After months of speculation, a Financial Times report on Sunday confirmed that Pakistan allowed Chinese military engineers access to the top-secret helicopter that was left behind after it went down during the U.S. Navy Seal mission to kill Osama bin Laden in May. According to an intelligence official, the Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), known for its ties to the Taliban, allowed the Chinese to survey the wreckage, as well as take photographs and samples of the helicopter’s “stealth” skin.
During the raid, one of the two modified Black Hawk helicopters in use malfunctioned and crashed, forcing the commandos to abandon and destroy it. The helicopter’s tail, however, landed outside of bin Laden’s compound and remained intact, prompting Islamabad to hint that it might give China access over its fury that the U.S. did not inform Pakistan of the raid beforehand. According to aviation analysts, the helicopter appeared to have a special coating that absorbed radar beams, an extra one or two blades in its tail rotor, and a cover on that rotor, among other changes. The surviving tail section was returned to the U.S. after Senator John Kerry made a trip to Pakistan in May.
An image of the downed Black Hawk’s tail.
Meanwhile, reports out Monday disclose that the U.S. is now conditioning its security assistance to Pakistan on Islamabad’s performance in combating al-Qaeda and its allies. The system, which uses a type of “secret scorecard” that assesses Pakistan’s cooperation in four areas, was put in place after the raid on bin Laden’s compound and the breakdown in counterterrorism cooperation that followed. Washington has given Pakistan more than $20 billion in assistance since 2001.
The White House’s new plan to base security assistance to Pakistan on its performance is a welcome one. Since 9/11, Islamabad has happily taken U.S. money, assuring Washington of its will to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda, only to turn around and assist those same insurgents murdering Americans in Afghanistan. That Islamabad allowed the Chinese military to take samples of top U.S. technology is just the latest development in Pakistan’s double-game that Washington should no longer accept.