Kabul feels the heat of 'working' with Pakistan

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by ajtr, Aug 24, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Kabul feels the heat of 'working' with Pakistan


    NEW DELHI: Afghanistan is feeling the cost of its much-hyped joined-at-the-hip relationship with Pakistan. After months of trying to "work" with Pakistan to get some kind of a reconciliation programme going in Afghanistan, the Afghan frustration has been expressed by no less than its national security adviser, Rangin Dadfar Spanta.

    In fact, as India prepares to receive Afghan foreign minister, Zalmay Rasoul, on Tuesday, the collective exasperation with Pakistan is now palpable. Spanta, in an sharply worded article in The Washington Post, said: "We cannot mobilize the Afghan people with uncertainty, confusion or appeasement of those who sponsor terrorism", a thinly-veiled reference to US-Nato's indulgence of Pakistan's terrorism antics.

    "Pakistan continues to provide sanctuary and support to the Quetta Shura, the Haqqani network, the Hekmatyar group and al-Qaeda. Yet the focus on this fundamental task has progressively eroded and has been compounded by another strategic failure: the mistaken embrace of "strategic partners" who have, in fact, been "nurturing terrorism."

    Since January, when Pakistan's ISI conned the CIA into arresting Taliban's no 2 leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, from Karachi; Karzai, who had been talking to Baradar for months, went to Islamabad, hat in hand, egged on by the US to strike a deal with Pakistani army chief Gen Kayani. As reported by the TOI at that time, despite Washington's exultation at having found a Taliban leader, which for them signified a change of heart by Pakistan, intelligence officials in India were aware that the arrest was intended to pre-empt direct talks where Pakistan had no role.

    On Monday, New York Times reported that ISI had duped the CIA on Baradar's arrest. In the ensuing months though, Pakistan has not stopped its support of the Afghan Taliban, while trying to make sure India doesn't get a piece of the action. To this end, Kayani has been reasonably successful. Karzai sacked his intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh at the direction of Kayani, though he refused to shut down India's consulates.

    India was kept out of the recent conference in Sochi, Russia, that was attended by Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Russia. Even though India put up a brave face about it, its clear that while the world tries to persuade Pakistan to stay away from the terrorists, they will agree to Pakistan's "no-India" condition.

    Iran will soon host another regional meeting on Afghanistan with Pakistan and Afghanistan, but without India. Turkey is expected to hold its next regional economic conference on Afghanistan in September. Turkey had kept India out of its January conference, but after India protested, it agreed to bring New Delhi into its "donor" conference. But in the run-up to the conference, India finds itself being kept out of preparatory meetings.

    Read more: Kabul feels the heat of 'working' with Pakistan - India - The Times of India Kabul feels the heat of 'working' with Pakistan - India - The Times of India
     
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  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Souter Takes The Call

    As the Great Game repeats itself, India must wake up to Karzai’s new moves
    The Taliban are massing at the gates of Kabul, much as the US-backed mujahideen once did in the late ’80s.
    The horror of being squeezed in an Indian nutcracker forces Pakistan to risk all to keep the Taliban in play.
    “In the ’80s when we were killing Russians for them, we were freedom fighters. Now we’re just warlords.”
    They promised full compensation, and so were allowed to burn the opium...but the money never came.

    WILLIAM DALRYMPLE

    In 1843, shortly after his return from Afghanistan, an army chaplain named Rev G.H. Gleig wrote a memoir of the disastrous First Anglo-Afghan War of which he was one of the very few survivors. It was, he wrote, “a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity, brought to a close after suffering and disaster, without much glory attached either to the government which directed, or the great body of troops which waged it. Not one benefit, political or military, was acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated”.

    It would be difficult to imagine any military adventure today going quite as badly as the First Anglo-Afghan War, an abortive experiment in Great Game colonialism that ended with an entire East India Company army utterly routed by poorly equipped tribesmen, at the cost of Rs 80 billion and over 40,000 lives. But this month, almost 10 years on from NATO’s invasion of Afghanistan, there were increasing signs that the current Afghan war, like so many before them, could still end in another embarrassing withdrawal after a humiliating defeat, with Afghanistan yet again left in tribal chaos, possibly partitioned and ruled by the same government which the war was originally fought to overthrow.

