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Pakistan is an arsonist who wants you to believe it is a firefighter

On August 27, US Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted: "Any sustainable solution in Afghanistan must involve Pakistan" while expressing appreciation for the "efforts of the Pakistani government to help evacuate US citizens, our allies and others" . Nations. ”His comments reflect a well-known game: Pakistan has spent decades starting fires in South Asia – and then awaiting praise and reward for offering to put them out.

It is amazing that US officials continue to sell Pakistani fiction alongside media like the BBC, as I recently learned when I was interrupted in the middle of an interview for talking about it. But with the Afghanistan debacle on the minds of policymakers, it is a good time to reflect critically on Washington's ongoing vulnerability to Pakistan's rent-seeking tricks. Both parties have long been responsible for pampering Pakistan in the hope that there are mystical US policies that could reform their supposed headstrong ally. Although Pakistan's engagement in Afghanistan dates back some seven decades, Washington's elite continue to fall for Pakistan's efforts to sell itself as the solution to the very problems it created.

Pakistani officials tell a heartbreaking story. Pakistan looked after its affairs when the United States persuaded Pakistan in 1979 to shoulder the burden of fighting communism in Soviet-controlled Afghanistan. Pakistani officials claim they were a victim of American perfidy when it forgot about Pakistan's existence in the 1990s and Islamabad struggled with the mess – while Washington had the audacity to sanction a confused ally for its known security efforts a nuclear weapon.

On August 27, US Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted: "Any sustainable solution in Afghanistan must involve Pakistan" while expressing appreciation for the "efforts of the Pakistani government to help evacuate US citizens, our allies and others" . Nations. ”His comments reflect a well-known game: Pakistan has spent decades starting fires in South Asia – and then awaiting praise and reward for offering to put them out.

It is amazing that US officials continue to sell Pakistani fiction alongside media like the BBC, as I recently learned when I was interrupted in the middle of an interview for talking about it. But with the Afghanistan debacle on the minds of policymakers, it is a good time to reflect critically on Washington's ongoing vulnerability to Pakistan's rent-seeking tricks. Both parties have long been responsible for pampering Pakistan in the hope that there are mystical US policies that could reform their supposed headstrong ally. Although Pakistan's engagement in Afghanistan dates back some seven decades, Washington's elite continue to fall for Pakistan's efforts to sell itself as the solution to the very problems it created.

Pakistani officials tell a heartbreaking story. Pakistan looked after its affairs when the United States persuaded Pakistan in 1979 to shoulder the burden of fighting communism in Soviet-controlled Afghanistan. Pakistani officials claim they were a victim of American perfidy when it forgot about Pakistan's existence in the 1990s and Islamabad struggled with the mess – while Washington had the audacity to sanction a confused ally for its known security efforts a nuclear weapon.

But Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan are deeply rooted. As Husain Haqqani, Rizwan Hussain and I have shown, Islamabad has inherited the British idea of ​​Afghanistan as a buffer state with Russia. From the point of view of the security managers of a newly shaped Pakistan, Pakistan inherited the most turbulent threat frontier with a fraction of the resources of the British Raj.

Afghanistan made disastrous decisions early on that would entangle the country in an unprofitable security competition with Pakistan. Afghanistan first tried to block Pakistan's application to join the United Nations. From September 1950, Afghanistan began military incursions into the Pakistani tribal organizations and the province of Balochistan. Afghanistan's efforts to fight its much stronger neighbor continued well into the 1970s.

Pakistan, wanting to influence its stubborn western neighbor, began to support the growth of the reformist Islamist organization Jamaat-e-Islami in Afghanistan, where it originally had little support. This development was favorable. The majority of the so-called mujahideen groups that were eventually to be mobilized by Pakistan were rooted in Jamaat-e-Islami.

After Mohammed Daoud Khan came to power in Afghanistan in 1973 and founded a one-party republic that launched an aggressive top-down social reform program and purged Islamists and communists alike, Pakistan saw an opportunity. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over the helm of a vivified Pakistan that lost half of its population when Bangladesh gained independence in a war in 1971. Bhutto decided there was nothing more to lose.

