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In the end, the treaties blew up in Musharraf’s face. The Taliban increased their incursions into Afghanistan while setting up networks and bases in “no-go” areas for the Pakistani military. It also made the US very unhappy, as the Bush administration threatened to cut off aid to his government. When free elections were held in 2008, Musharaff’s coalition suffered badly at the polls and the husband of slain Pakistan People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto, Asif Zardari, rolled to victory.
None of these internal political squabbles affected Pakistan’s continuing support for the Taliban. This from the TimesOnline last month:
Pakistani support for the Taliban in Afghanistan runs far deeper than a few corrupt police officers, however. The Sunday Times can reveal that it is officially sanctioned at the highest levels of Pakistan’s government.
Pakistan’s own intelligence agency, the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), is said to be represented on the Taliban’s war council — the Quetta shura. Up to seven of the 15-man shura are believed to be ISI agents.
The London School of Economics issued a report stating, ““Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude” in Afghanistan. The report’s author, Matt Waldman, continued:
As the provider of sanctuary and substantial financial, military and logistical support to the insurgency, the ISI appears to have strong strategic and operational influence — reinforced by coercion. There is thus a strong case that the ISI orchestrates, sustains and shapes the overall insurgent campaign.
Forget the Wikileaks. ISI support for the Taliban has been the worst kept secret in international affairs. Spengler, writing at the Asia Times, explains why grown-ups in the international community are playing “Let’s Pretend” when it comes to Pakistan’s double crossing government:
This raises the question: Who covered up a scandalous arrangement known to everyone with a casual acquaintance of the situation? The answer is the same as in Agatha Christie’s 1934 mystery about murder on the Orient Express, that is, everybody: former United States president George W Bush and vice president Dick Cheney, current US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, India, China and Iran. They are all terrified of facing a failed state with nuclear weapons, and prefer a functioning but treacherous one.
The bottom line is that it serves US interests to make believe that Pakistan is a help and not a hindrance in Afghanistan. It is real politik on steroids. Indeed, prosecuting the war in Afghanistan would be immensely more complicated if we were to switch gears and start treating Pakistan as less than a valuable ally. Nearly 80% of the supplies destined for the Afghan theater pass through Pakistan and finding an alternative would be extremely difficult. If you add the complicating factor of Pakistan’s less than secure nuclear stockpile, it is clearly better for the US to maintain as close relations with Pakistan as possible – even if that means sacrificing their total cooperation in fighting the Taliban.
But the Wikileak revelations might change that calculation. Congress may have second thoughts about the huge. $7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan passed last year. At the time, there was a huge row in Pakistan over strings attached to the aid by Congress, with the military going so far as appearing to threaten a coup if the government accepted the package with all the stipulations.
The argument was eventually smoothed over but it has engendered distrust between the two governments. Any additional friction may give President Zardari no choice but to cut back on his cooperation with our military regarding supplies destined for Afghanistan while refusing to share valuable intelligence that has been vital in the prosecution of our drone warfare.
There were ominous rumblings from the ISI that seemed to indicate that just such a scenario might become reality:
The official acknowledged, however, that some of the allegations sound “very damning” and could erode support in the United States for the alliance with Pakistan. If the CIA does not denounce the suggestions, the official said the ISI might need to reexamine its cooperation.
The answer to the question of what can we do about Pakistan is not very much if we expect to continue prosecuting the war in Afghanistan at the same level we are now. For the present, we must accept that the Pakistani government has their own fish to fry in Afghanistan, while hoping that the nominally pro-Western government of President Zardari can successfully overcome challenges posed by Islamic extremists and safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile.
As with Afghanistan itself, there simply are no good options in dealing with the two-faced nature of Pakistan’s attitudes toward our efforts in the War on Terror.
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