Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WikiLeaks, Pakistan, and ISI

Two Pakistani Army AH-1S Cobras at AVN Base, M...

Image via Wikipedia, Cobra helicopters at Multan Air base

The recent release of Afghan war documents by WikiLeaks has supposedly exposed the links between Pakistan Army and the Taliban. This has apparently concerned many in the US and Canada making it the front page news in The New York Times and the Globe and Mail. The western governments’ reaction carries a strange element of surprise on the discovery of links between Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, and the Taliban.

Any surprise on such news is unwarranted. The ISI was paid handsomely by the United States and Saudi Arabia over the past three decades to develop alliances and networks with the radical religious elements in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan to raise an army of mercenaries to fight the Soviet Army. They were called the Mujahedeen then and were held in equal esteem as the founding fathers of America by former President Reagan.


“These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers.”Ronald Regan while introducing the Mujahedeen leaders to media on the White house lawns (1985).

Source: Political Enquirer

The correct term for Mujahedeen now is Taliban, and those who praised the Mujahedeen’s armed struggle from the Soviets as the fight for freedom are now denouncing their fight against NATO. The White House has made a radical shift from that day in 1985 when President Reagan declared the visiting Mujahedeen from Afghanistan the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers.

America’s war against Soviet Union was fought by Afghans and Pushtuns from Pakistan and was engineered by the ISI. Over the years the ISI has used the vast supply of undocumented funds from the United States and Saudi Arabia to create a network of agents that run from Afghanistan to Central Asia and beyond. ISI considers itself a serious player in the region and would like to see even a bigger role for itself in conflicts in its backyard as well as the remote hotspots in the Middle East and the Balkans.

Many have opined that the US is not pleased with the continued linkages between the Taliban and the ISI. This is comical to say the least. As early as in 2006, if not sooner, the US asked the Saudis to arrange dialogue with the Taliban to plan an exit strategy from Afghanistan. Talks were held between the Saudis, Americans, and the Taliban in Saudi Arabia. ISI made those talks happen.

Americans are literally blind in Afghanistan without the ISI. The Wiki Leaks documents reveal the shoddy intelligence that the US managed on its own without the ISI. It is indeed alarming to see the poor quality of intelligence on which the Americans planned their Afghan strategy.

The ISI has been aware of its importance in the region. It knows well that it has monopoly on intelligence, militant networks, and logistics in the region for any actions planned in Afghanistan. It is in no hurry to severe its ties with the Taliban, whom the ISI plan to use not only in the short-run, but in the longer run to deal with scenarios that will emerge after the likely haphazard withdrawal of the NATO forces from Afghanistan. This may happen in 2014 or sooner, and the ISI would like to be ready for the day that happens.

The civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan are likely to be in the eye of the violent storm in the months and years to come. NATO’s war against Taliban has essentially become the war against Pushtuns. The fact that the NATO is siding with the Northern Alliance, which consists of non-Pushtun minorities in Afghanistan, is not lost on Pushtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who see this war increasingly as a war against Pushtunss and yes, Islam. Their reaction therefore is equally violent if not more as the one they are subjected to. The US continues to drop bombs from unmanned aircrafts in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Taliban continue to orchestrate suicide bombings, the latest of which killed seven earlier today in Pabbi, near Peshawar.

I am reminded of the stories my grandmother told me of the picnics she had with her children near the river in Pabbi or the outings  she had been to with her children in Peshawar. By the time I grew up, Peshawar had gone through numerous prolonged phases of violence and chaos. There were no picnics or outings; instead there were bombs and target killings.

The sorry saga continues in Peshawar, Pabbi, Nokhar, Waziristan, Kurrum Agency, and in the rest of Pakistan. The US, Canada, and the rest of NATO is now mulling over an exit strategy in Afghanistan. My family in Peshawar is not that fortunate. They have nowhere to go and survive this and other impending crises in the region. While NATO devises an exit strategy, my family worries about its survival strategy.

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