continue it under these circumstances. I don’t know of anyone in the administration who believes what President Zardari is saying.” Rep. Allen West (R., Fla.) went even further, saying that, “I’m not willing to open up the American taxpayer dollars to Pakistan any further.”

And here’s the pathetic response of the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, to Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC :

If Americans are upset about having giving assistance and aid to Pakistan, there are Pakistanis who are also very upset that, despite all that Pakistan has done, despite the fact that we are the only country that has lost generals in fighting terrorism, despite the fact that our leader Benazir Bhutto was killed by terrorists, despite fact that we are as much victims of terrorism as Americans are, that there are people in America who think a Pakistani life is worth less than an American life.

So this is something that is at an emotional level. Let’s not get into that.

Tom again: Too late for that, Mr. Ambassador. It gets emotional when 3,000 innocents are killed in the heart of our biggest city, and the perp hides out in an area of your country that had to be under the surveillance of your security apparatus. If you don’t know why it is emotional, you should not be the ambassador to the United States. You’ve got to do better than that.  

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1