Last week, Pakistan’s defense minister did some handwringing on TV over the country’s foreign policy, which he thought went wrong over Afghanistan. While hoping for normalcy, he regretted that relations with the U.S. were going through a bad patch. He criticized Pakistan’s entry into the battle for Afghanistan in the 1970s, and the nursing of terrorists on its territory after 9/11, when an international U.S.-led army attacked and occupied Afghanistan.
It was a rerun of regret about the U.S. that one has seen many times over the years, starting with the SEATO and CENTO defense pacts against the Soviet Union that Pakistan deliberately took to mean pacts against India. When Pakistan beefed up its Army under the pacts, it started the 1965 war, triggering a U.S. arms embargo on Pakistan, and prompted President Gen. Ayub Khan to call his book Friends Not Masters.
The Americans opened the floodgates of aid and arms again after President Gen. Zia-ul-Haq undertook to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1979. The Pakistan Army was already nursing a lot of ideological baggage about this new friendship. General Zia’s second-in-command Gen. Aslam Beg was, and remains in retirement, virulently anti-American. Why did Pakistan join the Americans? What we forget is that U.S. money was matched dollar for dollar by Saudi Arabia, General Zia’s funnel for tough Islamization. It is wrong to regret this jihad now. Pakistan was bankrupt and needed the money desperately. Even Saudi-funded Islam was strictly “transactional.”
Why did we take in the terrorists after 9/11? Think back and recall that we fouled up our own jihad by sending “trainers” like Colonel Imam into Afghanistan and creating the “nonstate actors” now making Pakistan an internally troubled state. Breaking all the rules of state sovereignty we created ungoverned spaces and sought to control Afghanistan. When the blowback came, we dumped our troubles on India and the fallback frenemy, America. We suddenly wanted not “transactional” friends, but friends who give “selflessly,” like China.
We need to focus on two charges that the world is now leveling against us: denial and double game, which actually started in the 1950s when we disingenuously joined the anti-communist pacts. Our neighbors (Afghanistan, Iran) think we are playing a double game with them while our friends (Saudi Arabia and America) are playing footsie with our archenemy, India.