In “With Friends Like Islamabad, Who Needs Enemies? WikiLeaks documents reinforce U.S.’ Pakistan problem,” in Forbes (via IlanBerman.com), August 4, Ilan Berman summarizes much of the duplicity and support for jihad that we have been pointing out here about Pakistan for years.
What do you call an ally that tries to kill you? That’s the question most Americans are asking in the wake of last month’s dissemination by Internet clearinghouse WikiLeaks of some 92,000 classified U.S. military documents relating to the war in Afghanistan. The files provide a sobering portrait of the true state of play on the War on Terror’s first front. Far and away the most damaging disclosures, however, are those relating to the pernicious role being played by Pakistan, long regarded as a critical American ally in South Asia, in supporting and sustaining the anti-Western insurgency there.
“The documents clearly show that the Pakistani intelligence agency is the most important accomplice the Taliban has outside of Afghanistan,” Germany’s influential Der Spiegel, one of the few news outlets with direct access to the WikiLeaks files, reports. “The war against the Afghan security forces, the Americans and their ISAF allies is still being conducted from Pakistan.” Specifically, the news magazine reports that, “according to the war logs, the ISI envoys are present when insurgent commanders hold war councils–and even give specific orders to carry out murders.”
Truth be told, this duplicitous role has been an open secret for some time. The Taliban, after all, is a product of Pakistan’s feared Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which fostered the puritanical Islamist movement in the early 1990s as a way of projecting power into neighboring Afghanistan. And once the Taliban succeeded in seizing power there in 1996, the ISI provided it with the financial and political backing to retain and strengthen its control. But all that was supposed to have ended after 9/11, when Islamabad grudgingly bought into the Bush administration’s offensive against al Qaeda and the Taliban (albeit after some serious arm-twisting by then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage).
Yet the U.S.-Pakistani partnership has been troubled from the start. Anti-Americanism is rife in Pakistan; in the most recent Pew Global Attitudes survey of Pakistani public opinion, just 17% of respondents had a positive view of the U.S. And the country’s conspiracy-prone population has tended to treat the U.S.-led Coalition, rather than its own internal Islamist plague, as the source of all its ills.
The Bush administration glossed over this unsettling state of affairs. Islamabad, under the leadership of Pervez Musharraf (and subsequently Asif Ali Zardari), was touted as a major ally in the War on Terror and a key player in securing post-Taliban Afghanistan, despite irrefutable proof that Pakistan was effectively playing both sides of the political fence.
Under Obama, the situation has gotten even more muddled. Early on in its tenure, the new White House outlined a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, colloquially known as “AfPak,” that explicitly linked stability in Afghanistan with the pace of reform across the border in Pakistan. But this clarity of vision turned out to be short-lived. By last fall, the White House had stepped back from any sort of explicit linkage between Afghanistan’s unrest and Pakistani influence, instead focusing simply on the need “to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.”
All of which begs the question: Why does Washington continue to treat Islamabad with kid gloves?
Why indeed. For the answers, read it all.