Thursday, November 6, 2008
TALIBAN & ISI : A PERSPECTIVE
FLAG OF TALIBAN
Taliban is connected to the ISI by an umbilical cord. This is true figuratively as well as literally.
Munir Akram (known more for bashing his Romanian girlfriend in NYC apartment than his tenure at UN) has written an op-ed in WSJ: A New Plan for Afghanistan. It has been stock Pakistan line: ELIMINATE AL QAEDA, INDUCT GOOD TALIBAN.
There is no difference between Al Qaeda and Taliban at TACTICAL LEVEL. Look at the GOOD TALIBAN and its relationship with AL QAEDA
a) Jalaluddin Haqqani is a Taliban leader close to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and controls the Khost region of eastern Afghanistan
b) Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is leading the insurgency in northern and eastern parts of Afghanistan while Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden operate in south and west (TACTICAL).
c) Mullah Omar has taken bin Laden’s eldest daughter as his wife and Bin Laden has taken one of Mullah Omar’s daughers as his fourth wife. (EM"BEDDED")
There is no difference between GOOD TALIBAN and BAD TALIBAN - other than the simple fact - the former so called Good Taliban are firmly under the control of ISI.
What is far more dangerous is the relationship with ISI & Al Qaeda. How the then ISI Chief funded the 9/11 operations, and why was he removed post 9/11 ? That is for another post.
CIA is of course aware of this. How OBAMA, born a Muslim, deals with this information and handles Pakistan, Afghanistan and India is the question. He is muddling in troubled waters by propping up Clinton for "Kashmir".
Durand Line, Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and its resultant Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and to a lesser degree Kashmir were the main reason the Taliban came about –which was aided and abetted by Pakistan military through ISI as a strategic foreign policy weapon to be used as per its (ISI’s) whims – mostly for plausible deniability. As it always happens, some of the Taliban commanders remained under the control of ISI (deemed the good Taliban by Pakistan) while others broke away from the shackles of ISI (deemed the bad Taliban by Pakistan).
Durand Line: The Durand Line was drawn as part of an agreement signed on 12th November 1893 between the then ruler of Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman Shah and Sir Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of the colonial government of India. (Essentially to stop the marauding tribes to enter British India).The line, which was delineated in 1894-95, marked the boundary between Afghanistan and the British Indian empire. It was drawn up on the Hong Kong model, and after 100 years, the Agreement will have lapsed. Hong Kong reverted to mainland China after 100 years. However, Afghan areas that fell on the wrong side of border in Pakistan failed to revert back to Afghanistan in 1996 – when the Durand agreement and line completed a century and was considered lapsed. Consequently, Pakistan’s de jure western borders ceased to exist. Quetta and Peshawar belong to AFGHANISTAN.
HOWEVER THERE SEEMS TO BE SOME DEBATE ON THE FACT THAT DURAND LINE AGREEMENT HAD A 100 YEAR VALIDITY. Dr. BARNETT RUBIN, FOREMOST AUTHORITY ON AFGHANISTAN, HAS TOLD ME: "THERE IS NOT TIME LIMIT IN THE DURAND AGREEMENT. THIS IS A MYTH." WHATEVER BE THE TRUTH, THE FACT REMAINS DURAND LINE REMAINS AN IMPORTANT ISSUE FOR BOTH PAKISTAN & AFGHANISTAN.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE IS PRODUCED THE FULL TEXT OF THE DURAND LINE - FOR THOSE WHO HAVE PATIENCE.
Pakistan’s military strategists have always felt that it needed the “strategic depth” that Afghanistan affords and Kashmir for its “waters”. Interesting to note that Pakistan has no acceptable borders either with Afghanistan or with India.
Hence, every government in Islamabad, whether military or civilian, has desperately tried to reach a bilateral agreement with successive regimes in Kabul to convert the Durand Line into an international border, but without success.
What is strategic depth? Simply put, this doctrine first articulated by army chief Gen Mirza Alam Beg – calls for a dispersal of Pakistan’s military assets in Afghanistan beyond the Durand Line and well beyond the offensive capabilities of the Indian military – which would afford protection to Pakistan’s military hardware.
