Saturday, February 10, 2018

Steve Coll's "Directorate S" Demonizes Pakistan ISI

"Directorate S: The C. I. A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016" by Steve Coll holds Pakistan ISI's Directorate S primarily responsible for America's longest war.

The author does acknowledge other factors such as Washington's policy failures, Kabul government's corruption, divisions and dysfunction, Indian intelligence RAW's role, etc. However, he plays down the significance of these other factors and pins the blame squarely on Pakistan ISI, particularly its Directorate S which the author describes as one of the ISI directorates "devoted to secret operations in support of the Taliban, Kashmiri guerrillas, and other violent Islamic radicals".  The book sticks essentially to America's oft-repeated narrative of blaming Pakistan for US failure to win the war after 16 years of fighting.

Vital American Interests in Afghanistan:

Coll narrates top-level discussions during the successive administrations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama identified America's objectives/vital interests in the region are as follows:

1. Destroy Al Qaeda in the region

2.  Ensure Pakistan's stability to keep nukes out of the hands of terrorists

Notably absent from these goals is the defeat/destruction of the Taliban.

While there was considerable success in achieving the first objective, the actions taken to achieve that success induced instability in Pakistan. It gave rise to Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which launched deadly attacks on the Pakistani state that killed tens of thousands of civilians and security personnel.

Efforts by the United States to negotiate with the Afghan Taliban went nowhere, partly due to strong opposition to such talks by Tajik faction of the Afghan government.

India-Pakistan Great Game in Afghanistan:

Author Steve Coll quotes Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, President Barack Obama's representative for the region, as explaining how critical India-Pakistan relationship is to solving Afghanistan. Holbrooke said, "There are three countries here--Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India--with vastly different stages of political, social, and economic development. They share a common strategic space. As has happened so many times in history, the weak state is the one that sucks in the others. That's the history of Afghanistan and now the Great Game is being played with different players. The India-Pakistan relationship is an absolutely critical driver".

India's Covert War Against Pakistan:

Coll acknowledges Indian intelligence agency RAW's role in Afghanistan saying that "it was not as if R.A.W. had dropped out of covert actions specifically designed to undermine Pakistani stability"..... efforts that run counter to America's vital interest/goal number 2 in the region.

However, the author underplays its importance. He fails to take notice of the mounting evidence that even some Indian analysts and media find hard to ignore. Here are some instances:

1. Bharat Karnad, a professor of national security studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, recently acknowledged India's use of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist group against Pakistan in an Op Ed he wrote for Hindustan Times.

2. Indian journalist Praveen Swami said in a piece published in "Frontline": "Since 2013, India has secretly built up a covert action program against Pakistan."

3. India's former RAW officers, including one ex chief, have blamed Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested by Pakistan in 2016, for getting caught in Pakistan as a "result of unprofessionalism", according to a report in India's "The Quint" owned and operated by a joint venture of Bloomberg News and Quintillion Media. The report that appeared briefly on The Quint website has since been removed, apparently under pressure from the Indian government.

4. A story by Indian journalist Karan Thapar pointed out several flaws in the Indian narrative claiming that Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested in Pakistan while engaging in India's covert war in Balochistan, was an innocent Indian businessman kidnapped from Chabahar by Pakistani agents. Writing for the Indian Express, Thapar debunked the entire official story from New Delhi.

Former US Defense Secretary Hagel:

Indian journalist claims that India's covert war against Pakistan started in 2013. However,  former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said back in 2011 that "India has always used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan. India has over the years been financing problems in Pakistan". Secretary Hagel was speaking at Cameron University in Oklahoma.

General David Petraeus's View: 

General David Petraeus, former CIA director and commander of US troops in Afghanistan, has said there is no evidence of Pakistan playing a double game and supporting terrorists in Afghanistan.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London in 2016, he said  "I looked very very hard then (as US commander in Afghanistan) and again as CIA director at the nature of the relationship between the various (militant) groups in FATA and Baluchistan and the Pakistan Army and the ISI and I was never convinced of what certain journalists have alleged (about ISI support of militant groups in FATA).... I have talked to them (journalists) asked them what their sources are and I have not been able to come to grips with that based on what I know from these different positions (as US commander and CIA director)".

Gen Petraeus did acknowledge that "there's communication between the ISI and various militant groups in FATA and Balochistan (Haqqanis, Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, etc) but some of it you'd do anyway as an intelligence service." He added that "there may be some degree of accommodation that is forced on them (Pakistanis) because of the limits of their (Pakistan's) forces."

Former CIA Officer Michael Scheuer's View of ISI:

To put unrelenting western and India media and analysts' attacks on the ISI in perspective, let's read some excerpts from an interview of  ex CIA officer and chief Bin Laden hunter Michael Scheuer on ISI, and watch the following video:

1. ISI is like all other intelligence services--like the Australian service or the American service.

2. ISI works for the interest of their country, not to help other countries.

3. The idea that ISI is a rogue organization is very popular--and even the Pakistanis promote it---but having worked with ISI for the better part of 20 years, I know the ISI is very disciplined and very able intelligence agency.

4. Pakistanis can not leave the area (AfPak) when we (Americans) do. They have to try and stabilize Afghanistan with a favorable Islamic government so they can move their 100,000 troops from their western border to the eastern border with India which---whether we like it or not, they see as a bigger threat.

5. We (US) have created the mess in South Asia and the Pakistanis have to sort it out. Our (US) problems in Afghanistan are of our own making.

6. Al Qaeda has grown from just one platform (Afghanistan in 2001) to six platforms now.


"Directorate S: The C. I. A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016" by Steve Coll holds Pakistan ISI's Directorate S primarily responsible for America's longest war. The author does acknowledge other factors such as Washington's policy failures, Kabul government's corruption, divisions and dysfunction, Indian intelligence RAW's role, etc. However, he plays down the significance of these other factors and pins the blame squarely on Pakistan ISI, particularly its Directorate S. Coll downplays all evidence pointing to India's covert war being waged against Pakistan from the Afghan soil. It is this war that is destabilizing both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ignoring it will delay any resolution to the Afghan problem.

Here's a video of ex CIA Officer Michael Scheuer talking about ISI:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

General Petraeus Debunks Allegations of Duplicity Against Pakistan

India's Ex Intelligence Officers Blame Kulbhushan Jadhav For Getting Caught

Karan Thapar Dismantles Official Indian Narrative on Kulbhushan Jadhav

Why is India Sponsoring Terror in Pakistan? 

Indian Agent Kubhushan Yadav's Confession

Has Modi Stepped Up India's Covert War in Pakistan?

