WASHINGTON, D.C. — Erstwhile U.S. Secretary of Defense, Retd. Gen. Jim Mattis has said that Pakistan is the “most dangerous country” in the world because of what he believes is the high degree of radicalization of its society and Islamabad’s proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Mattis, who, much to his chagrin was often described by President Trump as ‘Mad-Dog Mattis,’ apparently for his role as the commander of U.S. troops into Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. by al-Qaeda, in his book ‘Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,’ that hit book stores on Sept.3, also said that “Pakistan was a country born with no affection for itself and there was an active self-destructive streak in its political culture.”
"Of all the countries I've dealt with, I consider Pakistan to be the most dangerous, because of the radicalization of its society and the availability of nuclear weapons," he wrote, and warned that “the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal in the world cannot fall into the hands of the terrorists breeding in their midst.”
Such a result, he predicted, would be “disastrous.”
Mattis, who quit the Pentagon, largely on differences with Trump, particularly the President’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, not to mention several other disagreements, also said in his book that he sympathizes with the Pakistani people because they don’t have leaders who care about the country or their future.
In his book, Mattis recounted the changes he made on the ground lines of communication to Afghanistan when he was CENTCOM Commander and notes, "I was uneasy that more than 70 per cent of NATO's logistics lifeline depended upon one route, via Pakistan. I took one look at the map and decided we had to change the pieces on the chessboard.”
In this regard, he pointed out how in September 2011 Gen. John Allen, who replaced David Petraeus as NATO commander in Afghanistan, warning the Pakistani military about the impending terrorist attacks by militant groups that enjoyed safe haven in Pakistan.
Mattis said, U.S. intelligence “had learned the Haqqani terrorist group, harbored in Pakistan, was preparing a massive truck bomb,” and on Allen’s informing the Pakistani military, “General Ashfaq Kayani, the Chief of Staff of Pakistan's army, said he would take action.”
But, "Two days later, that bomb detonated at a U.S. base near Kabul, wounding seventy-seven American soldiers and killing five Afghans. A few days later, Haqqani terrorists attacked our embassy in Kabul.”
Mattis, recalled at how incensed he was and that at subsequently, when he had “bumped into the then Pakistan ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani” at a diplomatic function, he had lashed out at him in “obscenity-laced” language.
He wrote that he had told Haqqani, "You have a Pakistan Army division headquarters in the same city as the terrorist headquarters. You say you're not on their side, but now they attack our embassy in a raid coordinated from your side of the border. You're supporting the very people who will kill you one day.”
Ironically, Haqqani, now is the Director of the South Asia Program at the Hudson Institute—a D.C. think tank, is himself a pariah of the Pakistani government, particularly its military and intelligence wing, the ISI, and a persona-non-grata in the country of his birth that he represented in D.C. during the tenure of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and is regularly dubbed a CIA agent and also an agent of the Indian intelligence, the Research and Analysis Wing(RAW) for his writings critical of the Pakistani military, particularly when it comes to its paranoia about India.
Mattis in his book said that it’s a no-brainer, going by his years of interacting with the top Pakistani military leadership, that Washington’s interactions with Islamabad could only be transactional vis-à-vis the strategic issue at hand and the quid pro quo that it envisaged.
He said, "Quid pro quo. Pakistan could episodically choose not to be our enemy, but it chose not to be a trusted friend or ally of the United States or NATO.”
Thus, "Ultimately,” he argued, “it was in our common interest that we maintain a cautious, mindful relationship, with modest expectations of collaboration. We could manage our problems with Pakistan, but our divisions were too deep, and trust too shallow, to resolve them. And that is the state of our relationship to this day.”
But Mattis acknowledged that the Pakistan military had lost more their troops fighting terrorists on their side of the border than the NATO coalition had lost in Afghanistan. “Yet, they thought they could or at least manipulate the terrorists. But, once planted, terrorism was growing in ways that no one — not even Pakistan’s secret service could predict or control,” he said.
On Sept. 3, Mattis also appeared before an audience of members of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations and in an interaction with Council president Richard Haass, when asked why he believed Pakistan was the “most dangerous country” in the world, reiterated his contention that it’s the radicalization of their society.”
“They realize it. It’s a very twisted relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. and when you take the radicalization of a society and you add to it the fastest growing nuclear arsenal, I think in the world, you see why … we need to focus right now on arms control and non-proliferation efforts. This is a much worse problem I think than anyone writing about today.”
On the tensions between the U.S. and China, Mattis, during the interactions at the CFR, also invoked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warning about Beijing’s strategic hegemony in the South Asia region and elsewhere, robbing various countries of their sovereignty.
While advocating for finding a “way to work with China,” he asserted, “but we are going to have to confront China—where they are interrupting the universal order or the orders of the world, freedom of navigation and all.”