It was only two years ago that Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was praising Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistan army’s chief of staff, in the pages of TIME. “Here is a man with a plan, a leader who knows where he wants to go,” the top U.S. military officer said of his initial meeting with his Pakistani counterpart. “He seemed to understand the nature of the extremist threat inside Pakistan, recognized that his army wasn’t ready to meet that threat and had already started working up solutions.”
That was back in April, 2009. Thursday morning, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mullen made it clear the solutions have yet to arrive:
A…challenge we face is the impunity with which certain extremist groups are allowed to operate from Pakistani soil. The Haqqani network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency. With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted that truck bomb attack [which wounded 77 U.S. troops on September 10, the highest casualty count of the war], as well as the assault on our embassy [where six rockets landed inside the compound September 13]. We also have credible intelligence that they were behind the June 28th attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations. In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, the government of Pakistan — and most especially the Pakistani Army and ISI — jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership, but also Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence.
In fact, Mullen personally read the riot act to Kayani last weekend, Pentagon officials said. The relationship — focused on the Haqqani network’s continued attacks out of Pakistan’s North Waziristan province into Afghanistan — is plainly headed south. Mullen has only another week left in office. The fact that he’s leaving with such frayed relations with the ally most critical to calming Afghanistan is dire news.
“He knows the stakes,” Mullen said of Kayani in that TIME article two years ago. “He’s got a plan.” You can almost hear Mullen’s sighed P.S.: “Too bad he never decided to implement it.”