Mike Mullen: Pakistani intelligence was behind the attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul

In which the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressly accuses our “ally,” to whom we send billions each year in economic and military aid, of plotting terrorist attacks against us. That’s an act of war, no different from what Iran does when it uses Shiite militia proxies in Lebanon and Iraq to influence events there. In the abstract, this should be a page-one banner headline on the front page of today’s Times.

In reality, at this point I can’t imagine there’s a man or woman anywhere who’s surprised enough to consider it “news.”

Mullen said Pakistan’s government has chosen to “use violent extremism as an instrument of policy,” adding that “by exporting violence [via the Haqqani network], they have eroded their internal security and their position in the region. They have undermined their international credibility and threatened their economic well-being.”…

Mullen, who has met frequently with his Pakistani counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, over the past few years, said in prepared remarks for the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that the Haqqanis have “long enjoyed the support and protection of the Pakistani government” and are “in many ways a strategic arm” of Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency. He said the Haqqanis were behind several recent major attacks in Afghanistan, including the embassy attack and a Sept. 10 truck bomb that killed five Afghans and injured 77 U.S. soldiers…

The increasingly tough U.S. rhetoric — particularly the accusation of a proxy relationship — reflects a U.S. belief that Pakistani intelligence in recent months has more aggressively facilitated attacks by the Haqqanis on Afghan and American targets inside Afghanistan, one senior military official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said it’s unclear whether Pakistani leaders intend to heed U.S. warnings.

Reading that, I wonder who was behind the bombing that killed former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani earlier this week. Rabbani was a bridge between the Taliban and remnants of the Northern Alliance in the current Afghan government. According to western diplomats, he had reached out to members of the Taliban on possible peace talks. Afghan intelligence thinks the Taliban leadership ordered the assassination to derail the talks before they got going but the NYT notes that any number of groups could have been involved — including the Haqqanis. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time Pakistan had done something drastic to upset peace talks that weren’t being conducted on their terms. Remember when they kidnapped the Taliban’s number two, Mullah Baradar, to shut him up? They’re supplying the Taliban too, of course, so in a sense it doesn’t much which group’s fingerprints are on the bombing. They’re all attached to Pakistani arms.

We have two realistic options for retaliation, I think, and one unrealistic option. First: Cut aid. It’s belt-tightening time here at home and we sent them $4.4 billion last year. Let them make do with whatever they can get from China. When they inevitably threaten to withhold cooperation on terrorism, threaten to step up counterterror cooperation with India, replete with sharing cutting-edge military technology. Two: Start quietly targeting rogue ISI officers in case we’re not doing that already. There’s huge risk in that, obviously, as it’s bound to damage intel sharing, but maybe that’s a risk worth running if fear inside ISI would lead them to scale back their sponsorship of jihadi outfits. Three, the unrealistic option: Do something about their nuclear weapons. What that “something” might be, I have no idea — I don’t know the extent of U.S./Indian capabilities — but their nuclear arsenal is the ultimate problem in dealing with them. As things stand, we can never push back too hard to their provocations lest the country be destabilized and jihadis end up with nuclear arrows in their quiver. Without that variable, there’d be much less risk to confronting Pakistan directly and letting the chips fall where they may; even if it meant radicals taking over the government, the inevitable conventional war with India would eventually dislodge them. With the nuclear variable in the equation, though, it’s too risky to make any sudden moves. And Pakistan knows it only too well: It’s no coincidence that they’ve been ramping up nuclear production in the last few years even as the country’s become less stable. If we can’t do anything about it — and we almost certainly can’t — then the world will be a hostage to them forever. Maybe we should start thanking them for “only” targeting one of our embassies now and then instead of doing something cataclysmically nutty. Thanks, Pakistan!