Pakistan, The Taliban’s Indispensable Ally
by Srdja Trifkovic
According to a major new study published by the RAND Corporation last week, “individuals within Pakistan’s government” are providing assistance to the Taliban and other Islamic insurgents in Afghanistan, and effectively crippling American attempts to stabilize the country. Pakistan’s powerful military intelligence service, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) is singled out as the key culprit. “Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan,” funded by the Pentagon, merely confirms what Chronicles readers have known for years: that the regime in Islamabad is unwilling and unable to act in any manner inconsistent with its Islamic roots and ethos.
The report reminds us that every successful insurgency in Afghanistan since 1979 enjoyed safe haven in Pakistan, and the current insurgency is no different. In addition to the Taliban, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami and al Qaeda, a myriad of local, tribally-based groups have also found support in Pakistan’s centrally administered Tribal Areas and in its North West Frontier and Balochistan Provinces. Weapons, ammunitions and supplies continue to be shipped from this region into Afghanistan. Afghan refugee camps based in those three areas are used to recruit fighters and suicide bombers who target the U.S. and allied forces across the border. Furthermore, Pakistani sources continue to tip off the Taliban about the movement and intentions of those forces and their local Afghan protégés.
The insurgent groups in Afghanistan, according to the study, have acquired solid support and assistance from the global jihadist network, including groups with a strong foothold in Pakistan, such as al-Qaeda. This has enabled them to adapt their tactics, techniques. “Solving this problem will require a difficult diplomatic feat: convincing Pakistan’s government to undermine the sanctuary on its soil,” report author Seth Jones said in the RAND press release. If we look at the growing list of terrorist attacks and foiled plots in North America and Western Europe, it is evident that plots stemming from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region are the single most important threat to Western security. Eliminating the Pakistan sanctuary bases is one of the study’s three key recommendations. It also stresses the necessity for the United States and its allies to develop the Afghan security forces, especially the police, and to improve the quality of local governments, particularly in the country’s rural regions.
The report is right to identify and stress the role of Pakistan. It is deficient in failing to outline just how the “difficult diplomatic feat” of “convincing Pakistan’s government to undermine the sanctuary on its soil” can be pulled off. The uncomfortable truth is that it cannot be done, and therefore the mission in Afghanistan is doomed.
The long list of Pakistan’s proven or suspected links with numerous terrorist attacks in recent years-and notably the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005-illustrate the ambivalent role of Pakistan in the “War on Terrorism.” The ability of the establishment in Islamabad to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds has been an affront to all enemies of jihad for years. The myth of Pakistan as a staunch American ally is in need of critical scrutiny, and the RAND report may help debunk it.
The most obvious failure of the government of Pakistan concerns its failure to deliver on the often-repeated promise to control thousands of Islamic schools that teach nothing but blind hatred of the infidel, and produce tens of thousands of potential new terrorists every year. Pakistan remains the epicenter of global jihad, a breeding ground for the new echelons of “martyrs.” When pressed, the government announces the closure of some of the schools where “the eggs of the snake of terrorism are incubated,” only to let them re-open later. It can hardly be otherwise in a country founded on the pillars of Islamic orthodoxy.
Pakistan’s rulers share and reflect the ethos of the first modern state to be established on openly Islamic principles. It suffers from all key defects derived from its origins. For as long as the country’s Islamic character is explicitly upheld by the country’s powerful generals-a state within a state par excellence-and by its political and social elite, Pakistan cannot evolve into a reliable Western ally, a half-decent democracy, or an efficient economy.
The Bush Administration’s subdued response to Pakistan’s role as a haven for Islamic terrorists and top nuclear proliferator has delayed the long-overdue reform of the country’s institutions, starting with its bloated military. It is still firmly commanded by generals whose loyalties are suspect at best, and often unabashedly Islamist and inimical to Western interests. Yes, some degree of Western cooperation with Pakistan may be unavoidable, just as various Cold War deals with unpleasant Latin American and Asian regimes were unavoidable, but the relationship should not go beyond the pragmatic, give-and-take link based on limited objectives.
The facts surrounding Pakistan’s pernicious role in keeping the Taliban and other insurgents groups alive and well in Afghanistan are clouded by inside-the-Beltway denials and the feigned optimism that have characterized Washington’s relations with its supposed allies in the Muslim world for decades.