A Pakistani court has convicted a doctor who helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden of treason. According to this report in the Washington Post, the doctor, Shakil Afridi, apparently tried to obtain DNA samples from bin Laden’s compound through a vaccination program. He failed to get the samples, but U.S. officials have acknowledged that the doctor did contribute to our intelligence operation against bin Laden.
Pakistan shouldn’t have prosecuted Afridi for anything; it should consider him a hero. But to convict him of treason is particularly galling — and quite telling. Afridi did spy. He didn’t spy on Pakistan, though; he spied on bin Laden. He acted against Pakistan only to the extent that the interests of Pakistan and bin Laden were aligned.
One of the charges against Afridi was cooperating in a war against the state. In realilty, however, Afridi cooperated in a war against al Qaeda and the Taliban. He cooperated in a war against Pakistan only to the extent that the interests of Pakistan and those of al Qaeda and the Taliban are aligned. And that’s the problem — they are to some extent. Alignment to any extent should be unacceptable to the U.S.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration doesn’t seem to agree. Recently, as the outrageous proceedings against Afridi were moving ahead, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan met with Pakistani officials and reported that U.S. relations with Pakistan are “poised to improve.” Improvement in this context would mean a return to Islamabad’s double-dealing, as it balances the interests of the world’s worst terrorist organizations against the interests of the U.S., or rather against Pakistan’s interest in stringing the U.S. along.
President Obama made the decision at the outset of his administration to tilt towards Pakistan and away from India. This move was consistent with his penchant for favoring nations that are “less like America.” But now it’s time for a more serious, more conventional South Asia policy.
The U.S. should stop giving aid to Pakistan. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has it right: “Any money that goes to Islamabad will continue to end up in the pockets of people actively and deadly hostile to America.”
The Obama administration would like Islamabad to reopen our supply line through Pakistan into Afghanistan. But Max Boot reports that our troops in Afghanistan are getting what they need through a northern supply line. With our effort in Afghanistan winding down in any event, we no longer need to be the hostage of a nation that calls it treason to help us take out our number one enemy.
BY THE WAY: The Washington Post report raises a few additional questions, at least for me. Was it wise to try to conduct a bogus vaccination operation in the hope of getting DNA from bin Laden or his associates? How likely were they to submit to this procedure from strangers, and wasn’t there a risk that the attempt would arouse suspicion that something was up?
Also, why did the U.S. admit that Dr. Afridi contributed to our intelligence effort against bin Laden? I assume that Pakistan had all the evidence it needed without our statement, but it still seems strange that we would acknowledged his role. For one thing, doing so might well have increased the need, from a public relations perspective, to come down extra hard on this guy.
I’m not passing judgment through these questions. I’m just asking.