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With an ally like Pakistan, who needs enemies?

September 23, 2011 | 11:32 am

Quetta, Pakistan

Remember when Pakistan was our ally?

Neither do I.

But on Thursday, The Times' David S. Cloud, Ken Dilanian and Alex Rodriguez outlined just how lousy an ally that nation has become. (Warning: The following may be upsetting to you if you are an American taxpayer.)    

Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency communicated with Afghan insurgents who attacked the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in central Kabul last week and appear to have provided them with equipment, according to U.S. military officers and former officials.

Communications gear used by the insurgents "implicated" the directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, Pakistan's spy service, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday. The equipment was found in a 14-story building under construction that the attackers used to lay siege to the embassy compound for 19 hours on Sept. 13, according to the official, who would not describe the equipment recovered.

Bruce Riedel, a former White House advisor on Pakistan and a retired senior CIA official, said administration officials told him that "very firm intelligence" linked the Pakistani spy agency to the embassy attack, which killed at least nine Afghans.

"There are [communications] intercepts and the attackers were in cellphone contact back to Pakistan," he said.

In a dramatic appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged that the insurgents had received "ISI support" not only for the attack on America's most prominent diplomatic and military symbols in the Afghan capital, but also for a massive truck bomb assault this month on a U.S. combat outpost in Wardak province west of Kabul that wounded 77 U.S. soldiers.

Other than that, though, Islamabad has really helped us out a lot, I guess.

Of course, the Pakistanis don't really owe us -– much.  As the story concludes:

Pakistan receives about $3.5 billion in U.S. economic and military aid each year to help revamp critical infrastructure and to battle its homegrown militancy.

That's $3.5 billion, as in, $3.5 billion we don't have to spend on oh, say, disaster relief.  You know, the money the Republicans in Congress are saying can only come from cutting other programs?

Hello, paging House Speaker John Boehner: I may have found a program you can cut from.

Oh sure, I know.  It's complicated.  This is global politics.  This is fancy foreign policy stuff. We need the Pakistanis. 

And on Friday, their reaction was pretty predictable:

Reacting to Mullen's charges, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar cautioned that if the U.S. continued airing such allegations, "you could lose an ally."

"You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people," Khar said, speaking to a Pakistani television channel from New York on Thursday. "“If you are choosing to do so and if they are choosing to do so, it will be at their [the Americans'] own cost."

Uh, Foreign Minister, exactly how much more than the $3.5 billion a year will it cost us?

And then there was this:

In Karachi, Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani told reporters that the onus was on Washington to pull back and begin mending frayed relations between the two countries.

"They can’t live with us -- they can’t live without us," Gilani said. "So, I would say to them that if they can’t live without us, they should increase contacts with us to remove misunderstandings."

Well, I'll give him points for bluntness, and for his cold-blooded assessment of the relationship.  

And it's not as if the Pakistanis haven't helped us.

After all, didn't they keep Osama bin Laden cooped up in a compound near their major military academy for years, just waiting for us to come and get him?

Yes, the Pakistanis, and many in the U.S., say it could be a lot worse if we were to break ties.

Which, oddly, reminds me of the scene in Monty Python's "Life of Brian" in which a man is about to be stoned for uttering the word "Jehovah."  Explaining his action, he repeats the word "Jehovah," at which point the judge shouts: "You're only making it worse for yourself!"

And the man, sanely, replies: "Making it worse!  How can it be worse?"

The moral? When your "ally" is helping your "enemy" kill your troops -– well, it's time to consider just what  "worse" really means.


Changing the direction of U.S.-Pakistan relations

In Pakistan, suicide bombings are part of rhythm of life

House rejects government funding bill as shutdown looms

Pakistan bombing kills 23, may be tied to Al Qaeda arrests

--Paul Whitefield 

Photo: Quetta, Pakistan. Credit: Banaras Khan / AFP/Getty Images

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