A recent BBC2 documentary called ‘Secret Pakistan’ investigates the duplicity of Pakistan’s dealing with the US. In public, Pakistan was one of the strongest allies of the US throughout the 2000s and the Bush-Musharraf ‘war on terror’ relationship was strong. But in private, Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, was secretly supplying and training the Taliban and other militant groups. This double game is a hallmark of Pakistan’s foreign policy ever since the Afghan mujahideen attracted CIA proxy involvement. A friendly Kabul government has always been a priority for Islamabad, despite the inevitable blowback that now grips the country.
Benazir Bhutto actively supported the Taliban’s rise and kept this a secret from the Clinton administration back in the 1990s.
The documentary itself focuses on the last decade. The straw that broke the camels back was the Mumbai attacks, where 10 gunmen killed 160 people. The CIA claimed it had intelligence showing ISI involvement in Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Veteran CIA officer, Bruce Riedel states that: “Our own intelligence was unequivocal,” “In Afghanistan we saw an insurgency that was not only getting passive support from the Pakistani army and the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, but getting active support.”
The documentary has further evidence from mid-ranking Taliban commanders who detail how the Pakistan ISI has rebuilt, trained and supported the Taliban throughout its war on the US in Afghanistan.
“For a fighter there are two important things – supplies and a place to hide,” said one Taliban commander, who fights under the name Mullah Qaseem. “Pakistan plays a significant role. First they support us by providing a place to hide which is really important. Secondly, they provide us with weapons.”
Another commander, Najib, says: “Because Obama put more troops into Afghanistan and increased operations here, so Pakistan’s support for us increased as well.”
He says his militia received a supply truck with “500 landmines with remote controls, 20 rocket-propelled grenade launchers with 2000 to 3000 grenades… AK-47s, machine-guns and rockets”.
Evidence of Pakistan’s support for the Taliban is also plain to see at the border where insurgents are allowed to cross at will, or even helped to evade US patrols.
“We cannot disregard our long term interest because this is our own area,” said General Athar Abbas, chief spokesman for Pakistan’s military.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a recent visit to Pakistan: “The Pakistanis have a role to play, they can either be helpful, indifferent or harmful.”
What is clear is that without a systematic, historical, and regional analysis of the ‘war on terror’, strategies that the US currently uses–particularly drone strikes–are not only dealing with the symptoms rather than the causes of militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they are aggravating and making it far worse.
The story associated with the documentary can be found here.