With friends like Pakistan, the U.S. doesn’t need enemies

Pakistan is helping insurgents. Could that be seen as an act of war?

With friends like these, who needs...

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The United States has never directly attacked Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), despite the ISI’s long-standing ties to Islamist militias and terrorist groups opposed to the U.S. and its allies. Yet Pakistani spies occasionally still die from American bombs.

In 1998, the Clinton administration launched cruise missiles at jihadist training camps in Afghanistan in retaliation for al-Qaeda’s bombing of two American embassies in East Africa. The missiles missed Osama bin Laden but killed a team of ISI agents training militants at the camps.

In November 2001, as many as 1,000 ISI agents and Pakistani soldiers from the Frontier Corps found themselves trapped in the Afghan city of Kunduz—along with their Taliban allies and members of al-Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The Pakistanis had been ordered to leave Afghanistan after 9/11 and had had two months to do so, but they decided to stay and fight with the Taliban instead. The Pakistanis might have reasonably expected to share the fate of their compatriots who died as collateral damage in the American cruise missile attacks three years earlier. Instead, Pakistan asked for and received U.S. permission to send rescue planes. Along with the airlifted ISI agents and Pakistani soldiers were Taliban commanders and international jihadists, including al-Qaeda.

And earlier this year, the Pakistani government loudly condemned an American drone attack on a market in the village of Datta Khel, in North Waziristan. The Pakistanis said innocent tribal elders had been killed. An American official offered New Yorker reporter Dexter Filkins another explanation: “It turns out there were some ISI guys who were there with the insurgent leaders. We killed them, too.”

What all this history means is that when Admiral Mike Mullen, who retired last month as America’s top military officer, accused the ISI of backing insurgents who attacked the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, his comments were surprising more for their candour than content.

Mullen told a Senate panel that the Haqqani network, a militant group based in North Waziristan and the southeastern Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika—and once an ally of the United States during the anti-Soviet jihad—acts as a “veritable arm” of the ISI. “With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted a truck bomb attack [on Sept. 11] as well as the assault on our embassy [on Sept. 13],” he said. “We also have credible intelligence that they were behind the 28 June attack against the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and a host of other smaller but effective operations.”

Pakistan predictably condemned Mullen’s statements, and Washington tried to distance itself from them. Asked if he agreed with Mullen that the Haqqanis are a “veritable arm” of the ISI, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters: “It’s not language I would use.” Carney didn’t say Mullen’s claims weren’t true. He couldn’t. While some analysts may differ over exactly how much influence the ISI exercises over the Haqqani network, no one seriously disputes that the bonds exist.

“There has been no question over the last several years that the United States, the Canadians and the British have put together a good picture of the Haqqani network’s links with the Pakistani government, including Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate,” says Seth Jones, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation who recently worked in the Pentagon on counter-insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “That doesn’t mean that Pakistan controls all aspects of the Haqqani network, but it does mean they provide them a sanctuary in North Waziristan. It does mean that they have provided some financial assistance. They’ve provided some information, intelligence. They’ve provided some tactical and operational aid, including non-lethal and possibly lethal assistance. But it doesn’t mean they control them, per se.”

Stripped down to its most basic level, this leaves the United States in a messy and unseemly position. Pakistan is a supposed American ally and receives more than $2 billion a year in aid as a result. In return, its spies back a group that attacks the U.S. Embassy—American soil—in Kabul, and other American targets besides. It’s not much of a stretch to see this as an act of war. And yet in the wake of Mullen’s comments, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said only that relations between the United States and Pakistan were “very difficult and complex,” adding, “but I also believe strongly that we have to work together despite those difficulties.”

Pakistan’s ties to the Haqqani network are decades old and fit in with its larger strategy of pursuing foreign policy goals through proxy militias and terrorist groups. Pakistan’s primary enemy is India. Rather than confronting it directly, it sponsors insurgents in Kashmir, and groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is widely believed to be responsible for the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Pakistan’s links to the Taliban and other insurgents in Afghanistan must also be seen through this prism. Pakistan fears encirclement and believes a government in Kabul that is friendly to India would accomplish this. It wants “strategic depth” in Afghanistan—a secure rear flank. If it can’t control the Afghan government, it wants to destabilize it. And it wants alliances with insurgent groups that can hold Afghan territory. The Haqqanis, with their territorial base along the border and ability to penetrate Kabul, provide this. But they are also unique, and uniquely dangerous, among Afghan insurgents.