In August 1973, Bhutto founded the Afghan working group within the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate. Despite a brief interregnum, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq continued this policy after ousting Bhutto in a coup in July 1977. About 50 Afghan resistance groups have been merged into a smaller, more manageable number by the ISI. The ISI was tasked with deepening ties between Pakistani and Afghan Islamist groups. These efforts resulted in seven large Sunni Afghan militant groups as well as several Shiite groups. By the time the Soviets crossed the Amu Darya River into Afghanistan, the army of Zia-ul-Haq and the ISI had already created the main Islamist groups that were to become the cornerstone of so-called anti-Soviet jihad.

As I recently wrote in Foreign Policy, that commitment continues to this day. The ISI nourished, created and supported the Taliban in their first incarnation; after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, it returned to doing the same. Pakistan has used its Spin Doctors to say the opposite – with the same old strategy. Pakistan believes that the real victim of terrorism is that it is unjustly slandered and that if the West is to fight terrorism, it must give Pakistan more money – ignoring its wrongdoing, including the support of many Islamist ones Terrorist groups belongs as vertical and horizontal nuclear proliferation.

Ordinary Pakistanis are indeed the victims of terrorist monsters – monsters bred and trained by the military intelligence establishment. As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said to a gathering of Pakistanis in 2011, "You cannot keep snakes in your garden and expect them to only bite your neighbors." However, Islamabad continues to do so – offering its snake experience if they escape.

Pakistan's ability to convince Americans of its signal importance may seem confusing – but it represents a sophisticated and strategic diplomatic approach. Pakistan primarily exploits information asymmetries. As Teresita and Howard Schaffer wrote in 2011, the United States is one of the most important portfolios for diplomatic, political, and military officials. You need to know your pleadings and present them convincingly. In most cases, their American counterparts lack the most rudimentary knowledge of American-Pakistani relations and they tend to be convinced by the narratives offered. Even intelligence officers will have little operational knowledge in Pakistan, partly because substantial international contacts and travel make it difficult to obtain clearance. The easiest way to find young university graduates with little international experience.

Islamabad understands the value of Congress delegations in forming the opinion of policy makers. Unlike protocol-bound India, Pakistan waives any diplomatic protocol on these occasions. The delegates meet the army chief, the ISI chief, and the prime minister, and they are often treated to opportunities for military tourism.

Not only does Pakistan have ample budgets for right-wing lobbyists, but it also has a history of cultivating shadow figures who wash Islamabad's dirty clothes and promote its favorite projects to American politicians and opinion leaders. It discourages criticism by denying visas, restricting access or directly threatening those who dare to uncover the dark side of the deep state of Pakistan with violence. Conversely, Pakistan creates incentives for apologists: it offers free travel where beneficiaries are treated with famous Pakistani hospitality, including private meetings with key Pakistanis from the civil and military spectrum, helicopter flights to places normally prohibited to foreigners, and one cultivated practice of being frank and affable. Such access is critical for people who work in think tanks who eat from the grants received that require such access to Pakistani power corridors. The combination of these various measures results in a silenced circle of critics and a sprawling ecosystem of those eager to promote Pakistani narratives in exchange for access.

If the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is closed, the United States will very likely do what it normally does: return to the arsonist and maintain the pretext that it is really the fire department. The United States is likely to be more dependent on Pakistan as it looks for a foothold to maintain intelligence cooperation and likely a drone base to target terrorist havens in Pakistan, even if Pakistan continues to cultivate the same havens. As in the past, be it using Pakistani territories for U-2 flights or for drones, Pakistan and the United States are likely to set up another pay-to-play system. Pakistan will continue to produce the minimum results to justify spending on a US Congress that is always suspicious of Pakistan but not enough to contain its myriad outrages. In the meantime, Pakistan's militant assets cultivated for action in India will benefit hugely from the terrorists' safe havens protected by the Taliban-led horror house, the Afghan government.

Can we envision a different future for US-Pakistan relations instead of following the treacherous road Washington has been treading with Pakistan since the 1950s? Yes sir. But it takes political courage, which seems to be in short supply in Washington.

