Perhaps because Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is retiring at the end of the month, he felt no need to respect the feelings of Pakistan or the U.S. State Department.
He bluntly said that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, played a direct role in supporting the insurgents who carried out a deadly attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier this month.
And there is growing evidence that the ISI is aiding the Haqqanis in increasingly high-profile lethal attacks against U.S. forces and interests in Afghanistan and is engaged in a systematic effort to undermine U.S. efforts to suppress militants in Afghanistan and bring a semblance of stability to the country, not the least reason being so we can leave.
This took place not in an obscure think-tank forum, but at a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. Mullen, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at his side, was the first and most senior U.S. official to publicly call the ISI on its treachery.
The Haqqanis are a combination tribe, militia, extortion racket and key allies of the Taliban, especially those linked to Mullah Omar, the Afghan leader who has been on the lam since 9/11. They were fearsome fighters against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
Why they have elected to fight a proxy war against us is more puzzling. They claim that the United States is against Islam, but they target fellow Muslims far more than they target us. A reasonable guess is that they want to create a climate of fear and uncertainly so they can fill the vacuum in Afghanistan after we’ve left.
However, there seems to be credible evidence that the Haqqani network and other ISI-affiliated groups are using the safety of the Pakistani border to rest and refit insurgent groups before dispatching them to Afghanistan.
The unilateral U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden violated international law and custom and broke faith with an ally, although one curiously unable to find the world’s most-wanted fugitive, hiding under the nose of its military.
Under international law, the Haqqanis, holed up in the remote fastness of North Waziristan, have given us ample legal justification for military retaliation.
The Pakistani government “categorically” denies any ISI involvement with attacks on the U.S. in Afghanistan and said it will “not allow” U.S. raids in its territory. To be fair to Pakistan, large parts of its territory are ungovernable. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. has to accept the consequences of that lawlessness.
Unless the Pakistan government and military can rein in the ISI and the Haqqani network, the U.S. should start hammering their strongholds with drones and cross-border raids until they stop attacking us and our Afghan allies.
Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer and columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service.