This summer, West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center published a research paper describing the Haqqani network as a “nexus player” among Afghan and Pakistani insurgent groups, as well as militants with more global ambitions, such as al-Qaeda. The network is their “primary local partner,” giving them sanctuary and protection to plan and launch attacks, write authors Vahid Brown and Don Rassler.

This is risky for Pakistan, Brown told Maclean’s. “It can have blowback against the state,” he says. While the Haqqanis have not attacked the Pakistani state, al-Qaeda has—as have the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or Pakistani Taliban, another Haqqani partner. The Haqqanis have functioned as diplomatic liaisons between Pakistan and the Pakistani Taliban, which is useful for Pakistan, but the fact remains that hundreds of Pakistani soldiers have died fighting friends of its Haqqani allies. Pakistan is also playing a messy and dangerous game.

Admiral Mullen’s broadside against Pakistan’s spy agency—which he has pointedly not retracted—suggests an American craving for a less duplicitous relationship with Pakistan. But despite public rhetoric to the contrary, the two countries don’t share many goals in the region.

“We have tried to gloss over the fact that we have very big differences with the Pakistanis over the endgame in Afghanistan,” says Ashley Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “We want to leave behind an Afghan state this is both self-sufficient and independent. And the Pakistanis want an Afghan state that will be dependent on them and more solicitous of their interests in comparison to, say, the interests of the Iranians, the Indians, or even the Afghans themselves. Our objectives, Afghanistan’s objectives, and Pakistan’s objectives simply don’t add up.”

Pakistani co-operation “will always be limited and constrained,” Tellis adds, “unless the United States changes its objectives and in effect says, ‘We are willing to surrender Afghanistan to Pakistani hegemony.’ ” Instead, Tellis suggests a relationship that is even more explicitly “transactional” than it already is. “These are our objectives. We need these achieved. To the degree that you do this co-operatively, this is what we’re willing to put on the table. And if you’re not willing to do those things co-operatively, this is what we’re going to take off the table,” he says. “To my mind what matters most to the Pakistani army is big-ticket military toys. It’s all the stuff they want because they have their fears of war with India.”

When it comes to cracking down on the Haqqanis, though, even if the Pakistani army wanted to do so—which it doesn’t—it probably can’t. “We’re pushing the Pakistani military to do things that are beyond their capability, even though they are the only organization in Pakistan that works,” says Stephen Cohen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “This is a country where everything is failing. In a failing state, even the best organization has limited capability.” If the Pakistani military were to invade the Haqqani heartland in North Waziristan, for example, it would mean taking on all of the network’s allies that are sharing its sanctuary, notes Vahid Brown. “They wouldn’t just be fighting the Haqqanis, they’d be fighting a civil war.”

This leaves the United States with unilateral options. It is exercising some already. The U.S. has launched drone strikes against Haqqani members in Pakistan; these could be increased. Americans are also fighting the Haqqanis in eastern Afghanistan. Seth Jones suggests expanding the fight in Pakistan, where many of the insurgents fighting in Afghanistan have a safe haven. “At what point, and what are the costs and benefits, of doing what has not been done yet, which is targeting the Taliban command and control structure across the border?” he asks. “I think at the very least you’d want to do at least one targeted capture of a senior Taliban official in Pakistan and see how this plays itself out. Because if that sanctuary is not dealt with, I do not believe that the Canadians and Americans will be able to stabilize Afghanistan.”

Stephen Cohen of Brookings also believes the United States should more aggressively hit Haqqani and other insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan—with drones and possibly conventional air strikes rather than ground troops or raiding parties. But such an escalation comes with costs. The American raid that killed Osama bin Laden triggered an uproar in Pakistan from civilians and state officials. Raids to kill or capture Taliban officials would do the same. There’s no guarantee how Pakistani soldiers would respond to any larger incursions. And a split in the army might trigger the collapse of Pakistan’s government. A planned 2005 raid into Pakistan, involving several hundred American troops and CIA agents, was called off at the last minute, in part because of fears it would endanger relations with Pakistan.