Ex India Spy Documents Successful RAW Ops in Pakistan

London Police Document Confirms MQM-RAW Connection Testimony

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Ajit Doval Lecture on "How to Tackle Pakistan" 


Ahmad F. said...

Thank you for the review. I am hoping to read the book at some point. It is getting a lot of coverage.

Your review seems to suggest that he is not a “serious scholar.” Is that correct?

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "Your review seems to suggest that he is not a “serious scholar.” Is that correct?"

Steve Coll is a journalist who started his career as a young man in New Delhi, India.

Like many impressionable young reporters who get their first lessons about South Asia while posted in India, he too learned of the region from a very Indian perspective. His book reflects that.

And what lessons are those?

Read Alice Albinia's preface to her book "Empires of the Indus":

"It was April, 2000, almost a year since the war between Pakistan and India over Kargil in Kashmir had ended, and the newspapers which the delivery man threw on to my terrace every morning still portrayed Pakistan as a rogue state, governed by military cowboys, inhabited by murderous fundamentalists: the rhetoric had the patina of hysteria."

Ahmad F. said...

He is an academic as well as a journalist and a respected commentator on South Asia.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "He is an academic as well as a journalist and a respected commentator on South Asia"

I find Michael Scheuer much more credible in assessing ISI and its role in Afghanistan.

Former CIA Officer Michael Scheuer's View of ISI:

To put unrelenting western and India media and analysts' attacks on the ISI in perspective, let's read some excerpts from an interview of ex CIA officer and chief Bin Laden hunter Michael Scheuer on ISI, and watch the following video:

1. ISI is like all other intelligence services--like the Australian service or the American service.

2. ISI works for the interest of their country, not to help other countries.

3. The idea that ISI is a rogue organization is very popular--and even the Pakistanis promote it---but having worked with ISI for the better part of 20 years, I know the ISI is very disciplined and very able intelligence agency.

4. Pakistanis can not leave the area (AfPak) when we (Americans) do. They have to try and stabilize Afghanistan with a favorable Islamic government so they can move their 100,000 troops from their western border to the eastern border with India which---whether we like it or not, they see as a bigger threat.

5. We (US) have created the mess in South Asia and the Pakistanis have to sort it out. Our (US) problems in Afghanistan are of our own making.

6. Al Qaeda has grown from just one platform (Afghanistan in 2001) to six platforms now.

Abid F. said...

I find myself agreeing with Michael Scheuer on more occasion than not. The statements you have quoted below make a lot of sense. The only disagreement I might have is that as far as interference in domestic politics is concerned, they do act like a rogue entity.

I used to have a lot of arguments with my family on trips back home when they would say that a lot of Afghanistan’s problems would be solved if American forces left. With the passage of time, I am beginning to think that they may have had a valid argument. I just wasn’t willing to listen to it. I don’t see the benefit of US forces staying there and fighting the Taliban. How long can they afford to do that and will anything change if they stay another 5-10 years?

Riaz Haq said...

Abid: "The only disagreement I might have is that as far as interference in domestic politics is concerned, they do act like a rogue entity."

Scheuer says ISI is no different than its counterparts in US and Australia.

There’s a long history of US intelligence agencies like CIA and FBI interfering in American domestic politics. Bill Casey and J Edgar Hoover were known for it.

Even today, Trump and his supporters see the hand of “deep state” working against Trump

Z Basha Jr said...

ISI is one of the best rated intelligence agencies in the world..

Riaz Haq said...

Basha: "ISI is one of the best rated intelligence agencies in the world.."

It wouldn't be so demonized by India and the West if it wasn't.

nayyer ali said...

Have you read Coll's new book? It just came out and I received a copy a few days ago have not read it but looked through it. Coll is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, he is very well-sourced in the region, and his prior book, Ghost Wars, which I read is a very impressive piece of reporting. He is not anti-Pakistan, and just because he worked in Delhi at some point does not constitute evidence of bias. I did not find Ghost Wars to be a biased or obviously slanted work.
I don't think he "demonizes" the ISI" nor does he say that it is carrying out its own policy in contradiction to what the the Pakistani government actually wants. It is true though that civilian politicians have little say over policy areas such as Aghanistan where the military sees national security as their concern.
The main point he makes about the ISI is that it first built up the Taliban in the 90's, and then rebuilt them around 2005 when Pakistan decided that having a way to influence the ultimate outcome in Afghanistan was extremely important. As of now, the Taliban military force consists of about 25-30000 fighters that move freely back and forth between AFghanistan and their bases and families in Pakistan. Whether this support of the Afghan Taliban really serves Pakistan's long term interests is debatable, and I would say it does not, but that is not the view of the army, and hence the ISI. Coll's book is actually quite critical of the US as his interviews make clear. See his long interview on Fresh Air for more detailed look at his points:

nayyer ali said...

Abid F. asks how long the US can stay in Afghanistan. As they no longer take casualties, and the deployment is only 10,000 soldiers with the cost less than 10 billion per year for support of Afghanistan the answer is indefinitely. There is no political pressure in the US to withdraw, while allowing the the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to retake Afghanistan would be completely unacceptable outcome to the American public no President will simply abandon Afghanistan. It is not Vietnam with 500,000 draftees deployed and taking hundreds of casualties a month. The US, in a practical sense, has won in Afghanistan. It has stood up a government that is functional, much more so than anything Afghanistan has experienced in the last 50 years, and the country is mostly at peace. The Taliban are reduced to terrorist attacks on soft targets, but htey cannot mass any real force on the ground as they would be destroyed easily by air strikes. They cannot take and hold any city, they lack heavy weapons, armor, mobility, medical support, or anti-aircraft capacity. They may stay in the field for decades, like the FARC in Colombia, but they can never really threaten to take over Afghanistan.
One can find quotes from all sorts of people supporting this or that version of events, and I'm not sure why Petraeus said what he did at the time. Most American officials do view Pakistan as having played both sides of the street, there are plenty of quotes that show that too.

Riaz Haq said...

I heard Steve Coll, author of Directorate S, interviewed by Michael Krasny on KQED Forum this morning.

Coll quoted Ex Vice President Joe Biden as saying: "Pakistan is 50 times more important to US than Afghanistan"

Later in the interview, Coll acknowledged that there are several ungoverned areas like Somalia and weak states elsewhere from where Al Qaeda and other Islamic militants operate. However, he said Afghanistan is different because it's next door to Pakistan which has nuclear weapons. It's important to US because Islamic militants in Afghanistan threaten Pakistan's stability and security of its nuclear weapons that could fall into the hands of terrorists.

Coll's statements beg the following question: Are the US actions in the region contributing to Pakistan's stability?

He answered it partly when he volunteered that Pakistan was a safe place when he traveled extensively throughout the country and covered Pakistan for Washington Post before 911.

