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Adm. Mullen accuses Pakistan’s ISI of treachery, but says let’s keep talking

I wonder which step Mullen is on? The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said to the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that Pakistan’s intelligence agency was in the background of the recent attack on our embassy, as well as a bunch of other assaults. But he seems happy to keep on chatting with ...

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

I wonder which step Mullen is on?

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said to the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that Pakistan’s intelligence agency was in the background of the recent attack on our embassy, as well as a bunch of other assaults. But he seems happy to keep on chatting with them.

He also said a bunch of other stuff, like about where the fight is. My interpretation is that we have moved to a strictly transactional relationship. We will continue to deal with them but will call them out on occasion.

Just treat this as a guest column.

With ISI support, Haqqani operatives plan and conducted that truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy. We also have credible intelligence that they were behind the June 28th attack on the Inter- Continental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations.

In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, the government of Pakistan, and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI, jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership but Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence. They may believe that by using these proxies, they are hedging their bets or redressing what they feel is an imbalance in regional power. But in reality, they have already lost that bet. By exporting violence, they’ve eroded their internal security and their position in the region. They have undermined their international credibility and threatened their economic well-being. Only a decision to break with this policy can pave the road to a positive future for Pakistan.

… As you know, I’ve expended enormous energy on this relationship. I’ve met with General Kayani more than two dozen times, including a two and a half hour meeting last weekend in Spain … Some may argue I’ve wasted my time, that Pakistan is no closer to us than before, and may now have drifted even further away. I disagree. Military cooperation again is warming. Information flow between us and across the border is quickening. Transparent — transparency is returning slowly.

… I actually believe that the ISI has got to fundamentally shift its strategic focus. They’re — they are the ones who implement as — I would argue as a part of government policy the support of extremists. It’s not just Haqqani because we’ve also had our challenges with LET, which is an organization they put in place. So in many ways, it’s the proxy piece here. The support of terrorism is part of their national strategy to protect their own vital interests because of where they live. And that’s got to fundamentally shift.

… it’s very clear the toughest fight is going to be in the east, and the Haqqani network is embedded in Pakistan essentially across from hosts Paktia and Paktika, which, as General Petraeus said, is sort of the "jet stream to Kabul." And they want to own that. That’s really their goal … So I think the risk there is very high. Over the course of the next couple of years I think the biggest fight is going to be in the east, enabled certainly by us, but also Afghan security forces and coalition forces, more than anyplace else. The south I’m not going to say is not problematic, but we’re in a much better place in Kandahar and Helmand than we were a couple years ago. It’s going to be the east, I think, that in the end answers this from a security standpoint. And Haqqani is at the heart of 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. @tomricks1

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