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Pakistan’s status Post-WikiLeaks leakage – By Sehrish Khan


As the week ends, the most controversial and conflictive details of  the Afghan war come to surface, marking the greatest information leak-out of the US military. The details were provided to The New York Times, The Guardian and German Weekly Der Spiegel by the tattling WikiLeaks following a round of strong condemnation by The White House and the Pentagon.

The reports open a surge of fresh speculation and scanning over the most critical and cantankerous topic of the 9 year old war and that is the involvement of Pakistan military, intelligentsia and spy agencies working in Pro-Taliban mannerism. There has been an outpour of such claims made by several American top officials and military personnel that Pakistan’s military and more specifically the ISI is linked to fueling the fire of insurgency in Afghanistan which shooted up after 2006.

The report claims obscurity over the Pakistan-US alliance revealing a document which includes former ISI head Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul in the details putting allegations on him claiming his links from the past. It says he was involved in designing plans of terror attacks in Paktika Province of Afghanistan to avenge the death of a senior Al Qaeda member by a drone.However, Gul strongly refutes such allegations.

Further, the reports provide claims of ISI’s involvement in the deadly attack on the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan fueling the tensions between India and Pakistan to a greater extent. It also accuses Pakistan of providing training to suicide bombers and attackers. There are details of people termed as “non-state actors” by the Government of Pakistan but with their activities, the spy agencies of Pakistan are aware of, alleges the report. The amount of funds given to Pakistan by the U.S to combat terrorism, exceed $ 1 billion still “safe havens” and “citadels” for terrorists in Pakistan are a big question mark.

Pakistan responds to such claims with strong vindication and denial. The question which arises post Hillary Clinton’s visit to Pakistan and the surfacing of these WikiLeaks reports is that if the U.S has sufficient evidence to put Pakistani agencies on target list then why doesn’t it surface the media? Several congress members have accused the Pentagon and the C.I.A of giving illusive and shady responses to their calls of evidence against Pakistani agencies.

Why hasn’t the American military and intelligentsia, yet scooped out lucid evidence of ISI’s involvement in a major attack? The reports’ accuses Pakistani agencies of indulging in Pro-Taliban and Pro-AlQaeda activities from 2007 to 2009. This situation, if it exists, can not be beyond the knowledge of General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the current Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan military forces. Therefore, this report indirectly puts allegations on Kayani of being involved in anti-U.S activities. Then why did the U.S welcome Pakistan’s decision of extending the General’s tenure to stay on as COAS till 2013?. Why did the Polish and Indian spy agencies working in Afghanistan failed to predict Pakistan’s role in terror activities. Why did the U.S welcome the Pak-Afghan transit trade treaty which in the above described situation would be likely to cause a fresh surge of violence emanating from Pakistan?. The claims and accusations, like usual, have failed to provide clear evidence against Pakistan. It has also failed to provide answers of such questions.

Pakistan will continue to reject and condemn these allegations. The Government’s duty is to drive out Pakistan safely through this turmoil of conspiracies, meanwhile focusing on the ultimate target and that is to eradicate terrorism and lawlessness, both inside and outside Pakistan’s borders.

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  • Supply lines and sanctuaries
    What it does raise is the question of supply lines and sanctuaries. The most important charge contained in the leaks is about Pakistan. The WikiLeaks contain documents that charge that the Pakistanis are providing both supplies and sanctuary to Taliban fighters while objecting to American forces entering Pakistan to clean out the sanctuaries and are unwilling or unable to carry out that operation by themselves (as they have continued to do in North Waziristan).

    Just as important, the documents charge that the ISI has continued to maintain liaison and support for the Taliban in spite of claims by the Pakistani government that pro-Taliban officers had been cleaned out of the ISI years ago. The document charges that Gul, the director general of the ISI from 1987 to 1989, still operates in Pakistan, informally serving the ISI and helping give the ISI plausible deniability.

    Though startling, the charge that Islamabad is protecting and sustaining forces fighting and killing Americans is not a new one. When the United States halted operations in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviets in 1989, US policy was to turn over operations in Afghanistan to Pakistan.

    United States strategy was to use Islamist militants to fight the Soviets and to use Pakistani liaisons through the ISI to supply and coordinate with them. When the Soviets and Americans left Afghanistan, the ISI struggled to install a government composed of its allies until the Taliban took over Kabul in 1996.

    The ISI’s relationship with the Taliban – which in many ways are the heirs to the anti-Soviet mujahideen – is widely known. In my book, America’s Secret War, I discussed both this issue and the role of Gul. These documents claim that this relationship remains intact. Apart from Pakistani denials, US officials and military officers frequently made this charge off the record, and on the record occasionally. The leaks on this score are interesting, but they will shock only those who didn’t pay attention or who want to be shocked.

