The Great Pakistan Rethink

Zalmay Khalilzad

The killing of Osama bin Laden was an important success, but it raises vital strategic questions about Pakistan and our policy towards it.

The fact that bin Laden lived in a luxury compound one thousand yards from Pakistan’s national military academy and thirty miles from the capital city of Islamabad raises disturbing questions about the possible nexus between Pakistan’s security apparatus, al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists.

After 9/11, President Bush declared that Pakistan must choose sides in the war on terrorism—either with us or against us. The administration delivered non-negotiable demands calling on Pakistan to cease its support for the Taliban regime and cooperate with the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan. Pakistani president Musharraf initially acquiesced.

After the fall of the Taliban regime, however, the Bush administration prodded Pakistan for further cooperation through positive inducements and occasional pressure. It lifted sanctions that had been imposed on Pakistan for its nuclear program, eased pressure on the regime to democratize, and provided more than $11 billion in aid. Over 70 percent of American aid to Pakistan during the Bush years was security-related, focused on improving Pakistan’s counterterrorism capabilities. It also pressured Pakistan to move against extremists—particularly al-Qaeda.

Pakistan reciprocated with haphazard cooperation. It helped with transit routes and logistics in Afghanistan, though always in exchange for money. Its intelligence agency—the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)—cooperated at times in capturing al-Qaeda operatives such as 9/11’s mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and moved against anti-Pakistan Taliban at significant cost. But Pakistan’s security institutions also worked against us by providing sanctuary and active support for the Taliban, Haqqani network, and other insurgent groups with different degrees of linkage to al-Qaeda.

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