He also said the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) came close to marching to Islamabad in 2009 after they took over Swat.

Coll also said that Pakistan will not be persuaded by Trump's argument that the US is prepared to stay in Afghanistan for as long as it takes to "win" .

nayyer ali said...

The US has two aims in the region, contributing to a stable Pakistan is one, ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes the base of operations of al-Qaeda is the other. Yes before 9/11 Pakistan did not have the problems of Pakistani Taliban terrorizing Pakistan. But Pakistan has had a longstanding policy of nurturing Islamic militants to target Pakistan's adversaries and pursue Pakistan's goals (see the support of the Mujahideen in the 1980's. the support of Kashmiri rebels in the 1990's and onward, the support of Sunni extremist groups within Pakistan as a way of mobilization, and support of the Afghan Taliban. The Pakistani state reaped what it sowed when this nexus created the Pakistani Taliban in the late 2000's, and Pakistan has to accept some responsibilty for what happened. Certainly the US was not creating the Pakistani Taliban, in fact many drone strikes were on behalf of the Pakistani government to eliminate some of these people.
Just because Pakistan was safer in 2000 doesnt mean the US should therefore turn over Afghanistan to the Taliban and allow Al-Qaeda to regroup there. I think no US President could politically survive such a choice.
The idea that the US will one day get tired and just leave is a Pakistani pipe-dream. After the example of what happened in Iraq after a complete US pullout (the Sunni areas were taken over by the Islamist terror groups ISIS), the US is not going to replay that mistake.
I also think the US has already "won". There wll be a Taliban insurgency perhaps for decades, as long as Pakistan continues to support them, but the Afghan state will never be seriously threatened, just like the FARC never really threatened Colombia.

Riaz Haq said...

NA: "The idea that the US will one day get tired and just leave is a Pakistani pipe-dream"

Coll believes the US will eventually leave Afghanistan. "US is a democracy and when the American people get tired of Afghanistan it will leave", he said in the KQED Forum interview with Krasny.

NA: "I also think the US has already "won". There wll be a Taliban insurgency perhaps for decades, as long as Pakistan continues to support them, but the Afghan state will never be seriously threatened, just like the FARC never really threatened Colombia."

No, the US has lost. There is no comparison of Colombia with Afghanistan. Unlike the Afghan government in Kabul, the Colombian government draws its legitimacy from strong political support of the Colombian people. And FARC never controlled more than half the country as the Taliban do.

Even the short two mile distance from Bagram Airbase to US Embassy is not safe for road transport, forcing the Americans to use helicopters as the recent CBS 60 Minutes "Kabul Under Siege" segment showed.

nayyer ali said...

You should review the Asia Foundation's survey of Afghanistan, they do massive public opinion surveys every couple years and the one from 2017 with interviews of over 10,000 people can be seen here:
In particular look at page 58 and 60. You can see there is basically no support in AFghanistan for the Taliban who are seen as Pakistan's proxies who are only interested in power.
It is also incorrect to state that the Taliban actually "control" over half the country. What is reported is usual a lump sum of "control or contested", with the actual "control" faction being rather tiny. More importantly, as much of Afghanistan is sparsely inhabited, the Taliban actually control less than 5% of Afghanistan's population. The analogy to the FARC is quite strong if you look at the data closely.
The BBC just did its own analysis and found the Taliban control a trivial 4% of the country although they are active in a wide area. See:

Coll is correct that if the US public got tired of Afghanistan it would leave. But the US has had forces in Korea for 70 years, also in Germany and Japan even longer, and has not gotten "tired". It only gets tired when the military is in active war, and the war is imposing large burdens on the society (see Vietnam or Iraq in the previous decade). The Afghan commitment is no longer visible to the American public. They don't care and they don't know about it, because it is trivial, and therefore the political pressure to withdraw is non-existent.

Riaz Haq said...

NA: "But the US has had forces in Korea for 70 years, also in Germany and Japan even longer, and has not gotten "tired"."

I don't think The Asia Foundation Survey and the comparison to extended US presence in other nations offer any comfort to the Afghans when it's obvious to them that the US can not even secure a small area in Kabul. There's no such thing as a "green zone" in Kabul as there was in Baghdad.

Afghanistan has a very different history that has given it its reputation as the "graveyard of empires".

"They should get out as soon as possible. Or they'll be picked off like clay pigeons in target practice."

The above words of warning to America are attributed by the NPR radio to former Soviet Afghan war veteran, Lt. Sergei Maximov, on the 20th anniversary of the humiliating defeat of the Soviet empire twenty years ago today.

On February 15, 1989, the last Soviet troops pulled out of Afghanistan, nine years after they swept into the country. The Soviet action involved more than 600,000 Soviet soldiers and resulted in large numbers of killed and wounded both among them and among the Afghan population.

Remembering the fateful war that brought down the Soviet Union, another war veteran, former sergeant Boris Raisky, chimes in, "I realized we were fighting a counterinsurgency against local partisans. By definition, that's an unwinnable war."

Nayyer Ali said...

Well the Soviet soldiers are entitled to their opinion, it doesn't mean they are right and it certainly does not constitute evidence that the US is going to be militarily overrun by hordes of Taliban with Kalashnikovs (said horde would be long identified by drone surveillance and obliterated with an airstrike). The Mujahideen were receiving a billion dollars a year in military aid, most critically Stinger missiles that totally neutralized the Soviets most important advantage, the use of attack helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. THey also had anti-tank weaponry that could knock out Soviet tanks. In addition the US is much more capable in 2017 than the British in 1870 or the Russians in 1980. The Taliban have no advanced weapons of any sort. My brother is married to an Afghani, and I know a lot of Afghanis. One is US raised and has a Harvard degree and has been working for several years as a senior advisor to the AFghan Finance Ministry. To a person, they all see the Taliban as a Pakistani creation, and that if Pakistan were to stop interfering in Afghanistan the war would be over. None of them want a US evacuation.
I also do not know of any American soldiers being picked off by the Taliban. The Taliban are so militarily inept that they only go after soft targets using terrorism, unlike the Mujahideen who engaged the Soviet forces routinely. The Soviets invaded the Panjshir Valley 5 times duing the 1980's and Ahmed Shah Masoud beat them every time.
The Taliban, unlike the Mujahideen, do not even pretend to cultivate the support of the Afghan people, which is why they think driving an ambulance car bomb into Kabul and killing a hundred innocent civilians is a way to win hearts and minds. They only can recruit from rural Pashtuns and those Pashtuns in Pakistani refugee camps. As the Asia Foundation survey makes clear, they have literally no support among the Afghan people, which is the largest difference between now and what happened with the Soviet invasion. In the Soviet case the Mujahideen were partisans made up of the whole nation, the Taliban are just pawns of Pakistan and a few deluded illiterate Afghani Pashtuns.
As to the US tiring of Afghanistan, was the US presence there an issue in the 2016 election? How about in this election year? It has vaporized politically, and so there is nothing for the US public to get tired of.

nayyer ali said...

