Pakistan came very close to being declared a state sponsor of terrorism in the 1990s, a CIA operative once posted as the station chief in Islamabad said during a hearing on Capitol Hill, home to US legislature which has actively considered that option in recent months.
Richard Grenier, the retired CIA operative, told the Senate’s foreign relations committee on Thursday that while he was posted to Islamabad on loan to the state department, an “annual terrorism review…nearly resulted in Pakistan’s being placed on the formal list of state sponsors of terrorism”.
That would have been devastating for Pakistan, if it had indeed been put on the US list that currently has Iran, Syria and Sudan; past entries on the list were North Korea, Iraq, South Yemen, Libya and Cuba. Inclusion in the list would have meant an end to all aid and assistance at the very least.
Islamabad escaped then, Grenier didn’t go into the details of it, and became a major beneficiary of US aid, both security and humanitarian, which has come under withering scrutiny in recent months, specially at the hands of lawmakers.
“We have this policy where in effect we are working with Pakistan and yet the extreme duplicity that exists with the relationship is that on one hand they say they want to see a stable Afghanistan, on the other hand they are harboring people and through their own proxies are destabilising Afghanistan,” Senate foreign affairs committee chairman Bob Corker, a Republican, said as he opened the hearing.
Corker, who prevented the Obama administration from subsidising the sale of eight F-16 jets to Pakistan earlier by denying funding for it, was joined by other senators in roundly criticising Pakistan, primarily because of its failure to act decisively against the Haqqani Network, a Pakistan-based terror group that fights US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Ben Cardin, the senior most Democrat on the committee, was equally angry, and demanded to know from experts deposing at the hearing “what can we do to fundamentally change the relationship”. Lawmakers wanted to know if there was a better way to administer the US aid that goes to Pakistan to get the best results.
At a hearing of the foreign relations committee of the House of Representatives in July, lawmakers went much further. “If our current efforts in Pakistan are not producing the results we seek then what are our options,” Representative Matt Salmon, a Republican, had said, adding, “We could simply turn the money off … we could enforce sanctions or declare Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
Lawmakers at the senate hearing on Thursday said they were equally frustrated –Corker used the word “duplicitous” or a variation of it for Pakistan a few times – but he also conceded, agreeing with experts deposing at the hearing, that the “relationship with Pakistan is important”.
Grenier, for instance, said the US should not “turn its back on Pakistan”, and accept to work with it. Toby Dalton, another expert, said, “Notwithstanding challenges posed by Pakistan to US interests, this means preserving to the extent possible patterns of cooperation and institutional relationships that facilitate US influence.”