Pakistan’s military had three main objectives: 1) Obfuscate Durand Line, 2) Keep pliant & Pakistan friendly government at Kabul and 3) asymmetric warfare against India in Kashmir. All 3 objectives gave birth to the Taliban movement under the patronage of ISI. Afghan refugees, poor and desperate, were enrolled in religious madrassas in Pakistan which gave them shelter and free food. These Sunni Deobandi madrassas were funded by Saudi Arabia, USA and Pakistan. Here these Afghan refugees rote learnt the Quran in a language they did not understand – Arabic. The teachers (clerics, aligned to ISI) gave their hardline twisted logic and indoctrinated these students for jihad. These students, bereft of own thinking, formed the core of the Taliban movement. Much like puppets on a string. ISI playing the strings. Unfortunately Mehsud and others decided to turn into "string free" Pinocchios.
These Talibs (the madrassah students), gave up their studies to fight the warlordism that emerged in Afghanistan in the early 1990s. With their uncompromising fundamentalist religious beliefs and promises of ending anarchy, they came to power in 1996. They were and remain fiercely loyal to their leader: Mullah Omar.
Stratfor, the premier intelligence reporting organization quotes: “The war against the Soviets was the culmination of the ISI’s attempts to defeat ethno-nationalism among the Pushtuns living on both sides of the Durand Line by supporting Islamism as a rival ideology. Thus, the ISI defeated left-wing secular Pashtun nationalism but in the process helped the rise of militant Islamism, which combined with the conservative tribal Pashtun culture, emerged as a much more formidable challenge.
As the Soviet army was pulling out of Afghanistan, al Qaeda’s roots were being planted by the Arab fighters who had participated in the war against the Soviets. Osama Bin Laden and his legion of fighters had developed a close relationship with the ISI during the years when the ISI, CIA and GIP (Saudi Intelligence) were focussed on sustaining a proxy force that could counter the Soviets. But the ISI was more interested in the Afghan groups – specifically the Hizb-i-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – because it wanted to see the pro-Soviet Mohammad Najibullah regime ousted and replaced with with an Islamabad- friendly government, which would provide Pakistan with “strategic depth” vis-à-vis India.
The hopes of ISI (at this time led by its overtly pro-jihadist chief Hamid Gul) to install a pro-Pakistani government in Kabul were dashed by the intra-Islamist civil war that broke out after the fall of the PDPA government. However, an indigenous rising had been taking shape in Indian-administered Kashmir since 1989, and the ISI used the resources it had developed during the Afghan war to begin aiding these groups and cultivating Kashmir-specific Islamist militant groups.
Meanwhile, the ISI and the Pakistani army had been working to send Islamist militants into Indian Kashmir, a process that led to the short Kargil war in the summer of 1999 – the same year in which army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key figure in Pakistan’s Kashmiri Islamist militant project, came to power in an October coup.
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, were a watershed in terms of forcing a behavioural change in the Pakistani state. The Musharraf government went from being an open supporter of the Taliban to (reluctantly) joining the United States in its war against al Qaeda and its host Taliban government. This is where the Pakistani state – especially the ISI – began losing control over the militants it had cultivated for more than a generation.
The next major blow to the ISI’s control over the Jihadists came when Musharraf – again under pressure from the United States – sent troops in the tribal belt, particularly the Waziristan region in the spring of 2004. This move created problems for Pakistan’s effort to maintain influence over Taliban, who had begun surging in Afghanistan.
Pakistan inked at least three separate ill-fated peace agreements with the militants. Meanwhile, the United States had intensified its covert operations in FATAin the hunt for al Qaeda and Taliban militants, especially in the form of Predator drones. One such strike against a madrassah killed 82 people, mostly young seminary students.
This proved to be the trigger point for a jihadist insurgency, led by top Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, that struck against dozens of mostly army, police and intelligence personnel and facilities. Suicide bombers’ ability to strike with impunity against highly sensitive installations underscored the degree to which the ISI had lost control.
Even though Pakistan started out as a reluctant ally of Washington in the US – jihadist war, Pakistan is now locked in its own existential struggle against religious extremism and terrorism, a struggle which simply cannot be won without an intelligence free of jihadist links.
Should things get out of hand, it is not beyond the pale that Washington could officially designate the ISI as a terrorism-supporting entity”
Pakistan has deliberately armed the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Regions) region, aligning itself with the tribal elders there. This to ensure that in the formidable inhospitable terrain, it will be near impossible for any hostile party from Afghanistan across the Durand line, to come into Pakistan.
