In an identity of opinion more typical of North Korea than of the US, “expert” opinion in the Beltway has been near-unanimous that the best (if not the only) way of tackling the Taliban-Al Qaeda (TAQ) menace is to outsource its solution to the Pakistan army. From 1980, when the (far more numerous and reliable) Pashtun nationalists were ignored in favor of arming and training religious extremists to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, to the 2001 permission given to the Pakistan army to remove hundreds of Taliban-Al Qaeda commanders at Kunduz, the empirical evidence makes clear that the Pakistan army is at the core of not the solution but the problem of Wahabbi terror. However, “experts” continue to regale both policymakers as well as the public with fairy tales, such as that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) A P Kayani is a moderate. In fact, he comes from a Wahabbi background that is so hardline that the dress and behavior codes in the Kayani extended family are such as would win the approval of that icon of religious freedom, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Not merely was this disregarded, but Kayani was backed in his quest for an extension by the US, in the process completely neutering the civilian establishment in Pakistan.
In Afghanistan, NATO quickly abandoned the Northern Alliance, returning to the clasp of the Pakistan army, which guided the alliance in decisions as to which warlord to fund and which to go after. The problem was that the ISI made sure that the warlords showered with NATO largesse were TAQ supporters, while those targeted were usually Pashtuns who were opposed to the overlordship of the (Punjabi-dominated) Pakistan army. That the Taliban were enabled to recuperate and regroup from 2005 onwards is due in large part to the money that elements within them received from the U.S. taxpayer. As yet there has not been (at least in public) a post-mortem of the errors made by NATO in Afghanistan as a consequence of relying upon the ISI.
Should it take place, the careers of a small army of analysts, diplomats and policymakers in the U.S. would be at risk.
Smell the coffee, General Petraeus. Take a long, objective look at the experience of the U.S. in Afghanistan, beginning with the 1980s and going on to May 2, 2011. Check on the actual progress made, and compare this to what could have happened, had the Pakistan army genuinely cooperated with the U.S. in fighting the Taliban-Al Qaeda. In the 1980s, if the Soviet leadership had even a smidgen of cohones in their makeup, they would have lobbed a few bombs into those areas of Pakistan where religious extremists were being trained to go after them, thereby shutting off the tap. In the past, the U.S. used Pakistan to weaken the USSR. These days, a rising power – China – is backing the Pakistan army in ensuring that NATO continues to flounder in Afghanistan. Only a focus on Pakistan can cure Afghanistan of the extremist virus that is spreading throughout the land.
And this not merely by drone strikes, although these need to be multiplied. Some of the officers of the Pakistan army (both serving and retired) are far more deserving of international sanctions and prosecution than many now adorning such lists. Those within the Pakistan establishment who back the Archipelago of Terror across the globe need to be treated as what they are, enemies rather than partners.