TOPICS : Stop pampering Pakistan’s military

The recent Mumbai terrorist assaults underscore the imperative for a major change

in American policy on Pakistan — a shift that holds the key to the successful outcome of both the war in Afghanistan and the wider international fight against trans-national terror.

First, if the US does not insist on getting to the bottom of who sponsored and executed the attacks in India’s commercial and cultural capital, the Mumbai attacks will probably be repeated in the West. After all, India has served as a laboratory for trans-national terrorists, who try out new techniques against Indian targets before seeking to replicate them in other states.Facing growing international pressure to hunt down the Mumbai masterminds, Pakistan’s government raided a militant camp in Kashmir Sunday. Yet civil-military relations in Pakistan are so skewed that the present civilian government is powerless to check the sponsorship of terrorist elements by the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, or even to stop the Army’s meddling in foreign policy.

Until civilian officials can stand up to these institutions, Pakistan will neither become a normal state nor cease to be a “Terroristan” for international security. The nearly $11 billion in US military aid to Pakistan since 9/11 has been diverted to beef up forces against India. Such diversion, however, is part of a pattern that became conspicuous in the 1980s when the ISI agency siphoned off billions of dollars from the covert CIA assistance meant for anti-Soviet guerrillas in Afghanistan. For too long, Washington has allowed politically expedient considerations to override its long-term interests.

The US must actively encourage the elected leaders in Pakistan to gain full control over all of their country’s national-security apparatus, including the nuclear establishment and ISI. US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, like border troops in India, have been trying to stop the inflow of terrorists and arms from Pakistan. The real problem, however, is not at the Pakistani frontiers with Afghanistan and India. Rather it is the terrorist sanctuaries deep inside Pakistan that continue to breed extremism and export terrorism. Since the economic viability of Pakistan depends on continued US aid as well as on US support for multilateral institutional lending, Washington has the necessary leverage. Further aid should be linked to definitive measures by Pakistan to sever institutional support to extremism.

Unless the US reverses course on Pakistan, it will begin losing the war in Afghanistan. While the United States did make sincere efforts in the aftermath of the Mumbai assaults, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, personally visiting Islamabad to exert pressure, US diplomacy remains limited by Washington’s continuing over-reliance on the Pakistani military. Before the chickens come home to roost, the US pampering of the Pakistani military has to end. — The Christian Science Monitor