    Certainly it is becoming clearer than ever that the once-hated Taliban, far from being defeated by the surge, are instead beginning to converge on, and effectively besiege, Kabul in what is beginning to look like the final act in the history of Karzai’s western-installed puppet government. For the Taliban have now reorganised, and advanced out of their borderland safe havens. They are now massing at the gates of Kabul, surrounding the capital, much as the US-backed mujahideen once did to the Soviet-installed regime in the late ’80s. The Taliban controls over 70 per cent of the country, where it collects taxes, enforces the sharia and dispenses its usual rough justice. Every month their sphere of influence increases. According to a recent Pentagon report, Karzai’s government only controls 29 out of 121 key strategic districts.

    Last month marked a new low with the Taliban inflicting higher levels of casualties on both civilians and NATO forces than ever before and regaining control of the opium-growing centre of Marja in Helmand, only three months after being driven out by American forces amid much gung-ho cheerleading in the US media.Worse still, there are unsettling and persistent rumours that Karzai is trying to reach some sort of accommodation with elements in Pakistan that aid and assist the Taliban: the ISI head, Lt General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, has secretly been shuttling to and from Islamabad to meet Karzai, and last month, General Kayani, head of the Pakistani army, visited Kabul.
    This followed the sacking of Amrullah Saleh, Karzai’s very pro-Indian security chief. Saleh is a tough, burly and intimidating Tajik with a piercing, unblinking stare, who rose to prominence as a mujahideen protege of Ahmed Shah Masood, the legendary, India-backed Lion of the Panjshir. Saleh brought these impeccable credentials to his job after the American conquest, ruthlessly hunting down and interrogating any Taliban he could find, with little regard for notions of human rights.

    The Taliban, and their backers in the ISI, regarded him as their fiercest enemy, something he was enormously proud of. When I had dinner with him in Kabul in May, he spoke at length of his frustration with the Karzai government’s ineffectiveness in taking the fight to the Taliban, and the degree to which the ISI was still managing to aid, arm and train their pocket insurgents in Waziristan, Sindh and Balochistan.

    Saleh’s sacking in early June merited much less newsprint than last month’s sacking of General Stanley McChrystal. Yet in reality, McChrystal’s departure reflects only a minor personnel change, no important alteration in strategy. The sacking of Saleh, however, gave notice of a major and ominous change of direction by President Karzai.

    Bruce Riedel, Obama’s Afpak advisor, said when the news broke: “Karzai’s decision to sack Saleh and (Hanif) Atmar (head of the interior ministry) has worried me more than any other development, because it means Karzai is already planning for a post-American Afghanistan.”The implication is that Pakistan is encouraging some sort of accommodation between Karzai and the ISI-sponsored jehadi network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, which could give over much of the Pashtun south to Haqqani, but preserve Karzai in power in Kabul. The Americans have been party to none of this, and administration officials have been quoted as being alarmed by the news.

    India’s expulsion from Afghanistan, or at least a severe rolling back of its presence, can be presumed to be a demand on the ISI shopping list in return for a deal. Under Karzai, India had increasing political and economic influence in Afghanistan—it opened four regional consulates, and provided around $662 million of reconstruction assistance. Pakistan’s military establishment has always believed it would be suicide to accept an Indian presence in what they regard as their strategic backyard, and is completely paranoid about the still small Indian presence—rather as the British used to be about Russians in Afghanistan during the days of the Great Game.