It is very hard to prevent terrorism entirely. By your metric the British are unable to secure London, and the French can't secure Paris and the US can't secure San Bernardino.

Riaz Haq said...

NA: "By your metric the British are unable to secure London, and the French can't secure Paris and the US can't secure San Bernardino."

The French and the Brits government leaders in their capitals are not flying helicopters to get to work as the Americans are in Kabul.

Riaz Haq said...

NA: " To a person, they all see the Taliban as a Pakistani creation, and that if Pakistan were to stop interfering in Afghanistan the war would be over. None of them want a US evacuation."

Afghanistan is deeply divided along ethnic and rural-urban lines. Tajiks, Uzbeks and Pashtun Nationalists have always been anti-Pakistan since 1947. They constitute the ruling elite of Afghanistan who are responsible for its poverty, illiteracy, backwardness and anarchy.

These Afghan elites refused to recognize Pakistan when it became independent and were the only country that opposed Pakistan's entry into the United Nations. They even tried to destabilize Pakistan using Ghaffar Khan and Wali Khan who both opposed the. creation of Pakistan. A former RAW officer RK Yadav has confirmed in his book "Mission R&AW" that Wali Khan met Indian intelligence officials in Europe and received funds from the Indian government.

Please read the following for more:

More recently, British Army Major Robert Gallimore said that the Afghan Army saw the "imagined nefarious hand" and "bogeyman" of Pakistan everywhere but he never saw it. He "saw not one piece of evidence" of it. It was all in their minds.

During his three tours of duty in Afghanistan, he could hear all the radio conversations going on but never heard any Pakistani accent. He did, however, see "buckets and buckets of money" and rising Indian influence in Afghan Army that blamed Pakistan for all their problems. Pakistan is their bogeyman.

nayyer ali said...

Let's see in 2 years or 5 or 10. I don't think the Taliban will make any real gains. They will be a terrorist group confined to rural and mountainous areas, they will have no capacity to seize cities, the US presence will be maintained and there will be no political pressure in the US for withdrawal. They will have no support from the majority of Afghans who are not Pashtuns, and even among the Pashtuns, they will not get support from educated urban Pashtuns. This could go on for decades. The Pakistani strategy of supporting the Taliban is doomed to failure (of course there are many Pakistanis that insist that Pakistan has nothing to do with the Taliban, though clearly false, it only begs the obvious question, why would Pakistan then care whether the Taliban win or lose?).

huma said...

Good description and i understand

Rizwan A. said...

Pakistan should not be blamed for wanting to protect it's interests like any other country. The US protects it's interests by making sure pro-US governments are in place throughout the Thirld World, by hook or by crook. It does not hesitate to instigate coups against democratically elected governments such as Mossadegh's in Iran and Allende in Chile, if it perceives them to be against it's interests. US interference in Central and South America, Phillipines, Vietnam are well known.

Therefore, I am quite taken aback at how Pakistan is being demonized by the same US for trying to protect it's interests vis a vis Afghanistan, which has a history of being anti-Pakistan from it's inception, as noted above. It is rather disingenuous of Mr. Nayyer Ali to state that, "The US has two aims in the region, contributing to a stable Pakistan is one---". Sorry, you are in a state of delusion when you say that.

We know that the US made a very concerted effort to destabilize Pakistan with the infiltration of hundreds of Blackwater operatives, during which time tererorist attacks within Pakistan reached a height not seen since. We also know that the Ralph Peters map is the "wish list" of changes to the Middle East and South Asia map the US would like to see. Some of these changes are already unfolding in the Middle East. Pakistan has managed to withstand the US onslaught to break it up, and that is the main reason for US anger against Pakistan.

The fact that the US has openly supported Indian presence in Afghanistan is also testament to it's nefarious designs against Pakistan, which have been constantly hampered by the ISI and Pakistani military. India is responsible for most of the current terrorist activity in Baluchistan. Most of the terrorist acitivity in Karachi and other areas has been brought under control with the concerted effort of the military and ISI. is there any wonder then, that the military and ISI are the main targets of US and Indian wrath? At the same time th US disingenuously claims that Pakistan is too paranoid about India! Nice game going there!

As far as interference in other countries is concerned, in addition to the US, Afghanistan has a long history of interfering in Pakistan in support of so-called "Pakhtoonistan", and India has a history of interfering in Pakistan in Bangladesh, Sindh (including Karachi), and now Baluchistan, and the rest of Pakistan. So what Pakistan is doing in supporting factions in Afghanistan that will have a friendly relationship with it is no different and par for the course.

nayyer ali said...

In response to Rizwan's post, it is Steve Coll in his book that reports what both the Bush and Obama administrations review of the region concluded were America's 2 vital interests, maintaining a stable Pakistan so that nuclear weapons do not come loose and end up in the wrong hands, and disrupting and destroying Al-Qaeda.
It is absolutely true that all countries pursue their national interests, and no one is "demonizing" Pakistan for doing such. I certainly am not. The problem is that Pakistanis can't get their story straight. On one day they deny that Pakistan has anything to do with the Taliban, and it is purely a indigenous Afghan liberation movement with no ties to Pakistan whatsoever, and the next day claim that Pakistan has the right to exert influence over Afghanistan by backing an insurgency against the government. Well which is it then? The polling data shows clearly that the Taliban have no support among the vast majority of the Afghans, and that Afghans see the Taliban as a violent Pakistan-created bunch of terrorists whose purpose is to do Pakistan's bidding. Now Rizwan believes that Pakistan is entitled to do this. It certainly is, but it must also accept that there are consequences to its policy choice
Pakistan at the same time it is supporting the Taliban, is claiming that it is an ally of the US against the Taliban. This is the double-game that Pakistan has played for a decade. On the one hand it arms the Taliban, on the other it collects a big check from the US for allowing American supplies to move through Pakistan. It wants the US to provide the backbone of Pakistan' air force, and it wants to sell goods to the US and EU markets. You can't have both forever. You have to choose, which is more important to Pakistan, just like every other country has to look at the consequences of their policy choices.
The even more important question is who decides what Pakistan's national interest is and how it should be pursued? Shouldn't it be done through an open democratic process with real public debate? Shouldn't the National Assembly and Prime Minister make these choices? In reality, the civilians are shut out and the military decide for the nation. Why should a nation of 200 million people, with plenty of educated and informed citizens, grant this power to a small group of generals?
I am very much in support of Pakistan pursuing its national interest. But I have a totally different view of what that means. By supporting the Taliban and giving it bases in Pakistan, we created the platform for the rise of the TTP and all the mayhem they inflicted. The policy of running an insurgency in Afghanistan has yielded nothing of value for Pakistan, and instead has pushed Afghans into the arms of India.
Because of geography and the shared Pashtun ethnic group, Pakistan could have pursued a different strategy. It should have emphasized soft power, tight transport and trade links with Afghanistan after 9/11, and aggressively promoted Pakistani exports and the expansion of Pakistani businesses into Afghanistan. Pakistan should have smothered Afghanistan, not terrorize it.
Before commenting on Coll you should get his book and read, or at a minimum read the interview he did with Fresh Air which is probably the most comprehensive interview he's done (an hour long rather than the usual 5-10 minute quick hit).
THere is no evidence that hundreds of Blackwater operatives were in Pakistan at any time, that is a fever dream of conspiracy theorists. There were CIA agents, but not Blackwater.
Are you suggesting that we should support the Taliban until Afghanistan becomes under the control of Pakistan? What is the end game for Pakistan's strategy other than a war that goes on for decades?

