Pakistan and the Taliban


At Border, Signs of Pakistani Role in Taliban Surge – New York Times

The most explosive question about the Taliban resurgence here along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is this: Have Pakistani intelligence agencies been promoting the Islamic insurgency?

The government of Pakistan vehemently rejects the allegation and insists that it is fully committed to help American and NATO forces prevail against the Taliban militants who were driven from power in Afghanistan in 2001.

Western diplomats in both countries and Pakistani opposition figures say that Pakistani intelligence agencies — in particular the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence — have been supporting a Taliban restoration, motivated not only by Islamic fervor but also by a longstanding view that the jihadist movement allows them to assert greater influence on Pakistan’s vulnerable western flank.

Read the whole article, it is instructive. Most South Asians (including Pakistanis) would say “D’uh”! We’ve known this for years! It’s considered a well known fact that the Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency ISI helped create the Taliban with US assistance and coordinated the Mujahideen resistance in Afghanistan. Read this article from 2001 for a good summary.

My point is not to discuss the rightness or wrongness of these actions. Most competent countries will do whatever is in their best interests. Everyone’s known this piece of information about the ISI for years, and the U.S government knows this as well. It is in every country’s best interest to be as hypocritical/devious as possible in the pursuit of foreign policy. 

But  it is incumbent on any newspaper covering the government to not participate in this hypocrisy. The NY times writes three pages on the Taliban without providing any background on U.S involvement. It is an article of faith among South Asians like me that American mass media is an organ of U.S diplomacy and/or propaganda. Articles like these only confirm this hypothesis.

2 comments for “Pakistan and the Taliban

  1. Geoff Davis
    January 21, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    From what I remember from Ahmed Rashid’s excellent history of the Taliban (and I could be mistaken – it’s been a few years), the ISI set up the Taliban more or less on its own as part of a regional power play. Yes, the ISI has received a ton of money from the US over the years, and yes, I’m sure the groundwork for the Taliban was laid during the Soviet occupation, but I think the Taliban was a more recent, solo ISI effort. My sense (and I could be wrong) is that the US has a current relationship with Musharraf rather than with the ISI, and Musharraf’s control over the ISI is tenuous at best. This is not to say the US has had no involvement in the creation of the Taliban; rather, to the extent to which it has, it’s been fairly indirect.

  2. January 21, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Yes, the story is nuanced, and the links between the US, the Mujahideen during the Soviet war, General Zia’s regime in the 80s and the ISI were a lot clearer than the links between Clinton/Bush, Musharraf, the ISI and the Taliban. But these reports, by never alluding to these links, want us to believe that U.S has no knowledge, or no say in the matter, or never ever did, which is patently untrue. This is the part I find irritating.

    My sense of the matter, and I’ve read this somewhere, is that Musharraf plays a beautiful double game, literally telling one story to the Western media and one to the Pakistani Urdu media. His Urdu speeches say completely different things from his English speeches, and our very lazy media don’t bother to read and translate his Urdu speeches! But the U.S government surely does, and they know much more of what is happening than they let on. Musharraf also has more control of the ISI than he lets on. It’s all very depressing, of course, and one could do a lot worse than Musharraf.