    MEA sources say there are less than 3,600 Indians in Afghanistan, almost all of them businessmen and contract workers; there are only 10 Indian diplomatic officers as opposed to nearly 150 in the UK embassy. Yet the horror of being squeezed in an Indian nutcracker has led the ISI to risk Pakistan’s own internal security and coherence, as well as its strategic relationship with the US, in order to keep the Taliban in play, and its leadership under watch and ISI patronage in Quetta, something the Wikileaks documents amply confirmed.
    If it is true that Karzai is tilting away from NATO and India, and towards Pakistan, it would represent a strategic victory for the Pakistani military, and a diplomatic defeat for India—though the ISI will have to first deliver the Taliban, who still say they are unwilling to negotiate with Karzai. It also remains to be seen whether Pakistan can be defended from the jehadi Frankenstein’s monster its military has created: the recent bomb blasts in Lahore at the shrine of Datta Sahib would seem further evidence to indicate not. The other question is whether India can succeed in its reported attempts to resuscitate the Northern Alliance as a contingency against the Taliban’s takeover of the south, possibly in conjunction with Russia, Iran and the Central Asian ‘stans’.
    Either way, within Afghanistan, it’s a grim picture. Already, it’s now impossible—or at least extremely foolhardy—for any foreigner to walk even in Kabul without armed guards; it is even more inadvisable to head out of town in any direction except north: the strongly anti-Taliban Panjshir Valley, and the towns of Mazar and Herat, are really the only safe havens left for non-Afghans in the entire country, despite the massive troops levels all over. In all other directions, travel is only possible in an armed convoy. This is especially so around the Khoord Kabul and Tezeen Passes, immediately to the south of Kabul, where around 18,000 East India Company troops, many of them Indian sepoys, were lost in 1842, and which is today again a centre of resistance against foreign troops.

    ***

    The trajectory of the current war is in fact beginning to feel unsettlingly familiar to students of the Great Game. In 1839, the British invaded Afghanistan on the basis of sexed-up intelligence about a non-existent threat: information about a single Russian envoy to Kabul was manipulated by a group of ambitious, ideologically-driven hawks to create a scare—in this case, about a phantom Russian invasion—thus bringing about an unnecessary, expensive and entirely avoidable war.

    Initially, the hawks were triumphant: the British conquest proved remarkably easy and bloodless. Kabul was captured in a few weeks, the Afghan army melted into the hills, and a pliable monarch, Shah Shuja, was placed on the throne. For months the British played cricket, went skating and put on amateur theatricals as if on summer leave in Simla; there were even discussions about making Kabul the summer capital of the Raj. Then an insurgency began which slowly unravelled that first heady success, first among the Pashtuns of Kandahar and Helmand, and slowly moving northwards until it reached Kabul, making the occupation impossible to sustain.

    What happened next is a warning of how bad things could yet become: a full-scale rebellion broke out in Kabul; the two most senior British envoys were killed, one hacked to death by a mob in the streets, the other stabbed by resistance leader Wazir Akbar Khan during negotiations. It was on the retreat that followed, on January 6, 1842, that the 18,000 East India Company troops, and maybe half that many Indian camp followers, were slaughtered by marksmen waiting in ambush amid the scree of the high passes, shot down as they trudged through the icy depths of the Afghan winter. After eight days on the death march, the last 50 survivors made their final stand at the village of Gandamak. As late as the 1970s, fragments of Victorian weaponry and military equipment could be found lying in the screes above the village. Even today, the hill is said to be covered with bleached bones.
    Only one man lived to tell the tale of that last stand (if you discount the fictional survival of Flashman): an ordinary footsoldier, Thomas Souter, wrapped his regimental colours around him to prevent them being captured, and was taken hostage by the Afghans who assumed that an individual so colourfully clothed must command a high ransom. It is a measure of the increasingly pertinent parallels between that war and today’s that one of the main NATO bases in Afghanistan was recently named Camp Souter.

    In the years following 1842, the British defeat became pregnant with symbolism. For the Victorian British, it was the greatest imperial disaster of the 19th century. For the Afghans, it became an emblem of freedom from foreign invasion, and the determination the Afghans have never lost to refuse to be controlled by any foreign power. It is again no accident that the diplomatic quarter of Kabul, the Afghan Chanakyapuri, is named after the general who oversaw the rout of the British: Wazir Akbar Khan.