Riaz Haq said...

My trip to Pakistan’s ‘Jihadi Disneyland’
A fact-finding tour of Waziristan, formerly the most dangerous place in the world
Freddy Gray

Not so long ago, Barack Obama called Waziristan ‘the most dangerous place in the world’. It was the losing front in the war on terror, a lawless region in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan infested with Taleban and terrorism. Today, thanks to the Pakistan army, even a risk-averse hack like me can go there with scarcely a tremor. On Wednesday, as part of a British media delegation, I flew by military helicopter to Miranshah, the administrative HQ of north Waziristan. The soldiers took us to a newly built ‘markaz (hideout) re-enactment’ centre, which we quickly renamed Jihadi Disneyland. It is a true-to-life terrorist den, constructed by Pakistani soldiers with extraordinary attention to detail. The idea, I think, is to educate future generations about the terrorists’ way of life. But it feels more like a show home for wannabe bin Ladens, featuring everything an aspiring holy warrior might want in his property. There’s an American Humvee parked in the courtyard, a massive weapons stash and a couple of goats tethered to a tree. There’s also a brightly decorated room for brainwashing child suicide bombers, with framed pictures of some of the 72 virgins awaiting the lad when he has done his duty. Plus some fruit. The pièce de résistance is a torture chamber in the underground tunnel network. ‘This is where they do the beheadings,’ said the proud colonel showing us round.

We then went on a bus tour of Miranshah, which is being reconstructed as a model Tribal Area town. The security forces talked about establishing ‘new normalcy’, but the atmosphere was strange, something like an enormous public school not quite ready for the new term. Miranshah has a sports ground, outdoor communal areas, educational facilities, a hospital, even a ‘tuck shop’. It was eerily empty. I couldn’t tell if that was because not many people really lived there or because the army, worried that we might be attacked, had shut the town down. ‘Why are all the signs in English?’ asked one of our group. ‘Oh that’s for the visitors,’ replied the colonel. ‘The locals, they know their way around.’

It’s vile to be cynical, especially in a country that has suffered so much. That same day, just six kilometres from where we were, two soldiers were killed in a rocket attack. Some 70,000 Pakistanis have now died — ‘embraced martyrdom’ is the official idiom — in the US-led war on terror. You can see why Pakistan’s government gets upset when Donald Trump accuses them on Twitter of harbouring terrorists and offering nothing but ‘lies and deceit’.

Our press trip, organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, was meant to correct such misperceptions. We knew we were being spun, but it was impossible not to fall in love with the Pakistanis’ eccentric PR-style. In the Prime Minister’s office in Islamabad, Nasser Khan Janjua, the national security adviser, told us that Pakistan was ‘a scapegoat’. ‘Those who fight us blame us, those who side with us blame us,’ he said. He didn’t want to be gloomy, however, so for the last part of our interview he transmogrified into a representative of the tourism board and spent ten minutes showing us slides of his favourite parts of Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan slipping out of #America's influence, say #CIA and 16 other #US# intelligence agencies. #Afghanistan #Trump #India #Russia

Seventeen US intelligence agencies have warned Congress that Pakistan will continue to slip out of America’s influence and into China’s orbit in 2019, and will become a threat to Washington’s interests in the South Asian region.

The review is part of an annual report that Director of US National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, underlining worldwide threat assessment of the American intelligence community.

The 17 agencies that jointly produced this report include Central Intelligence Agency, Defence Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency.


In their report on Pakistan, the agencies warned that the country will continue to threaten US interests by “deploying new nuclear weapons capabilities, maintaining its ties to militants, restricting counterterrorism cooperation, and drawing closer to China”.

The report claimed that Islamabad-backed militant groups will continue to take advantage of their alleged safe haven in Pakistan to “plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, including against US interests”.

The agencies also warned Pakistan’s perception of its “eroding position relative to India, reinforced by endemic economic weakness and domestic security issues, almost certainly will exacerbate long-held fears of isolation and drive Islamabad’s pursuit of actions that run counter to US goals for the region”.

In a brief assessment of Islamabad’s nuclear programme, US intelligence agencies informed Congress that Pakistan continues to produce nuclear weapons and develop new types, including short-range tactical weapons, sea-based cruise missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, and longer-range ballistic missiles.

“These new types of nuclear weapons will introduce new risks for escalation dynamics and security in the region,” the report added.

India-Pakistan Tension

US agencies also expect relations between India and Pakistan to remain tense, with continued violence on the Line of Control and “the risk of escalation if there is another high-profile terrorist attack in India or an uptick in violence on the Line of Control”.

India-China Tension

The agencies informed Congress that in 2019, relations between India and China will remain tense and will possibly deteriorate further, despite the negotiated settlement to their three-month border standoff in August.

This “elevates the risk of unintentional escalation”, the report added.


The US intelligence community expects the overall situation in Afghanistan to “deteriorate modestly” this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency, unsteady Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) performance, and chronic financial shortfalls.

The agencies warned that the National Unity government in Kabul “probably will struggle” to hold long-delayed parliamentary elections, currently scheduled for July 2018, and to prepare for a presidential election in 2019.

“The ANSF probably will maintain control of most major population centres with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centres under continued strain,” the agencies assessed.

The agencies believe that Afghanistan’s economic growth will stagnate at around 2.5 per cent per year, and Kabul will remain reliant on international donors for the great majority of its funding well beyond 2018.