And the Pakistanis have leverage. They could shut down NATO supply routes through Pakistan to Afghanistan. And they may shift away from America and still closer toward the Chinese. “They will probably move in a different direction strategically. Relations with the Americans will plummet. And over the long run it will cause them to be even more firm in their belief that they need to back Afghan groups from Pakistani soil,” says Jones. “I’m not saying any of this says don’t take action in Baluchistan. You just have to think carefully about what they’re going to shut down.”

Pakistan’s greatest leverage may be its fragility, says Cohen. “Mullen and others can imagine what a failed Pakistan would look like: a nuclear weapons state with the capability of producing terrorists roaming around the world. People are afraid of that. Pakistan is too nuclear to fail. And nobody wants to see Pakistan fail. And that’s a great asset for Pakistan. Pakistan can threaten to fail.”

This means that the United States, when confronted with a supposed friend whose spies nurture and protect those killing its soldiers, has limited and unpalatable options. “There are no good policies and no good outcomes,” says Cohen. “At least we could face them honestly.”




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With friends like Pakistan, the U.S. doesn’t need enemies

  1. A totally biased article…doesnot even quote the number of people killed in pakistani cities due to the so called war against terror by the US…keep fooling the people of Pakistan and the US…we are the people who suffer

    • Then put the blame where it really belongs-on your ISI and corrupt generals. You will lose this one i assure you. That 2005 thing was small compaired with other contingencies.

      • Why is that the americans want to talk to the talibans? Americans have used the talibans for years through CIA! The truth is the american and the pakistani government doesnot want peace! All they want is to blame each other before the next elections to hide their failures!

        • Why lie? Pakistan created the Taliban only in 1993, and prior to that, they created Hezb-i-Islami, the dominant mujahedin faction under the fanatical Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In all cases, Pakistan demanded that they be the sole party to directly deal with these extremists, insisting that others could only supply arms and funds for them. Pakistan did this in order to ensure it could keep fanatics in charge, because Pakistan felt that fanatics were better suited to do its bidding.

          • No, the CIA created the Taliban to fight off the USSR. Read a book for once.

          • No, the CIA provided arms and funds, but Pakistan staunchly demanded that its army be the only party to have direct contact with the mujahedin. This put Pakistan in a position where it could deliberately select the most fanatical and extremist people to route the arms, funds and support to, while deliberately marginalizing moderates. Read my long post above to understand why Pakistan wanted to do that.

            As further proof of this, Pakistan’s recent discussions with the US have demanded a return to “Reagan rules” – which refers to the 1980s agreement between the US and Pakistan, whereby Pakistan demanded that only it have contact with the mujahedin, with the US staying at arm’s length, and only supplying arms and funds.

            Finally, the Taliban were created in the mid-90s, after the Soviets withdrew, and not during the war against the Soviets. Like I said, during the 80s the main Pakistani-backed mujahedin faction was the Hezb-i-Islami, which was also quite fanatical, but was not the Taliban.

            So why don’t you go read a book sometime? Preferably one that’s not written by the Pakistanis, since you seem to be toeing their line.

          •  There was no such entity as the Taliban
            during the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union.

            The people who were
            fighting the Soviet without much success were called Mujahideen. The soviet Air
            force was doing lots of damage and they [Mujahideen] had no weapons to retaliate.  So at that point the CIA came in to help. But
            the Pakistanis wanted all weapons and money to the Mujahideen to go through
            them. Once again Pakistanis received free weapon and money from the Americans
            and from Israel. The best weapon they provided were e the Stringer missiles which
            could be fired from the shoulder.

            After the
            conflicted ended various Islamic group gathered and called them self the
            Taliban. Which were adopted by the Pakistanis .They were used against India and
            also to hijack Afghanistan with the help of Osama and the Saudis. There is no
            need to read rewritten history by the Pakistanis. Some of us remembers the
            facts as they happened.

    • Sir,ISI is kill many many persons in pakistan.I is agree to you.journalists is be kill and students and mrs. butto and politisians.you is right for say the isi is kill many number of pakistan persons and  we is cant quote the numbers of people killed in cities because they is can comw and be kill us all also for talk too mush.

    • Ya Right, Paki’s always blame others. Two nations born the same day with the same potential for future. What did the Paki’s have achieved, Your Biggest Enemey India today has a company that  is the largest Employer in Britain the country which ruled the Subcontinent. Why cant you economically progress , becuase of all the preoccupation with non sense.