    For Indians, who provided most of the cannon-fodder, the war ironically became a symbol of possibility: although many Indians died on the march, it showed the British were not invincible, and a well-planned insurgency could force them out; a few years later, in 1857, India launched its own anti-colonial uprising, partly inspired by what the Afghans had achieved.

    This destabilising effect on South Asia of the failed Afghan war has a direct parallel in the disastrous blowback from the war we currently see in Pakistan’s tribal territories. Indeed, the ripples of instability lapping out from Afghanistan and Pakistan have now reached even New York: when Faisal Shazad was asked by cia interrogators why he tried to bomb New York, he told them of his desire to revenge those “innocent people being hit by drones from above”.

    ***

    Last month, while researching my new book on the disaster of 1842, I only narrowly avoided the same fate as my Victorian forbears. The route of the British retreat backs onto the mountain range that leads to Tora Bora and the Pakistan border, an area that has always been a Taliban centre. I’d been advised not to venture there without local protection, so had set off that morning in the company of a tribal leader who was also a minister in Karzai’s government: a huge mountain of a man named Anwar Khan Jigdalik, a former village wrestling champion who had made his name as a Hizb-i-Islami commander in the jehad against the Soviets.

    It was Jigdalik’s ancestors who inflicted some of the worst casualties on the British army of 1842, something he proudly repeated several times as we drove through the same passes. None of this, incidentally, has stopped him from sending his family away to the greater safety of Northolt. Jigdalik drove himself in a huge suv; a pick-up full of heavily armed bodyguards followed. We left Kabul—past the blast walls of the NATO barracks, built on the very site of the British cantonment of 170 years ago—and headed down a corkscrewing road into the line of bleak mountain passes that link Kabul with the Khyber Pass.

    It’s a dramatic, violent landscape: faultlines of tortured strata twisted in the gunpowder-coloured rockwalls rising on either side. Above us, the dragon’s backs of jagged mountain tops were veiled in an ominous mist. As we drove, Jigdalik complained bitterly of the western treatment of his government: “In the ’80s, when we were killing Russians for them, the Americans called us freedom fighters,” he muttered as we descended the first pass. “Now they just dismiss us as warlords.”
    At Sorobi, where the mountains debouche into a high-altitude ochre desert dotted with encampments of nomads, we left the main road and headed into Taliban territory; a further five trucks full of Jigdalik’s old mujahideen fighters, faces wrapped in keffiyehs and all brandishing rocket-propelled grenades, appeared from a side road to escort us.

    At Jigdalik, on January 12, 1842, some 200 frostbitten Company soldiers found themselves surrounded by several thousand Pashtun tribesmen. The two highest-ranking British soldiers went off to negotiate and were taken hostage, while a companion, James Skinner, son of Sikandar Sahib, was murdered. Only 50 infantrymen could break out, under cover of darkness.

    Our own welcome was, thankfully, somewhat warmer. It was my host’s first visit home since he became a minister, and the proud villagers took their old commander on a nostalgia trip through low hills smelling of wild thyme and rosemary, and up through mountainsides of hollyhocks and white poplars. Here, at the top, lay the remains of Jigdalik’s old mujahideen bunkers and entrenchments. Later, the villagers feasted us, Mughal style, in an apricot orchard: we sat on carpets under a trellis of vine and pomegranate blossom, as course after course of kebabs and mulberry pulao were laid in front of us.

    During lunch, as my hosts pointed out the various places in the village where the British had been massacred in 1842, I asked them if they saw any parallels with the current situation: “It is exactly the same,” said Jigdalik. “Both times the foreigners have come for their own interests, not for ours. They pretend to be our friends. They say, ‘We are your friends, we want democracy, we want to help.’ But they are lying.”

    “Since the British went, we’ve had the Russians,” said Mohammad Khan, our host in the village and the orchard owner. “We saw them off too, but not before they bombed many of our houses.” He pointed at a ridge full of ruined houses on the hills behind us. “Afghanistan is like the crossroads for every nation that comes to power,” said Jigdalik. “We do not have the strength to control our own destiny—our fate is determined by our neighbours.”

