Editors Note: Kartik Krishnbaiyer our Editor-In-Chief has very publicly blamed the United States for years in terms of radicalizing Pakistan in the 1970’s and 1980’s from the execution of Ali Bhutto onward through the Zia years. However, he has not blamed the US the way some partisans domestically have for what has transpired since 9/11 in Pakistan so this piece by J. Scott Gaillard is not in conflict with previous views expressed on these pages.
Success has a thousand fathers while failure is an orphan. In Afghanistan no one is stepping up to take the heat, but blame is being thrown in every direction. Among the culprits are President Joe Biden, President Trump, the Afghan military and civilian leaders, as well as NATO military and civilian deployments of only one year.
Among those receiving little blame, but deserving far more, is the government of Pakistan the Pakistani Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) organization. National security and foreign relations in Pakistan are controlled by the Army and the ten thousand employee ISI. No one is more responsible for barbaric hellscape into which Afghanistan in now descending.
The West in general, and the US in particular, should appreciate Pakistan has always lived in mortal fear of an invasion from India. While Pakistan was created to be a homeland for Muslims in the region, its animating spirit is to protect itself from the perceived threat of India. Pakistan’s alliance with the Afghan Taliban assured its leaders they had “strategic depth,” should it forced to retreat from an Indian invasion.
For this and other reasons the military government funded and supported the Taliban prior to 9/11. After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan provided a domestic safe haven for the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, LET and Osama Bin Laden.
Journalist and author of Directorate S, Steve Coll wrote, “The (Haqqani) network had the blood of Americans on its hands. (It) remorselessly slaughtered Afghan civilians in terrorist attacks in Kabul and elsewhere. It had collaborated with Bin Laden since Al Qaeda’s birth.”
Bruce Riedel is an author of numerous books on Pakistan and a CIA Analyst for the South Asia region for three decades. Riedel said the ISI was a “ruthless and powerful” institution and is a “state sponsor of terrorism by any definition.”
Pakistan’s initial agreement to work with the U.S. after 9/11 was halfhearted and reversed after 2004. The country’s commitment to the Taliban was a higher priority, although they did sense a money-making opportunity. If the ISI could protect the Taliban while convincing the U.S. they were allies, Pakistan could be financially rewarded.
The gains were lucrative and materially enhanced Pakistan’s military. The U.S. gave Pakistan $25 billion which included jets, planes, helicopters and a guided-missile frigate. Pakistan may have used this equipment to protect the Taliban and the Haqqani network while they were crossing into Afghanistan to kill Americans, Afghans and NATO personnel.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Asif, denied there was any aid and said the money the U.S. paid to Pakistan was for “services rendered.” Asif said, “Some of the things that were said were patently wrong; the billions of dollars that you dished out us. No billions of dollars have been dished out to us. That was a money which was reimbursement for the services we rendered to the United States of America and its allies.” If so, the U.S. should demand and expect a full refund.
However, there will be no refund. Therefore, Pakistan should be held accountable for their duplicity and their explicit support for the Taliban and associated terrorists.
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and the humanitarian disaster it catalyzed is a cause for great celebration in Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan cheered the news saying the Taliban has broken the “shackles of slavery” imposed by the West. He supposedly claimed the Taliban will help take back Kashmir from the Indians.
The takeover has created conditions that will lead thousands of Afghans to die of starvation without hundreds of millions in assistance from the West. It is an outcome the Pakistani ISI planned for two decades. While Pakistani politicians denounce the West and the U.S. as imperialists and occupiers to gain popularity, they demand money and military equipment so the cycle can continue.
As an October PBS Frontline show demonstrates, some citizens of Afghanistan have applauded the Taliban’s return as the darkness of lost liberty eliminates the hope of many Afghans, primarily women. Women rights, at best, will be limited to those recognized by the Taliban under Sharia law. Terrorists from the Haqqani Network are in charge of security in Afghanistan and will compete for control of the country with the remaining forces from Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Afghan Shias (Hazaras) and remnants of the Northern Alliance. For Afghanistan, the descent into misery is only beginning.
U.S. partisans especially those on the far left and far right and critics of U.S. foreign policy will blame this situation on the U.S. However, reality should eventually intrude on rhetorical posturing. The current outcome is due to the design of the ISI, the fighting of the Taliban and the sacrifices their efforts inflicted on the Pakistanis, Afghans, Americans and NATO. The U.S. expended a generation of blood and treasure to avoid this outcome. Those who tell a different tale ignore the sacrifices and perpetuate a myth.
The leaders of Pakistan’s ISI may be laughing at the Europeans and the U.S. as they once again bail out a disaster midwifed by the ISI. Perhaps the U.S. should, at long last, hold Pakistan accountable for their duplicity. Adding the country to the list of state sponsors of terrorism would be an affirmative step in this direction.