If the State Department were serious about its State Sponsors of Terrorism designation, the list would have more than three names on it: Iran, Sudan, and Syria. The most prominent missing name? Pakistan.
By any fair reckoning, Pakistan is one of the biggest sponsors of terrorism in the world, its activities in this regard probably exceeded only by Iran. It is the Pakistani military, after all, that sponsors such extremist group as the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar e Taiba, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and others that primarily direct their attacks against Afghanistan and India. By one count, there are 18 terrorist groups based in Pakistan — and that includes al-Qaeda, whose late leader Osama bin Laden was able to live on Pakistani soil with the suspected complicity of its security establishment.
To be sure, Pakistan fights some terror groups such as the Pakistani Taliban (the TTP) which directly seek to overthrow the government in Islamabad. But that hardly makes up for its role in sponsoring other terrorist organizations that serve as proxies to project Pakistani power into Afghanistan and Indian in particular.
While most of these groups’ victims have been Indians or Afghans, al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, and the Taliban have also claimed lots of American victims. The Haqqanis are a particular menace. Operating out of North Waziristan in Pakistan’s Federally Affiliated Tribal Areas, they have been responsible for most of the high-profile acts of terrorism in Kabul since 2002. The U.S. Defense Department has said it is unlikely to disburse $300 million in “Coalition Support Funds” to Pakistan this year because there is no evidence that Pakistan is actively fighting the Haqqanis. But the rest of the $700 million the U.S. provides to Pakistan this year is still being sent to Islamabad.
And now, with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visiting Washington, the administration is leaking word that Pakistan will be allowed to buy eight more F-16s — aircraft that are likely to be prepared for a future war against democratic and pro-Western India rather than for fighting jihadist terrorists.
This is a policy that makes no sense. By sending security aid to Pakistan, the U.S. is subsidizing our enemies. Instead of continuing to support the Pakistani military, the U.S. should let Islamabad know that unless the military and in particular its Inter-Services Intelligence Agency change their ways, Pakistan will not only lost its standing as a “major non-NATO ally” (a designation that affords it access to lots of military equipment and aid) but that it is in danger of being added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Individual ISI officers who work closely with terrorist groups should also be considered as candidates for individual sanctions, such as those currently in place (although not for much longer!) on Iranian officials involved in nuclear weapons work and sponsorship of terrorism.
This doesn’t mean that we should abandon Pakistan altogether. As this Foreign Policy article argues, we should be spending our money on bolstering the power of Nawaz Sharif and other civilians to stand up to the military’s dominance of Pakistan’s security policies. Instead, we continue to subsidize the military. That is about as self-defeating a strategy as we could possibly have — right up there with lifting sanctions on Iran as it is stepping up its support for its homicidal proxies in Syria and beyond.