    “Next it will be China. This is the last days of the Americans.”

    “Each state in America is the same size as Afghanistan,” said Jigdalik, nodding in agreement with his villagers. “If they’d wanted to help us, they could have. But we’re still in a miserable state. All the money that came in: none of it was given to Afghans—just to their own contractors, or wasted in corruption. What has been done with all the millions sent here? Can you see any improvements? Now the moment has passed, their power is slipping.”

    “So you think the Taliban will come back?”

    “The Taliban?” said Mohammad Khan. “They are here already. At least after dark. Just over that pass,” he pointed in the direction of Gandamak and Tora Bora. “That is where they are strongest.”

    It was nearly 5 pm before the final flaps of naan were cleared away, too late to head on to the site of the British last stand at Gandamak. Instead, we went to Jalalabad, where we discovered we’d had a narrow escape: the feast had saved us from walking straight into an ambush. It turned out there had been a huge battle that day between government forces and villagers supported by the Taliban at Gandamak, on exactly the site of the British last stand. In Afghanistan, imperial history seems to be repeating itself with uncanny precision.

    The next morning in Jalalabad we went to a jirga, to which the grey beards of Gandamak had come, under a flag of truce, to discuss what had happened the day before. The story was typical of many I heard, and revealed how a mixture of corruption, incompetence and insensitivity had helped give an opening for the return of the once-hated Taliban.

    As Predator drones took off and landed incessantly at the nearby airfield, the elders related how the previous year government troops had turned up to destroy the opium harvest. They promised full compensation and were allowed to burn the crops; but the money never turned up. Before planting season, the villagers again went to Jalalabad and asked for assistance to grow other crops. Promises were made; nothing was delivered. They planted poppy, informing the authorities that if they again tried to burn the crop, the village would have no option but to resist. When the troops turned up, about the same time as we were arriving at Jigdalik, the villagers were waiting for them, and had called in the local Taliban to assist. Nine policemen were killed, six vehicles destroyed and 10 hostages taken.

    After the jirga, one of the tribal elders came over and we chatted for a while over a glass of green tea. “Last month,” he said, “some American officers called us to a hotel in Jalalabad for a meeting. One of them asked me, ‘Why do you hate us?’ I replied, ‘Because you blow down our doors, enter our houses, pull our women by the hair and kick our children. We cannot accept this. We will fight back, we will break your teeth, and when your teeth are broken you will leave, just as the British left before you. It is just a matter of time.’”

    “What did he say to that?”

    “He turned to his friend and said, “If the old men are like this, what will the younger ones be like?” In truth, all the Americans here know their game is over. It is just their politicians who deny this.”
     
  4. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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  5. hungo

    hungo Regular Member

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    NATO will agree to a withdrawal as long as the world sees some smiling Afghans waving them away from their country.However the US know they don't need another american hating nation in the neighborhood. I feel their moves towards re-integration of the Taliban is to buy time cause they think if they get the average afghan empowered enough they'd resist radicals like the Taliban and their 13th century outlook on life.

    To be frank i'd be more happy if Mr.Saleh was in Karzai's place.
     
  6. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    Afghanistan should be our priority. It is crucial for India in long run.

    We should invest more there and increase our clout. Average afghani does not like pakistan because of its tactics.
     
  7. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Quite a good write up by William Dalrymple....

    The military and the mullahs

    William Dalrymple
    Published 23 August 2010


    The Pakistani state has a long history of nurturing jihadis as a means of dominating Afghanistan and undermining India. It is proving a fatal alliance.