The 100 or so groups that roam the tribal areas and are called “Taliban” and which have been loosely labelled as Good and Bad can be further bi-furcated into 4 groups (by Pakistan):
1. Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbadin Hekmatyar. These are all Afghans and none of them have ever declared war against Pakistan
2. The local “good Taliban” who were Pakistanis and had sympathies with Afghan Taliban but were not against the State of Pakistan and never wanted to fight the Pakistan army or the State. Peace deals were signed with Nek Muhemmed (killed in US airstrike) in south Waziristan, Mullah Nazir in south Waziristan and Haji Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan.
3. The “Bad Taliban”who were only fighting the State of Pakistan and not the U.S. inside Afghanistan. Baitullah Mehsud, Mullah Fadlullah and Lal Masjid brigade fell in this category.
4. Fourth category of militants were local brigands, gangsters, criminals and highway men who were exploiting the local environment and made their own gangs in the name of Taliban but were neither fighting the Americans nor wished to face Pakistan army. They just harassed local population and fought sectarian wars within. Mangal Bagh near Peshawar is one such case to be noted.
Groups 1 & 2 are ISI assets – hence considered “good” by Pakistan.
Group 3 – not controlled by ISI – hence deemed “bad”
PAKISTAN’S GOOD TALIBAN:
JALALUDDIN HAQQANI (JH): JH is a Taliban leader close to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and controls the Khost region of eastern Afghanistan. Though not a Talib (student), he willingly joined the Taliban movement. The US offered him positions in Afghanistan, but he refused and opted for the hard guerrilla life. Afghan parents still tell the story of their hero Haqqani – how he refused to stay in Peshawar in Pakistan and preferred the mountains from where he kidnapped Soviet soldiers, ambushed their convoys and captured the first Afghan city of Khost in 1991. He was never blamed for warlordism. The Taliban when they emerged, could not defeat him, but Haqqani unconditionally surrendered and supported Taliban as an ordinary worker. He was the only Non-Taliban to be made a minister. Haqqani was offered premiership under Hamid Karzai – which too he refused. Haqqani is the closest asset of ISI. The attack on Hamid Karzai’s life and the Kabul bombing of the Indian embassy were pinned down to his group, aided by the ISI.
His Manbaul Uloom seminary (madrassah) in Miranshah, North Waziristan (SHOWN ABOVE) was destroyed by the US bombarment. On September 9th 2008: 21 persons were killed and around 25 others injured when six missiles targeted the multi-purpose compound of Haqqani. The deceased included two wives and a sister of Haqqani. Haqqani himself eludes capture and continues to plot his next move.
GULBUDDIN HEKMATYAR (GH): GH is most probably more dangerous than Mullah Omar. GH is not blinded by a radical Islam vision. For him, Islam is more about politics than religion, and is most adept at military and political strategy. In fact, one of the top ranking CIA agents said, “if Hekmatyar is not on your side, then you are on the losing side”. Today, GH is not aligned with the US and is leading the insurgency in northern and eastern parts of Afghanistan while Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden operate in south and west. GH is a Kharoty Pashtun, born in 1948 in Kunduz province. From 1970 – 72 GH attended engineering department in Kabul university (reason why he is called Engineer GH, but erroneously). He could not complete studies as he was implicated in the murder of Saydal Sukhandan (of Shola – e – Jawedan: a pro-China movement). While at Kabul university, he was notorious for throwing acid on the women students, as radicalism took deep root in him. It erased whatever communist leanings he may have had – he was a member of the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) for four years. He was freed from prison by Daoud Khan (after a coup against his cousin – the King Zahir Shah).
GH established Hizb-e-Islami in 1976. GH received most of the funding during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and it was he who received the first batch of Stingers from US. No wonder the CIA knew him and feared him. He most clearly expressed his anti-American credentials when he refused to shake hands with President Roland Regan in 1985 in White House. GH refused to join Najibullah’s government in Kabul. In 1996 Hekmatyar became Prime Minister of Afghanistan in 1996 under President Rabbani. Hekmatyar destroyed the city of Kabul with incessant bombardments prior to joining government and was the principal “bad” warlord. But it was too late for GH to establish control, as Taliban fighters had already established control on the edges of Kabul. In September 1996, Hekmatyar sought exile in IRAN and the Taliban took power in Kabul. After IRAN expelled him, ISI took him under their wings and he formed an integral force with Mullah Omar and Taliban. Adversaries at one time, they are joined together, to oust the NATO/ US forces from Afghanistan with logistical support being provided by Pakistan army.
