Pakistan is, and always has been, stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place – it’s a nation trapped by a longtime enemy (India), an unstable regime (Iran), an unhinged region of ethnic and religious warfare (Afghanistan), and a disputed borderland (Kashmir). For two decades, Pakistan’s leaders, who are typically just public puppets of their own military, have attempted to perform a difficult balancing act that neither enraged nor pacified any of the powers involved, both directly or indirectly. This behavior led to their financing of the Afghanistan Taliban, possibly Al Qaeda as well, while pretending to give their full support to US-led interests. It hasn’t fooled anyone paying close attention, and they’ve just made a possibly fatal mistake.
As the situation in Afghanistan devolved and expanded to include insurgents and wanted persons fleeing freely into Pakistan, it became openly clear that Pakistan was not truly interested aiding the United States – all it cared about was its sovereignty and continued so-called safety. NATO and US troops, however, took it upon themselves to act where Pakistan refused, and actually carry out some semblance of border security, in terms of those fleeing Afghanistan. This, while allowed without challenge by the Pakistani government, didn’t sit well with the Pakistani populace, and this discord has actually escalated as attacks, by both drones and helicopters, have increased in recent weeks.
Twenty years of a balancing act that took into account the interests of the Pakistani government, the Pakistani military (who are often at odds with the interests of their own government), the Pakistani people, and foreign entities like the United States did not prepare them properly for the recent event that may very well mark their downfall: a NATO-led airstrike inside Pakistan airspace that was followed by the closing of the Pakistani border, which still continues. This crass and unintelligent move by Pakistan has resulted in the halting of supply lines for forces inside Afghanistan.
Is this the sort of behavior of a nation with vested interests in playing both sides of a dangerous game? No, this is Pakistan, for once, publicly showing the true hand it’s playing: it is in the best interest of Pakistan for Afghanistan to remain as it has for most of modern history, so they do their best to support the continued quagmire. In truth, the closing of Pakistan’s borders means nothing, as it would take very little effort for coalition forces to disregard the sovereignty of the nation and proceed however they wished – the fact that this hasn’t yet happened indicates an attempt by these foreign forces to cooperate to the best of their ability. However, Pakistan’s military will be entirely unable to counter any offensive made against them by these forces, a military highly dependent on American aid, leaving the closing of the border all the more ludicrous.
NATO supply lines have been attacked within Pakistan, away from this border crossing, by forces believed to be based within Pakistan itself. If there ever were an indication that Pakistan is not to be trusted, and that its government truly has no control over the country, this is the moment. There is no rational reason to continue to play political games with a foreign country that’s proven, time and again, to not only be untrustworthy, but outright liars – whether this cooperation comes in the form of aid, military support, or political maneuvering, it should be stopped immediately. Since Pakistan’s very existence is owed to the backing of the United States, courtesy of the always-present Indian threat, the withdrawal of such support would have devastating consequences for the nation that fears such a situation. It would, however, further destabilize the region, and could only truly be used as a threat, and not as an actual course of action.
It seems highly improbable that the sudden aggression by Pakistan against coalition forces, largely perceived to be American, would coincide so perfectly with warnings of impending domestic attacks within America and Europe. If Pakistan supports the Taliban, who in turn supports Al Qaeda, there exists a direct connection between these actors, even if Pakistan’s ISI were not so deeply opposed to the prevailing of coalition forces within Afghanistan. Following this same line of logic, it’s not too great of a stretch to assume that the border closing would be timed to distract Western attention while attacks within their own countries are prepared to be carried out. Such is the twist of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s shenanigans, for lack of a better word, must no longer be tolerated – the border should be forced open by whatever means necessary, and the regimes, political and military, within the nation should be made to understand that their two-sided game will no longer be allowed. In the modern world of warfare against non-state actors, it’s difficult to have the clear-cut demarcations of loyalty seen in previous eras, but Pakistan should be forced to comprehend a single, definitive point: if they choose to support the Taliban, Al Qaeda, or hinder, in any way, the progress of what’s already begun inside Afghanistan, they will be treated as aggressors. For in this situation, there can be no middleground, no area of gray.
From Kyle Brady…