    It may have been a nightmarish year for Pakistan but it has been a pretty good one for the country's inscrutable chief of army staff, the most powerful man in the Land of the Pure, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

    For a start, the army's response to the floods has compared well to the usual corrupt incompetence of Pakistan's civilian politicians, guided by their chateau-hopping president, Asif Ali Zardari (while minister for investment, he was nicknamed "Mr 10 Per Cent"; he has now been upgraded to "Mr 110 Per Cent"). This has led to discussion in army circles about whether it is time to drop the civilian fig leaf and return the country to the loving embrace of its military. So serious is this threat, that one of the country's most senior and well-connected journalists, Najam Sethi, editor-in-chief of the Friday Times, went on the record this month to warn that elements in the army were plotting yet another coup. "I know this is definitely being discussed," he said.

    Then there was the news that Kayani was going to be allowed to keep his job for a second term: "an extraordinary situation requires an extraordinary decision to overcome it", explained a brigadier, writing in the Nation newspaper. Kayani, a former head of Pakistan's notorious intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), can now continue to run the army, and by default Pakistan's foreign policy, until November 2013.

    But Kayani's biggest triumph this year, arguably the greatest of his career, was his visit to Kabul in July as the honoured guest of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. The visit marked an important thawing in Pak-Afghan relations, which have been glacial ever since Karzai came to power in 2001. It also coincided with the sacking of Amrullah Saleh, Karzai's pro-Indian and rabidly anti-ISI former security chief. Saleh is a tough Tajik who rose to prominence as a mujahedin protégé of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Indian-backed "Lion of Panjshir". The Taliban, and their sponsors in the ISI, had regarded Saleh as their fiercest opponent, something Saleh was enormously proud of.

    When I had dinner with him in Kabul in May, he spoke at length of his frustration with the ineffectiveness of Karzai's government in taking the fight to the Taliban, and the extent to which the ISI was managing to aid, arm and train its puppet insurgents in North Waziristan and Balochistan. Saleh's sacking gave notice of an important change of direction by Karzai. As Bruce Riedel, Barack Obama's Af-Pak adviser, said when the news broke, "it means that Karzai is already planning for a post-American Afghanistan".

    It seems that Kayani and Karzai are discussing some sort of accommodation between the Afghan government and ISI-sponsored elements in the Taliban, maybe those of Sirajuddin Haqqani, which could give over much of the Pashtun south to pro-Pakistan Taliban, but preserve Karzai in power in Kabul after the US withdrawal. The expulsion of India, Pakistan's great regional rival, from Afghanistan, or at least the closing of its four regional consulates, would be a top priority for the ISI in return for any deal that kept Karzai in power.

    With the US toppling of the Taliban after the 11 September 2001 attacks, Pakistan's influence disappeared abruptly from Afghanistan and
    India quickly filled the vacuum. To the ISI's horror, in the early years of this decade, India provided reconstruction assistance and training worth roughly £835m in total. It also built roads, sanitation projects, the new Afghan parliament and free medical facilities across the country. It even offered to help train the Afghan army. Nato refused. As General Stanley McChrystal put it in a report last year, "while Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures".

    McChrystal was right. The Pakistanis have always been paranoid about the small Indian presence in Afghanistan. "We have strong evidence [that India is] using Afghanistan against Pakistan's interests to destabilise Pakistan," a foreign ministry spokesman claimed in March. Pakistan's military establishment, terrified of the economic superpower emerging to the south, believes it would be suicide to accept an Indian presence in what it regards as its Afghan backyard - a potential point of retreat for the army in the event of an Indian invasion, something Pakistani analysts refer to as vital "strategic depth".

    According to Indian diplomatic sources, there are still fewer than 3,600 Indians in Afghan istan; there are only ten Indian diplomatic officers, as opposed to nearly 150 in the UK embassy. Yet the horror of being encircled has led the ISI to risk Pakistan's relationship with its main strategic ally, the US, in order to keep the Taliban in play and its leadership under ISI patronage in Quetta - a policy Kayani developed while head of the ISI. Karzai's new deal with the Pakistanis, and his clear intention to try to reach some accommodation with their proxies among the Taliban, therefore represents a major strategic victory for Kayani and Pakistan's military, as well as a grave diplomatic defeat for India.