MULLAH OMAR (MO): The reclusive leader of Taliban is closest to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Mullah Omar has taken bin Laden’s eldest daughter as his wife and Bin Laden has taken one of Mullah Omar’s daughers as his fourth wife. (AMAZING, any which way one looks at it). His right eye was damaged by shrapnel when he was fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Under MO’s rule, a strict interpretation of Islamic law (Sharia) was imposed on Afghanistan, under Taliban control. Women were strongly discouraged from leaving their homes, denied schooling and jobs and forced to fully cover themselves. There is an old Pashto saying : “A woman’s place is either at home or in the grave.” Women found guilty of adultery were stoned to death, homosexuals were crushed under brick walls, thieves’ hands were amputated and murderers publicly executed by victims’ families. The entire Taliban force have come out of Pakistan madrassa system and ISI has a vice like grip on MO and his deputies. MO is believed to be under ISI protection in Quetta, Pakistan.
Md. Hanif, a captured Taliban fighter, has confessed in video to Afghan authorities that “MO is hiding in Quetta and is protected by ISI and former ISI head – Hamid Gul (THIS NAME KEEPS CROPPING UP LIKE A BAD COIN) is supporting the Taleban against Afghan and foreign troops.” This fact is echoed by Hamid Karzai and US intelligence too. In fact, Mullah Omar helped ISI capture Mansoor Dadullah – a senior Taliban commander after he apparently negotiated with MI6. When Mullah Omar’s Taliban started ruling Afghanistan, there were only three countries that recognized this Taliban regime : PAKISTAN, UAE and SAUDI ARABIA.
THE BAD TALIBAN (according to Pakistan): BAITULLAH MEHSUD (BM): BM belongs to the Mehsud tribe in Pakistan’s South Waziristan. He has made his area a safe haven for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters and unlike others, he is not shy of admitting the fact. He and his forces are committed to wage jihad against the infidel forces of America and Britain. He was not against Pakistan army but when it started pounding his region (under intense pressure from the US), BM turned against the Pakistani state. His militants have been so successful that they have pushed the Pakistan army out of South Waziristan after facing heavy casualties. ISI has lost control of this asset and he therefore presents a clear danger to the state of Pakistan. In a twist of fate, Pakistan is accusing US of not bombing BM bases while it seems to go hammer and tongs at Haqqani and Omar bases. BM is also not seen fighting the US / NATO forces as do the “good Taliban”.
Which bring to some conclusions:
The good Taliban, as described by Pakistan are all waging a war against NATO / US forces in Afghanistan and is not attacking any assets in Pakistan.
The bad Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, are waging a war against the state of Pakistan and not against NATO / US forces in Afghanistan.
And ISI controls the good Taliban. Which means ISI is orchestrating the so called “good Taliban” team of JH, GH & MO to fight the US / NATO forces. Therefore Pakistani Army is complicit in this. Pakistan, as usual is saying one thing (supporting the US/NATO initiative in Afghanistan) and doing exactly the opposite through its proxies.
Ahmed Rashid is advising Gen (Iraq Surge) Patreus - to get the "good Taliban" back into Afghanistan. US has flirted with the Taliban earlier when UNOCAL was dreaming of pipelines through Afghanistan. And US may well continue to flirt with them if it is in their "supreme" (sic) national interest. Which is where INDIA comes in - and tries to make the game difficult for US in concert with IRAN & RUSSIA. We can see how the "good Taliban" who are ISI assets will be good for PAKISTAN only.
The Taliban, Afghan or Pakistan, or the Pak Army will not give up their links to Al Qaeda or global jihadi groups, because they can't. Jihadis don't magically transform into 'secular' or 'political' or 'nationalist' activists because America decreess they can only attack Indians and Afghan Shias, Uzbeks and Tajiks, jihadis still remain Al Qaeda fellow travellers deriving funding from Sunni Wahabis, and ideological justification from whatever Islamist mishmash the Pak govt allows its school system and religious madrassas to propagate.
Offering to give up links with Al Qaeda does not translate into actually doing so, because those offering know that the West cannot enforce any agreement on them to give up links to Al Qaeda.
What is needed is a combined top-down and bottom-up approach in Afghanistan on the ground not an elite compromise in some foreign city(which will never ever be sustainable as long as Pakistani top brass is part of it, as history in the last 20 years is witness).