US intelligence agencies see Russia as bringing pressure on Central Asia’s leaders to reduce engagement with Washington and support Russian-led economic and security initiatives, and believe that “concerns about [the militant Islamic State group] in Afghanistan will push Moscow to strengthen its security posture in the region”.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a video of author's interview:

At about 36 minutes, Coll talks about the impact of US-India nuclear deal on Pakistan's attitude toward the United States and the Afghan war. Pakistanis saw it as US building a close partnership with its arch-enemy India and they decided to prepare for post-US future in Afghanistan.

Rizwan A. said...

I think Nayyer Ali is confusing the opinion of Pakistani individuals with that of the government when he says, "The problem is that Pakistanis can't get their story straight. On one day they deny that Pakistan has anything to do with the Taliban, and it is purely a indigenous Afghan liberation movement with no ties to Pakistan whatsoever, and the next day claim that Pakistan has the right to exert influence over Afghanistan by backing an insurgency against the government." Just like all other governments, like that of the US, UK, India, Russia, etc., that carry out covert operations in other countries, they deny it.

Riaz Haq said...

No #terror outfit camps exist on #Pakistan soil: Gen Bajwa at #MunichSecurityConference #Trump #India #TTP #Taliban

Munich [Germany], Feb 18 (ANI): Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa has claimed that Pakistan does not have any organised terror outfits on its soil.

Addressing the Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2018 in Germany on Saturday, General Bajwa said, "Today, I can say with pride and conviction that there are no organised camps on our side of the border. However, presence of terrorists of various hues and colors cannot be ruled out. We still have their active and sleeper cells and they are hiding in mountains, border towns and 54 refugee camps, besides some major town and cities."

The army chief also stated that Pakistan still hosts approximately 2.7 million refugees from Afghanistan "whose concentration is regularly used by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Haqqani network to recruit, morph and melt".

Bajwa refused to blame the Kabul administration, and claimed that of the last 130 terrorist attacks in Pakistan's border areas last year, 123 were conceived, planned and executed from Afghanistan.

"We understand their [Kabul's] predicament and therefore we do not blame them, but instability in Afghanistan is also hurting us badly. And it is happening despite the presence of the most powerful alliance in Kabul," he said.

The Army Chief also urged the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to conduct, audit and introspect to find out the causes of the standoff.

"We defeated Al Qaeda, the TTP and Jammtul Ahrar while their safe havens still exist in Afghanistan at a mere fraction of resources employed at the other side of the border. Instead of blame game it is time for the NATO to conduct and audit and introspection to find out the causes of this stalemate," he added.

The three-day MSC, which commenced on Friday, is scheduled to end today.(ANI)

Riaz Haq said...

Times of India report:

Bolton - a former US ambassador to the UN - believes that Pakistan, a nuclear weapons state, is perpetually teetering on the brink of embracing Islamic extremism and terror. And pushing it too hard could well lead to it becoming "a terrorist country with nuclear weapons", or as Bolton described it last August to, "Iran or North Korea on steroids".

"'s clear the President wants to pressure Pakistan more. Well, I agree with that, and I think Obama didn't pressure them enough... But there's a real problem with simply saying, 'By God, we're going to squeeze Pakistan until they finally push the Taliban, the Haqqani network, Gulbuddin Hekmati out of the privileged sanctuaries they've had in Pakistan, push them back into Afghanistan, and stop supplying them, stop giving them weapons, stop giving them money' ", said Bolton to Breitbart.
Bolton said the problem with such an approach is that it might lead to a situation where anti-US sentiment fuels popular support for Islamist radicals and the Taliban.
"If you push too hard, this government in Pakistan is fragile. It has been since the partition of British India ...The military in Pakistan itself is at risk, increasingly, of being infiltrated through the officer ranks by radical Islamists. Many people believe the intelligence services unit already is heavily dominated by Islamists," he explained.
If radicals take over the Pakistan government completely, it's "the ultimate risk" said Bolton.
"...if Pakistani Taliban or other radicals took control of that country, it wouldn't just be another base to launch terrorist operations against us or Western Europe. It would be a terrorist country with nuclear weapons, so it would be Iran or North Korea on steroids right now," he warned.
Too much pressure on Pakistan could backfire, Bolton wrote last August in The Wall Street Journal.
"Putting too much pressure on Pakistan risks further destabilizing the already volatile country, tipping it into the hands of domestic radical Islamicists, who grow stronger by the day. In this unstable environment, blunt pressure by the U.S.—and, by inference, India — could backfire," said the the now NSA in a column for the Journal.
Here's where China can step in and should be pressured to, the new NSA said.
"China's influence is, in some ways, greater than ours" in Pakistan because "there wouldn't be a Pakistani nuclear weapons program without China."
China is the key to keeping the house of cards from collapsing in Pakistan, Bolton said in his Journal column from August.
"If American pressure were enough to compel Pakistan to act decisively against the terrorists within its borders, that would have happened long ago. What President Trump needs is a China component to his nascent South Asia policy, holding Beijing accountable for the misdeeds that helped create the current strategic danger," wrote Bolton.

Riaz Haq said...

Bob Woodward quotes Dr. Peter Lavoy, staffer in charge of South Asia for Obama's NSC, in his book "Fear" as follows:

"There are literally thousands of sub-tribes in Afghanistan. Each has a grievance. If the Taliban cease to exist you would still have an insurgency in Afghanistan".

Riaz Haq said...

How #India secretly armed #Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance. #Indian Ambassador to #Tajikistan Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar coordinated it through NA chief spy Amrullah Saleh who later headed #Afghan intelligence NDS and has good relations with #RAW.

India must not commit the error of placing Indian troops on Afghan soil, says the diplomat who coordinated New Delhi’s secret military assistance to Ahmad Shah Massoud, the military commander of the Northern Alliance, who fought the Taliban and U.S. forces till his assassination in 2001.

For four years, between 1996 and 2000, till he left the Tajik capital Dushanbe to take up his new posting, Ambassador Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar coordinated military and medical assistance that India was secretly giving to Massoud and his forces.

It all began, says Mr. Muthu Kumar, exactly a week after September 26, 1996, when the Taliban, backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), took over Kabul, shot former President Najibullah dead, castrated him, and hung his body from a lamp post. Just hours before, Indian Embassy staff had scrambled into the last plane out of a country that had begun its descent into hell.

Amrullah Saleh, who looked after Kabul’s interests in the Tajik capital, called Mr. Muthu Kumar to inform him that the “Commander” would like to meet him.

“Commander” was a reference to Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir, who made his name guerrilla-fighting the Soviets when they occupied Afghanistan for 10 years. The Indian ambassador sought instructions from New Delhi on what was to be done. The response: “Listen carefully, report back faithfully, and play it by ear.”