First of all, the United States must dispel fears that Pakistan is too dangerous to fail. Pakistan is forcing the United States and the rest of the international community by conjuring up the specter of state disintegration with one or more of the various Pakistani terrorist groups securing nuclear weapons or fissile material. In order to fend off such a doomsday scenario, the United States has been reluctant to sanction Pakistan bilaterally, let alone cut off supplies to international financial regimes. Strangely enough, Pakistan gets its cake and is allowed to eat it too. While Pakistan's deep state wants to be seen as competent, it likes to support this belief because it is lucrative. The deep state also doesn't really care about the loss of Pakistani lives from setbacks, especially when the losses go to poor non-Punjab citizens.

However, Pakistan has proven to be very stable instability. It was never expected to survive as an independent state, given the inequality of human and other resources it had inherited from the dismembered Raj. British and Indians alike expected Pakistan to collapse again in India. Following the path of Bengali independence, many subsequent commentators have long expected that Pakistan will continue to yield to ethnic demands. But it didn't. Pakistan emerged stronger from the 1971 war and was better able to assert its interests despite the loss of half of its population, valuable mineral resources and considerable land mass. In addition, Pakistan has weathered the worst natural disasters without the predicted second-order negative effects. It is time to give up the idea of ​​Pakistan collapsing – or the fear of collapse.

Equally important is the twin myth that Pakistan's nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists. Pakistan's most important asset is its nuclear weapons. These weapons are useful threats only insofar as Pakistan has credible leadership and control over them. While the unlikely event can never be ruled out, the fact is that Pakistan's interests in securing these weapons, fissile materials and technologies are entirely the same as those of the United States.

Instead of trying to keep access to a country by trying to rent it, the United States must abandon the fiction that there is a mystical combination of US lures and incentives that will make Pakistan a responsible state.

For now, Washington and its partners must focus on alleviating the humanitarian disaster that caused the United States and Pakistan. The international community must demand that Pakistan provide a safe corridor for Afghans who do not want to live chained to the horrors of the Taliban regime. It must offer safe passage even to Afghans who worked in the legitimate government and who can be seen as enemies of Pakistan and its Taliban people. Pakistan should be compensated for these services through a cost structure which, in contrast to the lucrative reimbursement conditions of the Coalition Support Funds program, is important for the Pakistani economy. There should be stiff penalties for failing to protect Afghans or facilitate their relocation elsewhere. Islamabad needs to be persuaded to put pressure on the Taliban to have the planes that are currently stranded at Afghanistan's airports depart.

At the same time, the United States must take steps to punish Pakistan for its continued military and other support to the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other Islamist fighters at home and abroad. At the time of writing, the Taliban were announcing their interim cabinet, which will include professed terrorist Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of a brutal terrorist network of the same name, as the new incumbent interior minister, as well as numerous others on various American and UN sanctions lists.

Congress should withdraw its most important non-NATO ally from Pakistan, which the then Secretary of State Colin Powell announced in 2004. While the appointment was intended to strengthen Pakistani belief in U.S. commitment to the country to enlist Pakistan's support in its international counter-terrorism campaigns, it was also intended as a means to expedite Pakistani military platforms and spares, as well as a host of other ancillary services to get. Previous efforts by Congress to remove Pakistan from this status, including one launched in January, have failed. It's time to end this farce.

Crucially, the United States should, under the Treasury Department, impose sanctions on any Pakistani official who has credible information that they have supported the archipelago of terrorist training facilities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Such specific sanctions would focus on the worst offenders without further impoverishing the more than 200 million Pakistanis who are also hostages of the deep state.

The US should also declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism – with clearly defined standards by which this status can be reversed. Currently, the Foreign Ministry names Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria as sponsors of terrorism. Why does Pakistan not meet the criteria?

And even if Washington does not have the courage to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, at least it should allow Pakistan to receive the blacklist it deserves the next time it is assessed by the Financial Action Task Force global body that evaluates corruption and money, money laundering and terrorist financing in national financial systems. The United States and the United Kingdom have unofficially preferred Pakistan to remain on the organization's gray list to ensure it can continue to receive IMF funding. That's absurd.

Pakistan fears even the most modest punishments for its endless crimes – which is why it has launched yet another diplomatic offensive, soliciting allies and targeting critics at the same time. American leaders must stop falling for that line – and ensure that Islamabad pays a price for its ruthless actions and the cost of Afghan, Indian, and Pakistani lives.

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