The Afghan government and the West must win over Taliban fighters at the grassroots, and then take that strength of support with them to the puppet-masters in Pakistan to COERCE them to compromise.
Begging for compromise which you cannot impose by your own strengths will never work, and will only be taken as weakness. Working at reform and rehabilitiation of Taliban fighters from village to village, district to district, region to region is hard hard work, but will be the only durable solution. Anything else(such as taking the Pakistani military or Mullah Omar or Haqqani or Hekmatyar's words for anything) will be just yet another unenforceable military-political compromise (of which Afghanistan has seen dozens), which will collapse on the whims of any single party."
DURAN AGREEMENT TEXT : Agreement between His Highness Amir Abdul Rahman Khan, G.C.E.I Amir of Afghanistan and its Dependencies, on the one part, and Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, K.C.I.E., C.S.I., Foreign Secretary to the Government of India, representing the Government of India, on the other part Whereas certain questions have arisen regarding the frontier of Afghanistan on the side of India, and whereas both His Highness the Amir and the Government of India are desirous of settling these questions by a friendly understanding, and of fixing the limit of their respective spheres of influence, so that for the future there may be no difference of opinion on the subject between the allied Governments, it is hereby agree as follows:
1. The eastern and southern frontier of High Highness’s dominions, from Wakhan to the Persian border, shall follow the line shown in the map attached to this agreement.
2. The British Government of India will at no time exercise interference in the territories lying beyond this line on the side of Afghanistan, and His Highness the Amir will at no time exercise interference in the territories lying beyond this line on the side of India.
3. The British Government thus agrees to His Highness the Amir retaining Asmar and the valley above it, as far as Chanak. His Highness agrees on the other hand that he will at no time exercise interference in Swat, Bajaur or Chitral, including the Arnawai or Bashgal valley. The British Government also agrees to leave to His Highness the Birmal tract as shown in the detailed map already given to High Highness, who relinquishes his claim to the rest of the Waziri country and Dawar. His Highness also relinquishes his claim to Chageh [now, Chagai. Ed.].
4. The frontier line will hereafter be laid down in detail and demarcated, wherever this may be practicable and desirable, by Joint British and Afghan Commissioners, whose object will be to arrive by mutual understanding at a boundary which shall adhere with the greatest possible exactness to the line shown in the map attached to this agreement, having due regard to the existing local rights of villages adjoining the frontier.
5. With reference to the question of Chaman, the Amir withdraws his objection to the new British Cantonment and concedes to the British Government the rights purchased by him in the Sirkai-Tilerai water. At this part of the frontier, the line will be drawn as follows: From the crest of Khwaja Amran range near the Pasha Kotal, which remains in British territory, the line will run in such a direction as to leave Murgha Chaman and the Sharobo spring to Afghanistan, and to pass half way between the New Chaman Fort and the Afghan outpost known locally as Lashkar Dand. The line will then pass half way between the railway station and the hill known as the Mian Baldak, and, turning southwards, will rejoin the Khwaja Arman range, leaving the Gwasha Post in British territory, and the road to Shorawak to the west and south of Gwasha in Afghanistan. The British Government will not exercise any interference within half a mile of the road.
6. The above articles of agreement are regarded by the government of India and His Highness the Amir of Afghanistan as a full and satisfactory settlement of all the principal differences of opinion which have arisen between them in regard to the frontier; and both the Government of India and His Highness the Amir undertake that any differences of detail, such as those which will have to be considered hereafter by the officers appointed to demarcate the boundary line, shall be settled in a friendly spirit, so as to remove for the future as far as possible all causes of doubt and misunderstanding between the two Governments.
7. Being fully satisfied of His Highness’s good-will to the British Government, and wishing to see Afghanistan independent and strong, the Government of India will raise no objection to the purchase and import by His Highness of munitions of war, and they will themselves grant him some help in this respect. Further, in order to mark their sense of the friendly spirit in which High Highness the Amir has entered into these negotiations, the Government of India undertake to increase by the sum of six lakhs of rupees a year the subsidy of twelve lakhs now granted to His Highness. (Signed) H. M. Durand (Signed) Amir Abdul Rahman Khan Kabu, the 12th November 1893 Note: Original agreement is available in the national archive of Pakistan. This report has been produced from the copy available at the Area Study Centre, Peshawar University."