The US rarely learns from its mistakes, because it suffers from what late political scientist Hans Morgenthau called “strategic narcissism.” Each US president seems to believe the world is waiting for American direction and devises policies based on this flawed assumption. For example, US President Joe Biden seems determined to repeat past blunders by resuming the US’ coddling of Pakistan.
Successive US presidents have failed to appreciate that the US’ long-standing partnership with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has allowed Pakistan to institutionalize terrorism by employing armed jihadists in low-intensity asymmetric warfare against neighboring countries.
For example, Pakistan has always sought to colonize Afghanistan by installing a regime that would do its bidding, so the ISI created the Taliban in the early 1990s. With the Taliban back in control after the ISI engineered the US’ humiliating defeat in Afghanistan, Pakistan has gotten its wish.
Pakistan itself has become an extremist mecca that hosts multiple UN-designated terrorist entities. The US found al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden — the mastermind behind the worst terrorist attack in US history — living next to the Pakistan Military Academy. Other plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks were also captured in Pakistan.
Yet, despite its terrorist ties, Pakistan’s politically powerful military, including the ISI, has got off scot-free.
On the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks this month, Biden pledged to continue monitoring and disrupting terrorist activities “wherever we find them, wherever they exist,” adding that it took “10 years to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden.”
Yet, disturbingly, Biden has reversed the policy of former US president Donald Trump to keep Pakistan at arm’s length until it ended its unholy alliance with terrorist organizations.
Biden could have taken advantage of Pakistan’s desperate need for an IMF bailout to compel it to sever its links with state-backed terrorist groups. Instead, his administration helped the country stave off an imminent debt default by securing the IMF board’s approval for the immediate disbursement of a US$1.1 billion aid package.
This is not the only leverage over Pakistan that the Biden administration has been reluctant to use. With US and Chinese support, Pakistan is close to exiting the “gray list” of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental agency combating terrorist financing and money laundering. That Pakistani authorities have not addressed the reason their country was placed on that list in 2018 — tolerating terrorist financing — appears to matter little.
Pakistan should have been placed on the FATF’s most punitive “black” list, a status that usually invites Western sanctions. However, US troops were fighting the Taliban at the time and the US, seeking to moderate Pakistan’s approach to Afghanistan, successfully lobbied against it.
Nothing better illustrates Biden’s embrace of Pakistan than the US$450 million deal unveiled this month to modernize the cash-strapped country’s US-supplied F-16 fleet, despite the risk that it might harm the US’ close strategic relationship with India. For decades, the US had armed Pakistan to the teeth, a role subsequently taken over by China as a maneuver against India. The F-16s were given to Pakistan as a reward for serving as the staging ground for the covert US war against the Soviet forces occupying Afghanistan in the 1980s, when Pakistan also launched its clandestine nuclear program.
The US justified the deal by disingenuously claiming that equipping Pakistan’s F-16s with cutting-edge avionics would advance counterterrorism.
However, the move — announced without warning India — will likely renew skepticism toward the US among Indian officials.
Biden has said nothing about China’s 28-month-long frontier aggression against India, and the US Department of State remained neutral by urging the two powers to find “a peaceful resolution.” By strengthening Pakistan — China’s client state — the F-16 deal further imperils US-India relations.
Biden’s re-engagement with Pakistan dismisses those who called on the US to punish Pakistan for its pivotal role in the Afghanistan debacle. Far from imposing sanctions or adding Pakistan to the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, his administration has championed the country as a “major non-NATO ally,” a status conferred on 17 other countries as well — but not India.
This approach should not come as a surprise. The US did not impose sanctions on Pakistan even after it aided and abetted the Taliban’s killing of US soldiers. Instead, the US treated Pakistan as a gatekeeper of its geopolitical interests in the region.
Washington’s weakened position following its Afghan fiasco has only increased its dependence on the ISI, which continues to facilitate the Biden administration’s outreach to the Taliban.
The recent assassination of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul by a US drone strike would not have been possible without US access to Pakistani airspace, which explains US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s commitment to “expanding the US-Pakistan partnership.”
However, at the heart of this partnership is a Faustian bargain whereby the Biden administration condones Pakistan’s harboring of known terrorists and eases sanctions on the brutal Taliban regime, despite its close ties with al-Qaeda.
The Biden administration’s reluctance to learn from previous US failures ensures that geopolitical considerations will continue to drive US foreign policy, despite the strategic damage to the US’ interests. Biden’s approach will nurture a major hub of terrorism, allowing Pakistan to set fires while pretending to be a firefighter.
Brahma Chellaney is a professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research and fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin.
Copyright: Project Syndicate
China has quietly unloaded 10 percent, or US$100 billion, of its US Treasury holdings in the first half of the year. During the past 40 years of rapid economic growth after recovering from a quasi-ruined state that officially ended in 1976, China has amassed a huge pile of foreign reserves partially through its trade surplus. The US Treasuries have always been the prime choice for China to park its foreign reserves. What made it run away from the traditional safe haven for its hard-earned foreign reserves? One explanation is that Beijing is leveraging its financial power as the second-largest US Treasury
Sometimes When there is a choice to be made, none of the options are good. The choice between hooking up with communism — in its Chinese iteration, the one that bugs Taiwan the most — and neofascism, of the back-to-the-roots Italian variety or any other kind, is such a choice. The good news is that Taiwan does not have to choose. It neither needs to cozy up to China — the successes of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration, despite its shortcomings, are evidence of that — nor does it need to embrace Italy under its likely new leader, Italian lawmaker Giorgia
For many years, the military’s defense of the Taiwan Strait has been centered around the doctrine of establishing “air and maritime supremacy and repulsing landing forces.” However, after the legislature passed the Sea-Air Combat Power Improvement Plan Purchase Special Regulation (海空戰力提升計畫採購特別條例) last year, the doctrine was altered to “air defense, counterattack, and establish air and maritime supremacy,” with repelling landing forces removed from the equation. Despite the changes to the defense doctrine, landing operations and anti-landing operations still feature at the core of the military’s plans for the defense of the nation. The primary reason that peace in the Taiwan Strait has prevailed
In a China-US war over Taiwan, paradoxically the greatest loss of life could be inflicted on the Muslim Uighurs. Uighurs constitute 45 percent of the Xinjiang population of 25 million people, with over 1 million incarcerated in internment camps in accordance with a policy initiated under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). Another half-million children have been placed in state-run boarding schools. Forced sterilization has led to a 24 to 60 percent drop in the birthrate, leading officials from many countries to describe the mass detention as genocide. Estimated annual death rates in the camps of between 5 and 10 percent could