Over chai and dry fruits
Massoud maintained a house on Karamova Ulitse in Dushanbe. He had his own staff and Mohammed Saleh Registani looked after the affairs of his house. It was here that the Indian ambassador regularly began meeting Ahmed Shah Massoud, discussing, over endless chai and dry fruits, the bewilderingly shifting fortunes of the battles in Afghanistan where money was enough to swing fighters. The Commander did not speak English and Amrullah, who would later go on to become Intelligence Chief, interpreted for him. The Indian ambassador subsequently had his number two in the mission, Dr S.A. Qureshi on hand for interpretation.

At the first meeting, the Commander had dramatically thrown his trademark cap down on the table, and declared, that was all the space he required — the circumference of his headgear — to stand and fight for his country. He put it simply: “I need India’s support.” He then set out a list of items he needed.

What is in it for us? Delhi queried. Mr. Muthu Kumar explained, “He is battling someone we should be battling. When Massoud fights the Taliban, he fights Pakistan.”

Expanding list
The Commander’s wish list kept growing, and when once, New Delhi agreed to send only a fraction of the requirement, Mr. Muthu Kumar sent a message explaining Massoud’s predicament with an Ajit joke: “We have thrown him in liquid oxygen: the liquid won’t let him live and the oxygen won’t allow him to die.”

Jaswant Singh, a former soldier, and then BJP leader, who had become External Affairs Minister, read the cables the first thing. He directly called Mr. Muthu Kumar and gave him a message to deliver to the Commander: “Please assure him that he will have his requirements.”

Short of sending heavy equipment, India provided extensive assistance to the Northern Alliance — uniforms, ordnance, mortars, small armaments, refurbished Kalashnikovs seized in Kashmir, combat and winter clothes, packaged food, medicines, and funds through his brother in London, Wali Massoud. Assistance would be delivered circuitously with the help of other countries who helped this outreach.

Riaz Haq said...

Ryan Crocker, who also served as the US ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007, told government interviewers that Pakistani leaders did not bother to hide their duplicity, the Post reported. He recalled a conversation he had with General Ashfaq Kayani, who was the chief of Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and one of the principal plotters of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. “And he says, ‘You know, I know you think we’re hedging our bets. You’re right, we are, because one day you’ll be gone again, it’ll be like Afghanistan the first time, you’ll be done with us, but we’re still going to be here because we can’t actually move the country. And the last thing we want with all of our other problems is to have turned the Taliban into a mortal enemy, so, yes, we’re hedging our bets,’” Crocker quoted Kayani as saying. .Read more at India No 1 Defence News Website .


‘Veering off the original track’ According to hundreds of confidential interviews revealed in The Washington Post report, US and allied officials admitted they veered off in directions that had little to do with al Qaeda or 9/11 in what was their first mistake in the prolonged war. “By expanding the original mission, they said they adopted fatally flawed warfighting strategies based on misguided assumptions about a country they did not understand,” said the Post report. The result was an “unwinnable conflict with no easy way out”. Further, the issue was compounded because of the US war in Iraq and against the Islamic State, pulling the attention off from Afghanistan. “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute told government interviewers in 2015. Lute is a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations. “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking,” added Lute. .Read more at India No 1 Defence News Website .

Riaz Haq said...

Riaz Haq has left a new comment on your post "General Petraeus Rejects Trump's Charges of "Lies ...":

Sanitization of Haqqanis & #Pakistan-#US relations. New York Times published an Op Ed by Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. No other group better exemplifies #America's long history of playing sides to suit itself. #afghanpeacedeal @AJEnglish

The (NY Times) newspaper's decision to publish the article, provocatively titled "What We, the Taliban, Want," jolted not only ordinary readers and US foreign policy hawks, but also Washington's biggest detractors abroad. As the criticism mounted, The Times' opinion editors issued a statement to try and justify their decision to give a platform to Haqqani.

"Our mission at Times Opinion is to tackle big ideas from a range of newsworthy viewpoints," they stated. "We've actively solicited voices from all sides of the Afghanistan conflict, the government, the Taliban and from citizens. Sirajuddin Haqqani is the second in command of the Taliban at a time when its negotiators are hammering out an agreement with American officials in Doha that could result in American troops leaving Afghanistan. That makes his perspective relevant at this particular moment."

What the Times did not mention, however, was the extent to which the Haqqani question has prickled the relationship between the US and Pakistan - a major non-NATO ally historically accused by many in Washington of not doing enough to facilitate American objectives in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Back in 2011, following an attack on the US embassy in Kabul believed to be perpetrated by the Haqqanis, the then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, called the network a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), ratcheting up pressure on Pakistan to eliminate the network and paving the way for more American drone strikes in the country.

Mullen's assertion caused widespread anger and disappointment in Pakistan. In the years that followed, consecutive civilian governments in Pakistan maintained that the infrastructure supporting the network had shifted to Afghanistan and that scapegoating Pakistan for American failures in an interminable war next door was disingenuous and unjust.

For many in Pakistan, no other political group better exemplifies America's long history of playing sides to suit its own strategic objectives. Few American diplomats today care to recount that the Haqqanis started as Washington's closest allies in Afghanistan; that the network's founder Jalaluddin Haqqani was a CIA darling kept flush with money and weaponry, including shoulder-fired Stinger missiles that would ultimately down Soviet aircraft. Fewer still have any compunction over the diplomatic arm-twisting meted out to Pakistan, including the cutting off of vital Coalition Support Fund aid, for allegedly not doing enough to combat the group.

As the US continued to pressure Pakistan for not doing enough to curtail the Haqqani Network's activities in Afghanistan, the grievances against Washington's regional policies started to pile up in in the country. Many in Pakistan came to believe that the US was scapegoating Islamabad to camouflage the deeper contradictions in its military strategy against the Taliban. And they had ample reason to hold this view. In 2015, for example, the US and the Haqqanis came face-to-face during the ill-fated "Murree talks" between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Conveniently, the US raised no objections to the Haqqanis being in the meeting.


On his recent visit to India, President Trump took a softer line on Pakistan, reflecting the hard work that both sides have put into resuscitating the relationship from its worst days....

For Pakistanis, that alone is a welcome shift, even if an official public apology for taking the flak for the Haqqanis, takes time.

Riaz Haq said...

"RAW: A History of India’s Covert Operations" by Yatish Yadav reveals #Indian #RAW "helped" a top #Afghan politician/warlord. #India carved #Bangladesh out of East #Pakistan. #RAW played double game in #SriLanka, "helping" govt & LTTE via @NewIndianXpress

Set in the turbulent ’70s to the ’90s, R&AW spooks toppled dictators like General Ershad in Bangladesh and Fiji’s Colonel Rabuka by organising public protests and trading loyalties of people in their inner circles respectively. India had carved Bangladesh out of East Pakistan, which America opposed vehemently; President Richard Nixon even sent the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal to intimidate India.

