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Tag Archives: Pakistan
So how do you say “Duh!” in Urdu? There’s nothing new or remarkable in the suggestion that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has been aiding and abetting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, as highlighted in coverage of the massive leak of U.S. military documents published on Sunday. If anything, it’s conventional wisdom among Afghanistan watchers that Pakistan continues to treat the movement it helped bring to power in 1996 as a strategic counterweight against Indian influence on its western flank. The latest revelations, fantastical as some of them may be, are simply a discomforting affirmation that Pakistan, the beneficiary of $1 billion in U.S. aid every year, continues to pursue interests at odds with those of its Washington patron — just like everyone else in the Afghan war theater does. Contemporary American slang may not have easy Urdu equivalents, but Count Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince (“Badshah”) — the timeless handbook on duplicity and cunning in statecraft — was translated into Pakistan’s main language in 1947.
To some it may seem as if President Hamid Karzai has a death wish. The Afghan leader has lately begun sticking it to the U.S. and its Western allies — the only force protecting him from a surging Taliban, which hanged the last foreign-backed President when it reached Kabul in 1996. But Karzai is doing it not just because he can get away with it, knowing he’s the only game in town for Washington, but also because he must if he’s to survive in the Afghan political environment once the U.S. leaves. Continue reading
There was something almost painful about watching President Barack Obama last week reprising a track from his predecessor’s Greatest Hits when he hosted the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Just like Bush, Obama invited us to suspend well-grounded disbelief and imagine that Hamid Karzai and Asif Ali Zardari have the intent, much less the capability, to wage a successful war against the Taliban. Then again, there had been something painful even earlier about watching Obama proclaim Afghanistan as “the right war” and expanding the U.S. footprint there, reprising the Soviet experience of maintaining an islet of modernity in the capital while the countryside burns.
It requires a spectacular leap of faith in a kind of superheroic American exceptionalism to imagine that the invasion of Afghanistan that occurred in November 2001 will end any differently from any previous invasion of that country. And it takes an elaborate exercise in self-delusion to avoid recognizing that the Taliban crisis in Pakistan is an effect of the war in Afghanistan, rather than a cause — and that Pakistan’s turmoil is unlikely to end before the U.S. winds down its campaign next door. Continue reading
When the head of the military warns the government to behave, you know what’s coming next. Particularly when the general appears to have Washington’s blessing Continue reading
This from my latest in the National:
If Condoleezza Rice had been looking for some in-flight movies pertinent to her mission in South Asia over the past few days, she ought to have considered Rambo III. Or Pinocchio. Or Frankenstein. Aladdin, even.
All four could help explain the background to the Mumbai massacre that has brought India and Pakistan to the brink of confrontation. Pinocchio and Frankenstein, after all, are cautionary tales about how those who fabricate creatures to do their bidding are often forced to reckon with the often vindictive impulses of their creations. Aladdin unleashes a genie who has his own agenda. And Rambo III, in which Sylvester Stallone’s action-hero joins up with the Afghan mujahideen to fight the Soviets (just like a certain Mr Bin Laden) should serve as a timely reminder that support for holy warriors waging jihad had been an article of faith in Ronald Reagan’s Washington.
Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, had served as the conduit for Washington to use the Afghan mujahideen and the Arab volunteers who joined them, to wage a proxy war on the Soviets. And from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 to the 9/11 attacks, the monster created by assembling an Islamist International for combat and training in Afghanistan turned on its erstwhile patron to deadly effect.
But after the US walked away when the Soviets limped out of Afghanistan, the Pakistanis used the proxy war model to pursue their own regional agenda.
Secretary of State Condi Rice, with the blessing of Barack Obama, has flown off to South Asia charged with the mission of preventing tensions between India and Pakistan from escalating in the wake of the Mumbai massacre. Both the current and the incoming U.S. Administrations consider that a matter of urgency in light of their shared Afghanistan outlook: Both are well aware that the key to stabilizing Afghanistan is not sending more Western troops (although both are committed to doing so anyway), but resolving the conflict between India and Pakistan, of which Afghanistan has lately emerged as a primary theater. And so, the U.S. is putting pressure on the Pakistani government to cooperate with India in investigating the Mumbai outrage that very probably originated on Pakistani soil. The problem is that the Pakistani government doesn’t control the Pakistani military, which doesn’t share the political leadership’s enthusiasm for the “war on terror” — or for making nice with India. Continue reading