05/03/2011 06:52 pm ET Updated Jul 03, 2011

Pakistan Is Not a Strategic Ally But an Irresponsible Client State

Adolph Hitler and other top leaders of Nazi Germany escape into neutral Spain after the defeat of the Third Reich and find a sanctuary in the Pyrenees Mountains along the border with France from which they launch deadly attacks against the U.S. and its allies and attempt to overthrow the pro-western government in Paris.

Would the U.S. allow Generalissimo Francisco Franco to provide a safe haven for Hitler and his associates in Spain and describe his government as an "ally in the fight against Nazism?"

And would the Americans wait for another 10 years before sending U.S. Special Forces to capture and kill the Nazi leader hiding in a mansion a few miles from Madrid and just 800 yards away from a military academy that is the equivalent of Spain's West Point?

Quite unlikely, you say. But then many elements of the strategy pursued by the administration of former President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington seem as bizarre.

After all, President Bush did allow Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda thugs and their Taliban enablers to flee into Pakistan, use it as a safe haven and as a launching pad for attacks on the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan as part of an effort to topple the pro-American government in Kabul.

And instead of employing its military and diplomatic resources to capture bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Pakistan and to defeat the Taliban forces hiding there, which would have created the conditions for declaring victory over the al Qaeda-Taliban Axis of Evil, the U.S. ended-up redeploying its troops to Mesopotamia where it wasted precious diplomatic capital and military assets in an effort to oust Saddam Hussein, a secular Arab leader and an enemy of the fundamentalist bin Laden and then occupied and destabilized Iraq.

To apply the earlier WWII analogy, it was as though the U.S. would refrain from finishing the job by capturing Hitler and the Nazis in Spain, and then declares a military victory in the war in Europe and re-directs its troops and resources to "liberate," ousting Argentina's military junta and occupying that country.

Indeed, there has been something very surreal about the notion promoted by the leaders of the U.S. and Pakistan post-9/11 that the two countries were "allies" in the war on terror. That was just not, well, true. Pakistan, who together with Saudi Arabia (another U.S. "ally"), were the two governments who had maintained diplomatic relationship with the Taliban regime pre-9/11, has always regarded Afghanistan's Islamic fundamentalists as close allies in containing the power of India, Pakistan's main strategic adversary.

In fact, according to numerous and credible press reports, academic studies as well as diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks, the heads of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the recipient of an annual $2 billion from Washington, has continued to provide weapons and financial assistance to the Afghan Taliban while acting as if they were cooperating with the U.S. fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda -- a double-dealing game that fooled no one.

Indeed, that the killing of Osama bin Laden took place "deep inside Pakistan in an American operation, almost in plain sight in a medium-sized city that hosts numerous Pakistani forces," as the New York Times put it, shouldn't have come as a major surprise to the Americans. That bin Laden was hiding in a huge mansion in a town a few miles away from Islamabad and next to what is considered to be Pakistan's West Point was probably known to at least some members of the country's intelligence services.

According to an American diplomatic document released by WikiLeaks, "In Pakistan, Osama bin Laden wasn't an invisible man, and many knew his whereabouts in North Waziristan, but whenever security forces attempted a raid on his hideouts, the enemy received warning of their approach from sources in the security forces."

Whether Pakistan's military and intelligence officials had known about bin Laden's whereabouts remains an open question. But the fact that we are even asking this question should help us clarify one important issue: Pakistan is not a strategic ally of the U.S. but an unreliable client state whose core national interest -- challenging Indian power in Kashmir and elsewhere -- doesn't correspond to U.S. interests in South Asia, which include not only combating radical Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan but also establishing strong diplomatic and economic ties with India, one of the world's rising powers.

Pakistan is a failed state with nuclear military power, whose elites and public are hostile to the U.S. and sympathetic to its enemies. Its leaders want to ensure that the regime controlling Afghanistan after the inevitable U.S. military withdrawal from that country is allied with Islamabad against India. Opposition from India as well as from other neighbors of Afghanistan, including Russia and Iran, will ensure that the Pakistanis will fail in achieving that goal even if and when the last U.S. troops leave Afghanistan.

Some contend that Pakistan is "too big to fail" and therefore requires American support. But, like in the case of the bankrupted too-big-to-fail financial institutions on Wall Street, bailing out irresponsible losers produces a "moral hazard" by providing incentives to them to continue pursuing irresponsible and destructive policies.

Hence, the time has come for moving in the direction of a gradual U.S. "constructive disengagement" from Pakistan, including by starting to slash the huge military and financial assistant Washington has been providing that country and which have been used to perpetuate a corrupt and anti-American political and military elite that has been hosting America's top adversary for the last 10 years.