Pakistan: State Sponsor of Terrorism?

April 8, 2014

3 min read

“The civilian government there [Pakistan] doesn’t control military policy, strategic policy… the army and the intelligence service do.” — Chris Alexander, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Pakistan’s High Commission to Canada rebuked Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander for calling Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. “Pakistan is not a state sponsor of terrorism, as naively alleged by Mr. Alexander, but is itself a victim of terrorism, determined to fight this menace and extend every possible co-operation to our neighbors and allies in this regard,” said Press Counselor Nazia Khalid.

Alexander, who served as Canada’s ambassador in Afghanistan and authored the book, “The Long Way Back: Afghanistan’s Quest for Peace,” stated on a CBC television news program that “[t]he civilian government there [Pakistan] doesn’t control military policy, strategic policy… but the army and the intelligence service do…. and they have denied the obvious, postponed this reckoning for years with so many terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.”

Alexander stated that the international community urgently needs to address the situation in Pakistan, as it is connected to other trouble spots including Syria, Iraq and Russia.

Alexander’s reference to Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism is far from naïve. It was further highlighted by his press secretary, Alexis Pavlich, who stated: “It is not just that these terrorist groups continue to operate from Pakistani territory: they also enjoy official, albeit covert, sanction and support from some within Pakistan’s state apparatus.”

A report by the Council on Foreign Relations, “Pakistan’s New Generation of Terrorists“, suggests there is nothing naïve about Alexander’s warnings about Pakistan. Its commitment to counterterrorism came into question in May 2011, when U.S. commandos killed al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden at a compound not far from Islamabad, and it was discovered that members of al-Qaeda’s leadership, as well as the Afghan Taliban, were living and operating out of Pakistan’s tribal areas and had combined forces with several militant insurgent groups, including the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network, believed to be supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

According to a Reuters report , in late 2011, the Obama administration created a special unit based in Kabul to coordinate efforts against the Haqqani militant group. The organization had been named in “some of the most audacious attacks of the Afghan war,” including storming hotels popular with foreigners; bombing the Indian embassy in Kabul, and a 2011 attack on the U.S. embassy.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when Pakistan joined Washington presumably as an ally in combatting terrorism, analysts have accused Pakistan’s security and intelligence services of playing a “double game” and aiding militant groups fighting NATO in Afghanistan. In 2002, supporters of the Afghan Taliban sought refuge in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Five years later, over a dozen disparate militant groups united under the umbrella of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban. It was led by Baitullah Mehsud of South Waziristan, whom Pakistani authorities accused of orchestrating the December 2007 assassination of Pakistan’s former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. Authorities produced an intercepted audio communication in which Mehsud reportedly confirmed that his men were responsible for the attack.

Even though the Pakistani army targets militants, analysts say they also continue to form alliances with groups such as the Haqqanis that they can use as a strategic hedge against India. The strategy involves rendering Afghanistan a virtual “satellite state” with the objective of denying India political and military influence in Afghanistan, establishing a Pashtun-dominated government in Kabul, and ensuring that the government in Kabul does not incite Pakistani Pashtuns to secede. Pakistan therefore provides support to the Haqqanis.

At a congressional hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 2011, the then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, asserted that Pakistan supports terrorist groups and that “Pakistani duplicity puts in jeopardy not only the frayed U.S.-Pakistani partnership against terrorism but also the outcome to the decade-old war in Afghanistan.” Testifying with Mullen, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also decried Pakistani support for the Haqqani network.

A report by the Times of India even highlighted a joint statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, aimed at Pakistan, which said: “States that provide aid, abetment and shelter for such terrorist activities are themselves as guilty as the actual perpetrators of terrorism.” The two leaders spoke of the Mumbai attacks and Pakistan’s foot-dragging on acting against leaders of the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba and its chief, Hafiz Saeed, and also the snail’s pace of the trials of those held so far.

In the report “Pakistan: With Friends Like These…“, former U.S. diplomat Peter Tomsen notes an alarming description by northern Tajik Commander Ahmed Shah Masood about a 10-day Taliban offensive near the Tajikistan border. Masood, who apparently had spies operating in Pakistan, stated that it was a Pakistani General and Pakistani military officers who had directed the “Taliban attack.” Masood identified some of the Pakistani army units participating in the operation, in which “a force of 25,000 Pakistani army soldiers and Pakistani religious students were fighting alongside a horde of Taliban fighters, Osama bin Laden’s two Arab brigades, and 300 Uzbek militants.”

The international community would do well to heed Chris Alexander’s warning.

Reprinted with author’s permission from the Gatestone Institute

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