The recent release of the AfPak papers (summer 2010) reveals what many already knew: ISI (Pakistani Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence) is giving tactical and material support to the Taliban. First, some definitions: ISI is the CIA for Pakistan, the Taliban are tribes throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan that are bound ideologically against the West.
We ought not to confound our material and cultural status as a first world country with tactical superiority, for ISI is double dealing the U.S. The reasons are numerous and serious and most are intrinsic to the nature of intelligence work outside the culture of the nation state. Our terrain here cultural and tribal, so the coin of the realm requires acknowledging underhandedness as method.
The AfPak papers reveal that the Taliban and its allies are militant loyalists to Jalaluddin Haqqani (pronounced Jall-al-lu-den Hah-kan-knee) and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (pronouned Gool-boo-den Hack-mah-tar). What is their advantage? They can wage war against the United States and its allies while using Pakistan as a sanctuary for rest, recruitment and recuperation.
The very best historical explanation for Pakistan’s perfidy comes from Husain Haqqani, the Pakistani ambassador in Washington. His ‘Pakistan: Between Mosque & Military’ was written before he became ambassador. It quarries the vast historical linkage of ISI and its use of proxies.
Haqqani reveals that ISI is the intelligence wing of the Army, it maintains a symbiotic relation between Pakistani Generals and regional Islamic fundamentalists. Most are terrorists, many are just Nomadic fundamentalists. Haqqani reveals that unlike secular Turkey or Indonesia, both the mosque and the military are the twin pillars of Pakistani life. This alliance has its roots in both ideology and realpolitik.
The Pakistani Army views itself as the guarantor of the world’s first nation created purely on the basis of Islam. What is the motto of Pakistan? “FAITH, PIETY AND JIHAD IN THE PATH OF ALLAH.”
Is their an explanation for why Islamist leaning Generals, most of the Army’s rank and file, along with Pakistani civilians fervently love to witness the blooding of America? The reason is simple: THE SLAUGHTER OF AMERICANS REPRESENTS TRIUMPH OVER AN INFIDEL AKIN TO THE RISE OF MUJAHIDEEN AND THE DEFEAT OF SOVIET RUSSIA 1989. For secular Pakistani’s in the Army without historical or romantic reference, American largess gives them strategic depth over India.
Just how did this relation begin?
Husain Haqqani details a great history lesson with overtones of reversal. “Even though Pakistan helped spawn the monster of international Jihadism, the Pakistani fight of Soviets made perfect sense. Islamabad’s financial and emotional attachment to pan-Islamism and its strategic quest for depth in Afghanistan all aligned neatly with American goals of checking Soviet power in Central Asia. However, Pakistani relations with its past and its future goals post 9-11 is far more complicated. American largess alone has not been enough to make Pakistan betray its core belief in pan-Islamism or its quest for dominance over Afghanistan. This is the core of its military thinking for over three decades. Only when the Army changes its thinking can the West relax.” Haqqani gives a realist assessment that Pakistan will continue to maintain both its depth in Afghanistan, its own dreams of countering India as a regional competitor and its own romantic history as a stalwart supporter of Islam. Simply put, the Pakistani Army chief Ashfaq Kayani (Ash-fah Kah-yani) will continue to use militants to further Pakistan’s ideological and culturally strategic goals. All of this plays well for Osama bin Ladin, the nemesis of history.
The ISI is practically a nation-state unto itself. It’s the hard-core survivors who endure regime change and struggle to preserve their domain. They’re often (foolishly) underestimated but they need to be taken seriously.