Joint Subcommittee Hearing: Pakistan: Friend or Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism?
Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), Chairman
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Chairman
A former top US diplomat of Afghan origin has said the goal of Pakistan is to overthrow the present Afghan government and install its proxies instead and called not only for cutting off aid but also for stiff Iran-style sanctions against Islamabad.
"Absolutely," said Zalmay Khalilzad, former US envoy to Iraq, Afghanistan AND United Nations and now a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International studies. He was asked by this writer if he was advocating sanctions against Pakistan for continuing to support jihad and terror inside Afghanistan.
Khalilzad, along with Bill Roggio, senior editor of the Long War Journal, and Tricia Bacon, PhD, assistant professor at the American American University, testified Tuesday before the Joint Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade and Subcommittee for Asia and Pacific on the topic Pakistan: Friend or Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism.
Khalilzad, a State Department veteran who is widely respected by Afghans as one of their best sons, expressed his serious concerns over Pakistan’s support for terrorist and extremist forces and called for measures to stop Pakistan from acts of being cunning and clever.
"In addition to cutting off this assistance, Washington should warn Pakistan that it will face escalating financial sanctions—like those once imposed on Iran—unless it facilitates reconciliation talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban." He suggested a gradual, step by step approach to imposing full sanctions on Pakistan. "As an initial step, the US can impose financial and travel restrictions on senior Pakistani officials known to be complicit in the insurgency, and freeze funds in US banks belonging to Pakistani entities—both military and corporate—involved in financing the Taliban," Khalilzad said.
He said politically, Pakistan cannot be a member in good standing of the international community so long as its agencies or military services aggress against Afghanistan. "Pakistan is currently designated by the United States as a 'major non-NATO ally,'" Khalilzad expressed bewilderment. "This status is wholly inappropriate. Pakistan’s current policy and conduct would better merit its inclusion on the State Department’s list of state-sponsors of terrorism."
"Pakistani proxies pose a severe threat to coalition and Afghan forces and civilians. Indeed, Pakistani policy is the principal cause of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan," the former US diplomat said. "More broadly, Pakistan’s use of extremist and terrorist proxies – including to threaten India -- is a significant contributor to the global menace of Islamic extremism," he emphasized, adding "It must be confronted if we are to succeed in defeating terrorism and extremism around the world."
Khalilzad said since the overthrow of the Taliban regime after 9/11 terror attacks on US soil, Pakistan has been playing a perfidious and dangerous double game. "It has portrayed itself as a US partner, yet supports the Taliban and the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. Since 2005, the Taliban and Haqqani network have regrouped in Pakistan and waged a devastating insurgency against US and Afghan forces."
He attributed poor Afghan governance as a major factor in Kabul’s inability to defeat the insurgents. "But the Taliban’s resilience can be attributed above all to the strategic decision of the Pakistani military and intelligence services to provide sanctuary and support to these groups," he said.
Khalilzad, who was reportedly once considered to be made the president of Afghanistan but the idea was dropped because of his US nationality, said Pakistan views the Taliban as an effective proxy to ensure Pakistani dominance over Afghanistan. He said Islamabad also believes that continuing the war in Afghanistan will lead to a US withdrawal, which would change the balance of power against the current government and in favor of its proxies. "Ultimately, Pakistan seeks the overthrow of the current government in Afghanistan because it is not compliant," he said.
He said Pakistan understands that its double-game is risky, but it believes that the risk is manageable. Pakistani leaders reason that they can continue to receive US assistance and avoid international isolation even if they support the Taliban and Haqqani network. They have seen little evidence that Washington will force it to choose between US support and its alliance with the Taliban.
"Every country has a gap between its declaratory policy and its actual policy," said Khalilzad in his written testimony. "In the case of Pakistan, the gap is huge." He pointed out until recently, Pakistani leaders even denied that there were Taliban in their country. "Pakistan believes that they can outmaneuver and outwait us. They are adept at offering tactical gestures that make it appear they are being helpful, which they calculate will make it more difficult for the US to take a hardline stance.
"I have first-hand experience in this regard. As I document in my recently published memoir—The Envoy-- the President asked me in 2005 to visit Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf and raise the issue of the Taliban sanctuaries. When I asked Gen. Musharraf why Pakistan was sponsoring the Taliban, he denied that there were any Taliban in Pakistan," Khalilzad said. He recalled the Pakistani dictator refused to acknowledge that the leadership of the Taliban were residing in Quetta or contend with the fact that its ruling Council bore the name of the capital of Balochistan. "Musharraf instead insisted that I provide him with the names and phone numbers of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Years later, when he was no longer his country’s leader, he boasted to the world of his country’s support for the extremist group," Khalilzad said. Musharraf openly admitted Pakistan was supporting Islamists as proxies.
Khalilzad hailed the May 21 killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike and said it has created a golden hour to confront Pakistan. "Washington can force Islamabad to make a choice: US aid and international support or a continued relationship with the Haqqani network and irreconcilable Taliban. Catalyzing a decisive effect on Pakistani policy, however, will require the US to escalate pressure on Islamabad," he said, cautioning, "Otherwise the opportunity will dissipate."
He said for Islamabad to break with the Haqqani network and the Taliban, the Pakistani leadership needs to see that continued support for the insurgency will come at a high price. "Escalating drone strikes against Haqqani and irreconcilable Taliban leaders would deliver that message, but drone strikes alone will not be enough without corresponding political and financial pressure. On the financial side, Pakistan has been an enormous beneficiary of international support -- specifically from Coalition Support Funds, bilateral assistance, and multilateral assistance from the IMF and World Bank.
The U.N. Security Council is an appropriate venue in which to raise Pakistan’s aggression against Afghanistan. To help secure international support for a U.S.- Afghan-sponsored resolution condemning Pakistan, the U.S. should declassify and broadcast information indicating Pakistani support for the insurgency and its narcotics trafficking. Action at the Security Council would also provide the United States to ask China, one of Pakistan’s staunchest allies, whether it wants to be saddled with another North Korea – a rogue, isolated state surviving on Beijing’s dole. I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your consideration on this issue. I look forward to your questions.