After Mujibur Rahman’s assassination, the ISI and CIA moved into Bangladesh. The Hindu refugee problem was a strain on India’s economy and Ershad’s pro-ISI, pro-CIA stance wasn’t helping. So unexpected were the R&AW-engineered protests that Ershad was forced to resign and a neutral government came in his place. In Fiji, where local Indians were being persecuted by nationalist Rabuka, R&AW used foreign contacts in Australia, New Zealand and the UK to launch a successful operation to oust him. The mission was almost compromised when the mistress of a Fiji bureaucrat who was spying for India informed the authorities.

R&AW also created immense goodwill in many countries; it helped a top Afghan politician and former warlord to escape the Taliban and even got his relative a job in Turkey. R&AW spooks relentlessly bribed, cajoled and blackmailed India’s enemies. At great danger to himself, a daring agent bought information from a mole among Khalistani terrorists who were preparing to attack Delhi, which were averted by the intel. The agency even managed to recruit the prime minister of an important Baltic nation. R&AW had support from most prime ministers, except Pakistan-friendly Morarji Desai, who had dismantled foreign operations and turned over imbedded agents to ISI.


In Sri Lanka, R&AW played a double game, helping the Sri Lankan Army to destroy the LTTE while protecting Indian assets against the Tigers and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s hit men. According to a R&AW spymaster in Colombo, MEA bungled and allowed the Chinese to get a foothold in the island.

Riaz Haq said...

Ambassador Ryan Crocker on #US exit from #Afghanistan:"We have again validated their (#Pakistanis) skepticism". Pakistanis "knew we (US) will go home but they aren’t going anywhere--this is where they live".They'd not "turn the Taliban into a mortal enemy"

I recall the comment attributed to a captured Taliban fighter from a number of years ago: You Americans have the watches, but we have the time. Sadly that view proved accurate — the Taliban outlasted us and our impatience. After the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of U.S.-trained and armed mujahedeen in 1989, training that was facilitated by Pakistan, we decided we were done. We could see the Afghan civil war coming — the only thing holding the disparate Afghan groups together was a common enemy. But that was not our problem — we were leaving. On the way out, we stopped helping Pakistan in a key way: We ended security and economic assistance because of its nuclear weapons program, something we’d exempted before. So Pakistan, in its own narrative, went from being the most allied of allies to the most sanctioned of adversaries. That is why Pakistan threw its support to the Taliban when they started gaining ground in the 1990s: It could end a dangerous conflict along Pakistan’s own unstable borders.

And that is why a decade later after 9/11, Pakistan welcomed the return of the United States — and U.S. assistance. It would work with us against Al Qaeda. But we soon learned that the Taliban were a sticky matter. I was ambassador to Pakistan from 2004 to 2007. I pushed Pakistani officials repeatedly on the need to deny the Taliban safe havens. The answer I got back over time went like this: “We know you. We know you don’t have patience for the long fight. We know the day will come when you just get tired and go home — it’s what you do. But we aren’t going anywhere — this is where we live. So if you think we are going to turn the Taliban into a mortal enemy, you are completely crazy.”

We have again validated their skepticism.

The Washington Post notes that “as the Taliban swept across neighboring Afghanistan, some Pakistanis saw it as a reason to celebrate.” Yet I doubt there are many high fives being exchanged in Islamabad today. The American disaster in Afghanistan that Mr. Biden’s impatience brought about is not a disaster just for us. It has also been a huge boost for the Taliban, whose narrative now is that the believers, clad in the armor of the one true faith, have vanquished the infidels. That is resonating around the world, and certainly next door in Pakistan where the T.T.P. — the Pakistani Taliban, which seeks the overthrow of their government — has certainly been emboldened, as have Kashmiri militant groups created by Pakistan but that threaten Pakistan itself as well as India. Mr. Biden’s strategic impatience has given a huge boost to militant Islam everywhere.

We need to be engaged with Pakistan on ways to assess and deal with this enhanced threat. The prospect of violent destabilization of a country with about 210 million people and nuclear weapons is not a pretty one. The same is true in Iran. It’s always good to see the Great Satan take a kick in the face, and it’s worth a little gloating, but the Islamic Republic and the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate almost went to war in 1998. A region is worried, and it is right to be so.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #ISI has a record of discovering & breaking #CIA informant networks. #Intelligence services in countries such as #Russia, #China, #Iran and Pakistan have been hunting down the C.I.A.’s sources and in some cases turning them into double agents.

Top American counterintelligence officials warned every C.I.A. station and base around the world last week about troubling numbers of informants recruited from other countries to spy for the United States being captured or killed, people familiar with the matter said.

The message, in an unusual top secret cable, said that the C.I.A.’s counterintelligence mission center had looked at dozens of cases in the last several years involving foreign informants who had been killed, arrested or most likely compromised. Although brief, the cable laid out the specific number of agents executed by rival intelligence agencies — a closely held detail that counterintelligence officials typically do not share in such cables.

The cable highlighted the struggle the spy agency is having as it works to recruit spies around the world in difficult operating environments. In recent years, adversarial intelligence services in countries such as Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan have been hunting down the C.I.A.’s sources and in some cases turning them into double agents.

Acknowledging that recruiting spies is a high-risk business, the cable raised issues that have plagued the agency in recent years, including poor tradecraft; being too trusting of sources; underestimating foreign intelligence agencies, and moving too quickly to recruit informants while not paying enough attention to potential counterintelligence risks — a problem the cable called placing “mission over security.”

The large number of compromised informants in recent years also demonstrated the growing prowess of other countries in employing innovations like biometric scans, facial recognition, artificial intelligence and hacking tools to track the movements of C.I.A. officers in order to discover their sources.

While the C.I.A. has many ways to collect intelligence for its analysts to craft into briefings for policymakers, networks of trusted human informants around the world remain the centerpiece of its efforts, the kind of intelligence that the agency is supposed to be the best in the world at collecting and analyzing.

Recruiting new informants, former officials said, is how the C.I.A.’s case officers — its frontline spies — earn promotions. Case officers are not typically promoted for running good counterintelligence operations, such as figuring out if an informant is really working for another country.

The agency has devoted much of its attention for the last two decades to terrorist threats and the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, but improving intelligence collection on adversarial powers, both great and small, is once again a centerpiece of the C.I.A.’s agenda, particularly as policymakers demand more insight into China and Russia.

The loss of informants, former officials said, is not a new problem. But the cable demonstrated the issue is more urgent than is publicly understood.