    Pakistan's support for the Taliban today is only the most recent chapter of an old story of complicity between jihadi movements and the Pakistani state. Since the days of the anti-Soviet mujahedin, Pakistan's army saw violent Islamic groups as an ingenious and cost-effective means of both dominating Afghanistan (which they finally achieved with the retreat of the Soviets in 1987) and bogging down the Hindu-dominated Indian army in Kashmir (which they managed with great effect from 1990 onwards).

    The former ISI director and **** Dastardly lookalike Hamid Gul, who was largely responsible for developing the strategy, once said to me: "If the jihadis go out and contain India, tying down one million men of their army on their own soil, for a legitimate cause, why should we not support them?" Next to Gul in his Islamabad living room lay a piece of the Berlin Wall presented to him by the city's people for "delivering the first blow" to the Soviet empire through his use of jihadis in the 1980s. The WikiLeaks documents suggest he is still busy liaising with jihadis in his "retirement".

    The Pakistani military top brass were long convinced that they could control the militants they have nurtured. In a taped conversation between President Pervez Musharraf and Muhammad Aziz Khan, his chief of general staff, that India released in 1999, Aziz said the army had the jihadis by their "tooti" (balls). Yet the Islamists have increasingly followed their own agendas, sending suicide bombers out against not just Pakistan's religious minorities and political leaders, but even the ISI headquarters. Nonetheless, many in the army still believe the jihadis are a more practical defence against Indian hegemony than nuclear weapons. For them, supporting Islamist groups is not an ideological or religious whim, so much as a practical and patriotic imperative - a vital survival strategy for a Pakistani state.

    The army and ISI continued this duplicitous and risky policy after 11 September 2001 despite Musharraf's public promises to the contrary. The speed with which the US lost interest in Afghanistan after its invasion and embarked on plans to invade Iraq convinced the Pakistani army that the Washington had no long-term commitment to Karzai's regime. This led to the generals keeping the Taliban in reserve, to be used to reinstal a pro-Pakistani regime in Kabul once the American gaze had turned elsewhere.

    So it was that the ISI gave refuge to the leadership of the Taliban after it fled from Afghan istan in 2001. Mullah Mohammed Omar was kept in an ISI safehouse in Quetta; his militia was lodged in the sprawling suburb of Pashtunabad. There, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar presided over the Taliban military committee and war chest. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hizb-e-Islami, was lured back from exile in Iran and allowed to operate freely outside Peshawar, while Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of the most violent Taliban commanders, was given sanctuary in North Waziri stan. Other groups were despatched to safehouses in Balochistan.

    By 2004, the US had filmed Pakistani army trucks delivering Taliban fighters at the Afghan border and recovering them a few days later; wireless monitoring at the US base at Bagram picked up Taliban commanders arranging with Pakistani army officers at the border for safe passage as they came in and out of Afghanistan. Western intelligence agencies concluded that the ISI was running a full training programme for the Afghan Taliban, turning a blind eye as they raised funds in the Gulf and allowing them to import materiel, mainly via Dubai. By 2005 the Taliban, with covert Pakistani support, were launching a full-scale assault on Nato troops in Afghanistan and being given covering fire as they returned to their bases in Pakistan.

    At the same time, Taliban attacks on Indian interests in Afghanistan intensified, beginning the process of turning the Afghan conflict, like that in Kashmir, into what it is today: an Indo-Pak proxy war. The Indian embassy in Kabul was twice bombed - in July 2008 and October 2009 - as were two city-centre hotels thought to have been used by the Research and Analysis Wing (Raw), the Indian intelligence agency. Seven Indian civilians and two Indian military officers died in the blasts.

    The degree to which the ISI has been controlling the Afghan Taliban has only just become clear, and not just in the documents published by WikiLeaks. A report by Matt Wald man of the Carr Centre for Human Rights at Harvard, based on interviews with ten former senior Taliban commanders, closely documents how the ISI "orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences" the Taliban and shows how the ISI is even represented on the Taliban's supreme leadership council, the Quetta Shura.