      •  yeah..and you dont seems to blame anyone? yanks and your puppets have imposed war on pakistan and sanctioned for last 40 years and still survived. stop dreaming you are no longer world super power anymore. 

        • No need for dreams. Don’t have to be superpower to know we are far better off than that riffraff. Still more super than them, always have been always will be. You want what we have but you will never achieve it coz you don’t have the will or the guts to take you lives into your own hands. 

    • Blame the Paki govt for people killed in your cities, you created the jihadist monsters and when they are eating your guts out, why complain now.

      Americans did not force you to Jihadi madness against USSR, Pakis jumped up into it. But as always blame others

    • Suffer? Well some people live on some fantasy island! Let me give you some history lessons. Pakistan was already interfering in Afghanistan even before russians came in to help and stablise as they had a huge islamic underbelly in ‘stans. Russians, were almost lured by CIA to come in Afghanistan and trapped.
      It is the Grand ‘Caliphate’ designs of Cowards Punjabi generals of pakistan who have never won any war except against their own civilians that brought the misery. 
      Poor Pashtuns have been a victim of this grand punjabi hatred (borne out of fear of Pashtun) and led to this crazy ‘strategic depth theory’. Punjabis have never ruled pashtoons except once and that was under Ranjitsinghji, a sikh.
      The fear of Durandline has incapacitated the Pakjabi army and lead to this butchering. Durranis (Karzai & his ilk) understand this. Just wait when Ghilzais get the heft.

  2. When a northern rail route is established, we won’t need Karachi and the Kyhber Pass. Many times we exchanged gunfire with Talibs AND PAK FC, sometimes we would chopper in and there were firefights. The US is well aware of wats going on its something that needs to be done quietly. A. Co 1-87th Reg. 10th Mntn we spent many nites moving across that border thats a joke. You P-stani’s can run to the Chicoms but they can’t help you. Your “country” is actually 3 countries. They should SECEDE and rise up against their PUNJABI masters..

    • Pakistan will try to run to the Chinese, but they won’t help. The Chinese have Muslim separatist problems of their own, and plus they understand too well that Pakistan is a deadbeat failing state, which can suck endless amounts of money without paying it back. Pakistan is a tar baby.

      During the flood disaster in Pakistan last year, the US sent $628M in aid to Pakistan. But China only sent $16M. Quite a difference, wouldn’t you say? The Chinese aren’t stupid. Just as with their other twin fist North Korea, they only need the army to survive over there. As with North Korea, the Chinese will only keep its military alive, while the people around it are left to starve. That will be Pakistan’s fate as well – the military will survive, while the rest of Pakistan’s population will starve.

    • Ever heard of the “graveyard of the empires” ? That is what Afghanistan has becomee for the US. Now just tuck your tail between your legs and scoot; otherwise Vietnam circa 1973 would look like a picnic!

      • It could also be ”graveyard of for Pakistan” too as well as for others . But it looks that US and west dose not want to occupy Afghanistan. Lets Pakistan Army and ISI understand the ground reality and dont use Afghanistan as ‘strategic depth” any more otherwise Pakistan will disintegrate in to Pashtunkhw, Baluchstan, Kashmir, Sindh sooner than latter  

