Pakistan is in trouble again for supporting an organization that carries out attacks on the United States, or tries to. In this case it’s not Islamic terrorists but a detachment of the Chinese SSF (Strategic Support Force). This is a branch of the Chinese military that was created in 2015 to control Cyber War, space-based communications and IW (electronic warfare) activities. To the Chinese all three of these activities are intertwined. Westerners agree but none have an organization like the SSF. In part that’s because much of what SSF supervises is, according to international law, illegal. This includes theft of IP (Intellectual Property) via Internet hacking. China disagrees and sees their information theft as enhanced when these activities are closely integrated with the development of space-based communications and new IW technology and techniques. SSF does have a legitimate purpose, to monitor space, Internet and electronic traffic worldwide to collect and analyze information for Chinese military and political leaders.
To the Americans the SSF is a major player in the Chinese worldwide Internet-based espionage effort. Allowing an SSF facility in Pakistan is, to the Americans, another unfriendly act by Pakistan.
The SSF has taken control of a lot of space program activities even though SSF is mainly concerned with collecting information via space satellites. There are overlapping bureaucracies here and so far this does not appear to have caused major problems. SSF has similar connections with EW and encryption operations. This includes official hacking as well as the outlaw stuff, which is often subcontracted to criminal gangs that specialize in hacking.
The foreign SSF facilities in Pakistan, Namibia and Argentina are technically for tracking Chinese satellites and communicating with them. There are similar SSF facilities in foreign military bases China is establishing, like the one Djibouti, which neighbors Somalia and Ethiopia. All these SSF facilities are considered classified operations and are well guarded. No foreigners are admitted.
This is a problem for Pakistan because it has been receiving billions of dollars in American military aid since 2001 with the understanding that Pakistan would not host organizations that do harm to the United States. This originally meant Islamic terrorist groups but, considering the SSF’s key role in Cyber War operations against the United States, SSF qualifies. The Americans see SSF in Pakistan as another way Pakistan facilitates attacks on the United States.
American aid to Pakistan has been declining since 2014 as it became more obvious that Pakistan was actively hosting and directly Islamic terrorist groups that were attacking Americans as well as Afghans and Indians. Pakistan is still receiving some aid, as in $350 million for 2019 and $4.8 billion from 2014-2019 but not much in 2020. Pakistan is now receiving far more cash from China in the form of economic investments. China is the largest foreign supplier of weapons to Pakistan and Pakistan is the largest export customer for Chinese weapons.
Pakistan want so have it both ways but the Americans are no longer cooperating and the SSF base is a major reason why.