    Meanwhile, in the Punjab, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of Lashkar-e-Toiba, and the man believed to have been behind the 2008 Bombay attacks, has been allowed to continue operating from Muridke, near Lahore. "The powerful western world is terrorising Muslims," he told a conference in Islamabad this year. "We are being invaded, manipulated and looted. We must fight the evil trio of America, Israel and India. Suicide missions are in accordance with Islam. In fact, a suicide attack is the best form of jihad."

    At the same time as pursuing its policy of selectively using jihadis, Pakistan has appeased the US by giving generous assistance to the CIA in arresting foreign Arab al-Qaeda personnel. A major assault was also launched against both the militants who took over the Lal Masjid and the ultra-radical Pakistan Taliban who took over the Swat Valley and announced their intention of turning the country into an Islamic Emirate. In the course of these operations and others in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, more than 1,500 Pakistani soldiers and policemen were killed; another 250,000 people were made homeless in the Pak army assault on Bajaur. The ISI has even been prepared to arrest any members of the Afghan Taliban who didn't follow orders. Hence the seizure in Karachi, in February, of the Taliban second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, along with about a dozen other senior Taliban whom the ISI regarded as infringing on their hospitality by opening talks with the Karzai administration via the Saudis, without ISI clearance.

    Yet, even though the Pakistani army has conducted major offensives in six of the tribal areas, the seventh, North Waziristan, has been left alone, as it is home to the ISI's favourite proxies: Haqqani and Hekmatyar. Similarly, Pakistan's foot-dragging response to the 2008 attacks on Bombay, and the lack of response to the attacks on minority faith groups in Pakistan over the past few months, show that the Janus-faced policy remains in place. This summer, the chief minister of the Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, was quoted heatedly denying that there were any militant groups working in the Pakistani Punjab, or that the Punjabi Taliban even existed. There are still, in the eyes of many in the Pakistani establishment, good Taliban and bad Taliban, useful militants and expendable ones.

    In their eyes, the ongoing defeat of Nato in Afghanistan, with US and British troops suffering record casualties last month, is a vindication of its long-term strategy. Islamabad has succeeded in regaining influence in Afghanistan and Delhi has been checked. But India will not take this lying down. Already the Indian press has reported attempts to resuscitate the Northern Alliance as a contingency against the Taliban's takeover of the south, and here India is working in conjuction with Russia, Iran and the central Asian "stans". The Indian national security adviser, Shivshankar Menon, was despatched to Afghanistan in March, and the foreign minister, S M Krishna, has visited Tehran. Post-American Afghanistan is looking increasingly likely to be divided between the Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara north and the Pashtun south, either formally, with a partition, or more likely, to slip into inter-ethnic civil war, with India supporting and arming the north and Pakistan the south.

    As diplomacy gathers pace, the Afghan Tali ban, who already control over 70 per cent of the country, continue to increase their power. The most worrying development has been the spread of Taliban units to the previously peaceful north, where they have taken over pockets of Pathan settlement around Kunduz and Badakhshan. The death of the British aid worker Karen Woo on 5 August was a direct result.

    In Pakistan, too, jihadi activity is growing. Last year there were 87 suicide attacks across the country, killing roughly 3,000 people and the ISI this week stated that, for the first time in the nation's history, it regarded home-grown Islamic militants to be a bigger threat to the integrity of the nation than India. Yet the army continues to obsess about India. In a recent speech, Kayani emphasised that although the army knows the dangers of militancy, it was against Indian attacks that he was principally focused. At a time when Pakistan's economy is in crisis, electricity supply increasingly erratic and the educational system in complete breakdown, Kayani has secured a huge increase in the country's defence budget.

    It is not a pretty picture: growing violence everywhere, increasing Indo-Pak tensions and a defeat for western interests in the region. Worst of all, because the Pakistani army regards this as a major triumph, it is unlikely to change its policy any time soon.

    William Dalrymple's "Nine Lives: in Search of the Sacred in Modern India" won the first Asia House Literary Award in May and is newly published in paperback (Bloomsbury, £8.99)
     

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