Author: Agha Humayun Amin
ISI.If the Pakistanis arrested an Al Qaeda man and handed him to the CIA it really did not affect ISI operations in Afghanistan or Pakistan.This was Musharrafs deception plans essence.Arrest the Al Qaeda and convince the gullible Americans that Pakistani military was the best US dog catcher in the region.
In reality for the Pakistani military Al Qaeda was garbage they were selling to the USA disguised as “ fools gold”. So all along Taliban were being given refuge and nursed to recoup and reassert.
When I was working on a USAID project as general manager of an Afghan American NGO in Helmand in 2004 , we heard about Taliban but they were rarely seen.Our sub contractors were Taliban, or more correctly contractors before sunset and Taliban after last light.This was known to the Americans but that is how it worked.A win-win situation for all parties.2005 was eventless , 2006 signified beginning of trouble and 2007 was the watershed.
Till 2006 one could drive from Kabul to Herat in a vehicle without fear of being attacked.Not after 2006.The Taliban were back in strength and their logistics were certainly based in Pakistani Balochistan.
There was intense debate in NATO military circles in Kabul from 2004 to 2006 about ISI involvement in Afghanistan and its links with the Taliban.When human intelligence operatives were sent to FATA and Waziristan many were tortured and beheaded.
The result was the drone program which sought to eliminate targets who were picked because they would not let an operative within a kilometer of their mud fort !
It is a good plot for a detective story that Al Qaeda was saved in 2002-3 because Pakistan Army was diverted to the east because of Indian Army mobilization.
Al Qaeda in 2002 did not pose any threat to Pakistan Army and were not even a major player.The Indian parliament attack of December 2001 was one of the frequent Jihadi games that the Islamists play when they are highly aroused.Pakistani military was capable of deploying a division or two in the FATA in 2001-2 but it was not needed at all.
This Al Qaeda fixation has been a major CIA perceptual failure all along.The real threat is constituted by state actors who have supported the Taliban all along in the Pakistani military and this was a policy approved at the highest military level. There were no overenthusiastic majors or colonels in the ISI who conducted private wars.In order to understand this one has to understand the average Pakistani army officer who is an orders oriented yes man who wants all the holes punched correctly.Conducting a private war is practically impossible and certainly was never the case.
The Pakistani military perception right from 2001 was that the USA was a threat for Pakistans nuclear program and US arrival in Afghanistan had more to do with Pakistan and less with the Taliban.Therefore the Taliban had to be supported. As long as the Americans were busy with the Taliban , Pakistan or Pakistani nuclear assets were safe ? In the meantime the Pakistani military had assessed that the war would become unpopular and the USA would finally leave one day as it had left Somalia and Vietnam.
This was the strategic rationale of accommodating the Taliban.
By 2004-5 NATO was convinced that the ISI supported Afghan Taliban.