By General Mirza Aslam Beg
There are two issues, which are the main cause of strained relations between Pakistan and the United States of America. One is, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), trying to reclaim its territory lost to CIA during the past regime and the second is the Taliban, who have won the war in Afghanistan, and are not prepared to talk, unless the occupation forces leave Afghanistan. Both the demands are related to “territorial sovereignty” of Pakistan and Afghanistan and there is no going back on it. It is upto the US therefore, to accept the reality and concede to the rightful demands and explore new approach to peace.
The Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)
It were the ISI and CIA mainly, who supported the resistance against the Soviets during the period 1982-1989, joined by “40000 jehadees from Pakistan and over 60,000 from seventy countries of the world.” Pakistan Army had no involvement, except General Ziaul Haq and a few of his close aids. The Pakhtuns living on both sides of the Durand Line, provided the hard-core base for the resistance against the Soviet occupation forces, who ultimately accepted defeat, in good grace and asked for a ‘safe-exit’, which was granted by the Afghan Mujahideen, and the Soviet troops exited unscathed.
The CIA which had worked hand-in-glove with the ISI, were awed by ISI’s professional prowess, in defeating the Soviets – a super-power. The Americans therefore decided to demonise the Mujahideen and pressurized Pakistan to “clip the ISI wings”. Pakistan government accepted the demand. The serving DGISI, Lt Gen Hamid Gul was replaced by Lt Gen Kallu, a retired officer and the purging of ISI started as early as 1989. The officers and the operatives having any kind of contact with the Afghan Mujahideen, were removed, so much so, that in 1994, when Taliban emerged, the ISI had no role in Afghanistan. In fact, by 2001, when Pakistan joined USA in their war on Afghanistan, ISI’s role was reversed, as the enemy of Taliban.
In 2003, on the issue of involvement of Pakistani tribals in Afghanistan, Musharraf agreed to pull-out ISI from the border areas and allowed the CIA and the Marines to monitor the entire border belt from Swat to Balochistan. This was the time, when RAW had already established its spy network inside Afghanistan, and joined hands with the CIA, infesting Pakistan’s entire border region with their ‘agents and support groups’ and by 2005, succeeded in turning the war on Pakistan. (See my article Global Conspiracies Against Pakistan, The Nation 14-8-2007). Since then Pakistan is fighting its own tribals (TPP) and terrorism, perpetrated by the enemy agents and provocateurs.
With the change of government in 2008, the ISI realized the threat to national security and gradually started reclaiming the lost territory. With the arrest of Raymond Davis, the Indo-US conspiracy was exploded and Pakistan demanded that all US spies and agents working in the border region and other areas of Pakistan must disengage and leave. Thus ISI now has extended its network in the border region, re-claiming the territory lost since 2004. And in so doing, they may have come into contract with the Haqqani Group, operating close to the Pakistani borders. And there is no going back on it. This development hurts USA badly as they need a safe exit from Afghanistan. Targeting ISI and calling it a terrorist organization, is counter productive and demonstrates American frustration at the changed situation, which they have failed to understand.
The Americans have tried several options to negotiate peace in Afghanistan on their terms – “A non-Talibanized peaceful Afghanistan.” Pakistan too has endorsed the idea. Both are on the wrong track, because in this brutal contest, the Talibans have won and have the right, to lay down the terms for peace and not the American and the allies who have lost the war. In fact the Americans have to demonstrate ‘diplomatic wisdom’ to accept defeat, as the Soviets did in 1989 and asked for the ‘safe exit’. In 1989 Pakistan helped the Soviets to withdraw, because Mujahideen were friendly, but now Pakistan has no such leverage over the Taliban. And the dilemma!
The Taliban of today are very different from the Mujahideen of 1989 – their elders. The hard-core of Taliban consists of the die-hard, 20-30 years old Afghans, who have grown under the shadows of war. They are hardened fighters, with life time experience of war. They are brutal and ruthless. They are guided by one single idea, that is, “to defeat the enemy and liberate the country.” That is the single purpose, which is a matter of life and death for them. As early as 2002, they defined it in these words: “We have resolved to fight the occupation forces till they are routed. When we gain freedom, we would take decisions under a free environment. It is unthinkable for the Afghan nation to follow the American plans, as it was not in harmony with their national ethos and traditions. We will carry the war to its logical end, and Insha Allah we will triumph over the enemy and win our freedom”. Word by word, they have done, exactly what they claimed.
Mullah Umar and the senior Taliban leadership do have a soft corner for Pakistan and USA, for helping the Afghans to defeat the Soviets, but the “hard-core Taliban” consider USA and their allies, including Turkey as their enemy. They consider the Pakistan Army and the ISI as their enemy, because they joined America’s war on Afghanistan. Even Mullah Umar, who has full control over the movement, cannot take decisions against the wishes of the ‘hard-core Taliban’. Therefore, for the Americans, their allies and the Pakistanis, the only course open is to negotiate with the Taliban, who are “prepared to engage with the Northern Alliance to work-out a new constitution for the future government in Afghanistan.” Any other course to be adopted would lead to greater chaos.
As for the Taliban, they are at peace with themselves. They have fought and sacrificed for over thirty years and will continue to fight, because their faith and commitment to the cause, provides them the abiding strength and resilience to face the mightiest of the mighty. They already have won the contest and will wait for the time they will be asked to define the peace parameters. There is a rethink in Pakistan also to establish friendly relations with the Afghans – our neighbours. The ISI is in the process of re-claiming the lost territories. The Pakistan Army is in a different frame of mind, as it punished the NATO and Afghan Army, recently, for violating our territory opposite Parachinar, killing five NATO troops and several others. This change in mood and temper therefore, must be correctly understood, to explore new possibilities, in order to establish a meaningful relationship with Pakistan.