    Let’s step back and consider the conflict dispassionately. The United States forced the Taliban from power. It never defeated the Taliban nor did it make a serious effort to do so, as that would require massive resources the United States doesn’t have. Afghanistan is a secondary issue for the United States, especially since al-Qaeda has established bases in a number of other countries, particularly Pakistan, making the occupation of Afghanistan irrelevant to fighting al-Qaeda.

    For Pakistan, however, Afghanistan is an area of fundamental strategic interest. The region’s main ethnic group, the Pashtun, stretch across the Afghan-Pakistani border. Moreover, were a hostile force present in Afghanistan, as one was during the Soviet occupation, Pakistan would face threats in the west as well as the challenge posed by India in the east. For Pakistan, an Afghanistan under Pakistani influence or at least a benign Afghanistan is a matter of overriding strategic importance.

    It is therefore irrational to expect the Pakistanis to halt collaboration with the force that they expect to be a major part of the government of Afghanistan when the United States leaves. The Pakistanis never expected the United States to maintain a presence in Afghanistan permanently. They understood that Afghanistan was a means toward an end, and not an end in itself. They understood this under George W Bush. They understand it even more clearly under Barack Obama, who made withdrawal a policy goal.

    Given that they don’t expect the Taliban to be defeated, and given that they are not interested in chaos in Afghanistan, it follows that they will maintain close relations with and support for the Taliban. Given that the United States is powerful and is Pakistan’s only lever against India, the Pakistanis will not make this their public policy, however. The United States has thus created a situation in which the only rational policy for Pakistan is two-tiered, consisting of overt opposition to the Taliban and covert support for the Taliban.

    This is duplicitous only if you close your eyes to the Pakistani reality, which the Americans never did. There was ample evidence, as the WikiLeaks material shows, of covert ISI ties to the Taliban. The Americans knew they couldn’t break those ties. They settled for what support Pakistan could give them while constantly pressing them harder and harder until genuine fears in Washington emerged that Pakistan could destabilize altogether.

    Since a stable Pakistan is more important to the United States than a victory in Afghanistan – which it wasn’t going to get anyway – the United States released pressure and increased aid. If Pakistan collapsed, then India would be the sole regional power, not something the United States wants.

    The WikiLeaks seem to show that, like sausage-making, one should never look too closely at how wars are fought, particularly coalition warfare. Even the strongest alliances, such as that between the United States and the United Kingdom in World War II, are fraught with deceit and dissension. London was fighting to save its empire, an end Washington was hostile to; much intrigue ensued.

    The US-Pakistani alliance is not nearly as trusting. The United States is fighting to deny al-Qaeda a base in Afghanistan while Pakistan is fighting to secure its western frontier and its internal stability. These are very different ends that have very different levels of urgency.

    The WikiLeaks portray a war in which the United States has a vastly insufficient force on the ground that is fighting a capable and dedicated enemy who isn’t going anywhere. The Taliban know that they win just by not being defeated, and they know that they won’t be defeated. The Americans are leaving, meaning the Taliban need only wait and prepare.

    The Pakistanis also know that the Americans are leaving and that the Taliban or a coalition including the Taliban will be in charge of Afghanistan when the Americans leave. They will make certain that they maintain good relations with the Taliban. They will deny that they are doing this because they want no impediments to a good relationship with the United States before or after it leaves Afghanistan.

    They need a patron to secure their interests against India. Since the United States wants neither an India outside a balance of power nor China taking the role of Pakistan’s patron, it follows that the risk the United States will bear grudges is small. And given that, the Pakistanis can live with Washington knowing that one Pakistani hand is helping the Americans while another helps the Taliban. Power, interest and reality define the relations between nations, and different factions inside nations frequently have different agendas and work against each other.

    The WikiLeaks, from what we have seen so far, detail power, interest and reality as we have known it. They do not reveal a new reality. Much will be made about the shocking truth that has been shown, which, as mentioned above, shocks only those who wish to be shocked. The Afghan war is about an insufficient American and allied force fighting a capable enemy on its home ground and a Pakistan positioning itself for the inevitable outcome. The WikiLeaks contain all the details.

    We are left with the mystery of who compiled all of these documents and who had access to them with enough time and facilities to transmit them to the outside world in a blatant and sustained breach of protocol.

    The image we have is of an unidentified individual or small group working to get a “shocking truth” out to the public, only the truth is not shocking – it is what was known all along in excruciating detail. Who would want to detail a truth that is already known, with access to all this documentation and the ability to transmit it unimpeded? Whoever it proves to have been has just made the most powerful case yet for withdrawal from Afghanistan sooner rather than later.

    (Published with permission from STRATFOR, a Texas-based geopolitical intelligence company. Copyright 2010 Stratfor.)