“May you live in interesting times” – The timing to ponder this ancient Chinese proverb/curse could not be more perfect, given the world’s political events of the last decade, especially the recent drama surrounding the revelation by the web-based whistle-blower WikiLeaks, where a substantial number of classified documents attest to the U.S.’s failure in identifying Pakistan’s role and its untrustworthy behavior in an almost decade-long war on terror.
For those of us who are avid followers of news out of Afghanistan and the war on terror, nothing was revealed that wasn’t known by experts and the war correspondents covering Afghanistan. In contrast, WikiLeaks’ motive is obvious: to inflame antiwar sentiments at a time when opinion polls give President Obama’s war the support of fewer than half of the American people.
In Washington, DC, the US government under tutelage of a new leader cannot afford to continue to be a proponent of the same old narrative. While the American people are footing the bill to revive Pakistan’s dying economy and to resuscitate its private sector in a time when unemployment in America is at its highest level, and most Americans are still trying to recover from the nasty little recession that they have just been through, not to mention other competing domestic issues, the appreciation Americans receive from Pakistan is unequivocal.
As Arnaud De Borchgrave, Editor at Large of the Washington Times has highlighted in his recent article: “The most troubling part of the classified documents is the ambivalent aspect of Pakistani support for the war in Afghanistan, now backed by 44 nations under U.N, NATO and U.S flags. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) originally created the Taliban (student) movement” he further argued that “ISI has long been ambivalent about the Taliban it engineered. The feudal theocracy of Mullah Omar, next to which the Spanish Inquisition’s Tomas de Torquemada was benign, spawned another Taliban movement, this time turned against the Pakistan establishment. Its insurgents got to within 60 miles of Islamabad”.
Next month, we will mark the ninth anniversary of September 11th, after nine years of chasing the mastermind of these attacks with tremendous expense of blood and treasure, the United States finds itself in the same predicament as it did prior to and right after September 11th, a regime in South Asia willing to protect and harbor terrorists, the only difference this time around is that their capital has relocated from Kabul to Islamabad. As Matt Waldman of Harvard University fully exposes the complicity of Pakistan’s ISI with terrorist networks, he rightly states: “President Zardari himself has apparently assured captive, senior Taliban leaders that they are ‘our people’ and have his backing. He has also apparently authorized their release from prison. The ISI even arrested and then released two Taliban leaders, Qayyum Zakir, the movement’s new military commander, and Mullah Abdul Raouf Khadem, reportedly now head of the Quetta Shura, who are among the three or four highest ranking in the movement below Mullah Omar.”
For Pakistan, the chickens had come home to roost, the instability that they had planned for their ‘brotherly’ neighbor Afghanistan, now was manifested in suicide bombings throughout Pakistan and inevitably, Pakistan military had to struck a deal with Taliban in 2006, allowing the Taliban to travel quite easily in and out of Afghanistan, as though they were on Main Street Quetta, exacerbating the insurgency and in turn killing many Afghan civilians, Americans and Coalition soldiers.
Christopher Alexander, a former Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan, who has profound knowledge of Afghan affairs had articulated his views in Canada’s Globe and Mail: “There is, however, at least one genuine insight: dozens of reports tagging the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – the branch of Pakistan’s military charged with most aspects of its Afghan policy – as the main driver of the conflict. So long as cross-border interference goes unchecked, prospects for peace remain dim”. Alexander continued with his assessment that: “As the War Logs make clear, the principal drivers of violence are no longer, if they ever were, inside Afghanistan”.
Even Pakistan’s old mentor Britain expressed its deep concern through its newly minted Prime Minister, David Cameron: “But we cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country (Pakistan) is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror whether to India, whether to Afghanistan or to anywhere else in the world”.
While WikiLeakers have their own agenda to pursue, unmistakably, their 91000 documents had convinced us that, once again, Pakistan is a state-sponsor of terrorism and a major suspect in war on terror.
The failed attack that occurred on May 1, 2010, in Times Square reinforces the need for the US government to revise its policy toward Pakistan and to transcend its political discourse to work and to neutralize the imminent threats posed by terrorists waiting to strike, while simultaneously preventing the cancer of extremism from spreading and corrupting local communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The fortunate failure of the Times Square bomber and Wikileaks’ revelation present an opportunity for the American people to raise legitimate concerns about US policy toward Pakistan: did the US government really spend zillions of dollars overhauling its intelligence community so at the end of the day Pakistan’s ISI gets away with murder? Or does the Obama administration deal with Pakistan through the lens of political dinosaurs such as George Will?
As Christopher Alexander suggested: “Pakistan’s army’s interference in Afghanistan’s recovery violates a key provision of the UN Charter, on non-interference – and at its new scale, it represents a threat to international peace and security. It deserves serious discussion in multilateral forums, including the UN.”
For a decade long now, The United States has continually declared to be at war with Terrorism, if so, a war implies something with a strategy, a clear endpoint and an identifiable enemy. How does the Obama administration identify Pakistan? What is the definition of an Ally with the Obama administration?
I don’t suppose there will be an overnight U-turn in US policy toward Pakistan, but what the American people could do for the sake of their fallen sons and daughters at the hand of Pakistani agents, is to make their voices heard and their opinions count, by expressing their opposition and concern to Kerry-Lugar Pakistan-US enterprise fund, till Pakistan ISI comes clean and enters a period of rehabilitation to earn the trust of the American people and the International community. And the people of Pakistan, who undeservedly, are ISI’s hostage, must also express their independence and willingness to oppose policies that at the end of the day rob them of a promising future.
Wahid Monawar is former Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, Governor of Afghanistan to the IAEA, and the founder of the Neo-Conservative Party of Afghanistan. He is currently an associate of Zurich Partners.