Its been clear for a long time that some members of Pakistans notorious security establishment have been collaborating closely with al-Qaida and the Taliban. Indeed, theres so much collaboration that to call Pakistan a U.S. ally bends the meaning of ally to the breaking point. The United States has been willing to bend because Pakistan occupies such strategically important territory between China, India and the Middle East.
With the astonishingly brave and ingenious U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in his comfortable compound close to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, and in a city with a major military base and training academy, we have further proof of this menacing connection. Clearly, powerful Pakistanis had been protecting the mass-murderer for a long time. Thankfully, the United States carried out the brilliant attack without telling Pakistani officials beforehand.
Why the close links between Pakistani officialdom and terrorists? One reason is that some powerful Pakistani elements see al-Qaida and the Taliban as useful, if vicious, allies in predominantly Muslim Pakistans endless confrontation with predominantly Hindu India over disputed Kashmir and other issues.
Another is that the links give Pakistan more influence in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and al-Qaida still have much power in some places. Some Pakistan officials want to hedge their bets in case the Islamists win there again. Many Pakistanis have long seen Afghanistan as its buffer state. Some powerful officials share al-Qaida and the Talibans warped view of Islam. And perhaps al-Qaida and the Taliban are paying off some officials in notoriously corrupt Pakistan.
Theres even the argument that the Pakistani government, or at least important members of its security apparatus, use ties with al-Qaida and the Taliban to distract the United States from Pakistans nuclear-weapons program.
Whatever the mixture of reasons, the warier we are about dealing the Pakistanis, the better. It is, after all, a nuclear-armed failed state.