        • Dear Jahanzeb please note, Pakistan has no desire to use Afghanistan as its strategic depth. If any one has said so then it could be his personal opinion and definitely  not the  thinking of Government of Pakistan. Look through the pages of  history, it is Pakistan which has always served as strategic depth to Afghanistan. Whenever Afghanistan was invaded by any outsider or there was an internal turmoil, Pakistan always provided shelter and sustenance to the people of Afghanistan for their survival. Even today we have approximately 3 millions Afghan refugees living on Pakistani soil. Most of the Afghan leaders and Government functionaries have their properties and business set up in various Pakistani cities. Afghans are brave people and fiercely independent in nature. Britain, USSR and USA have tried their luck but they failed to kill the spirit of Afghans. If the super powers could not subjugate Afghanistan then how could  Pakistan which is a developing country  can ever think of subjugating Afghanistan. Today if US has managed to  retain its foot hold in Afghanistan for ten long years then it is primarily due to the connivance of Northern Alliance dominated corrupt Afghan Government and intelligence. You can also blame Government of Pakistan for facilitating and providing all out support to US for its invasion of Afghanistan.  I wish  Pakistan should have realized at that time  that “With friends like US, Pakistan does not need any enemy” and should have stayed away from this human tragedy in Afghanistan. I hope the people of Afghanistan do realize this reality.  You will appreciate that Pakistan cannot remain oblivious of what all happens in Afghanistan. In the event of any instability in Afghanistan, Pakistan always had  to shoulder the entire burden of the negative fall out. Afghanistan is a brotherly Islamic country and people of Pakistan have very deep rooted  historic, ethnic and cultural ties with the people of Afghanistan. Close relatives and same tribes are living on both sides of the border. Afghanistan is a land locked country and its economic life line runs through Pakistan. Economic and trade ties with Pakistan are very important for Afghanistan for obvious reasons.  Keeping these ground realities in mind, one will not be wrong in saying that it will always be in Afghanistan’s interest to maintain cordial and extremely warm ties with Pakistan.  Pakistan has always been very keen to maintain good relations with all the Muslim countries particularly Afghanistan and Iran being the next door neighbours.  Pakistan does not want to have any VETO power in Afghanistan’s affairs but it certainly wants a stable Afghanistan with a friendly set up in Kabul so that the Afghan soil could not be used by anyone against Pakistan. The people of Afghanistan should also understand that instead of promoting the cause of a country which has a long history of hostility towards Pakistan, they should be more concerned about their own peace and stability. They should remember that the security and stability of Afghanistan is inseparably linked with Pakistan. If for some immaturish  reason or for some temporary gains in the prevailing situation the Afghan Government failed to address Pakistan’s concerns and kept on cooperating with forces hostile to Pakistan then their country will always remain a battle field for proxy wars and peace, stability and progress will remain a dream unfulfilled.   

      • Like I said, Afghanistan may be the graveyard of empires, but Pakistan already has one foot in the grave.

    • By all means arrange your supplies through the northern route but  at least be grateful to Pakistan for your survival on the life line provided by Pakistan for 10 long years and the air bases and intelligence support provided by Pakistan  due to which the US forces  could manage to get into Afghanistan. Bombing  alone would not have made it possible for the US forces to occupy Afghanistan.

      • Pakistan army has extracted double the price of that and at the same time has left no stone unturned to undermine US efforts in Afghanistan.

        • Unfortunately, once the minds get polluted due to aggressive propaganda it becomes difficult for the target audience to sift the truth from the heap of lies being churned out by western media. The hard fact is that US has still not reimbursed a large number of outstanding bills to Pakistan.For the sake of propaganda  they may create an impression that Pakistan has received billions but we all know that in today’s world no country has the guts to extract even an extra penny from US.  People may believe the US lies because, “The might is always right”. 

      • Nothing to be grateful about. They have extracted way more than they were due. Now they owe us. Not that they will ever acknowledge it.

  3. Like a vampire which preys on others because it lacks the means to produce its own blood, Pakistan is instinctively driven to survive through terrorism, and to seek the company of those who practice it, because Pakistan was born with fundamental flaws. These flaws actually date back to events which occurred over a century before Pakistan’s birth.

    In 1839, the British Empire sought to expand the borders of its colony of British India, by launching a war of conquest against the neighboring Pashtuns. The Pashtuns, as a fiercely independent tribal warrior people, resisted ferociously, so that the British conquest of them was not successful. The British were only able to conquer part of the Pashtun territory, and even that remained in constant rebellion against them. Meanwhile, the remaining unconquered portion of Pashtun territory became the nucleus for the formation of Afghanistan. In 1893, the British imposed a ceasefire line on the Afghans called the Durand Line, which separated British-controlled territory from Afghan territory. The local people on the ground however never recognized this line, which merely existed on a map, and not on the ground.

    In 1947, when the colony of British India achieved independence and was simultaneously partitioned into Pakistan and India, the Pakistanis wanted the conquered Pashtun territory to go to them, since the Pashtuns were Muslims. Given that the Pashtuns never recognized British authority over them to begin with, the Pakistanis had tenuous relations with the Pashtuns and were consumed by fears of Pashtun secession.

    When Pakistan applied to join the UN in 1947, there was only one country which voted against it. No, it wasn’t India – it was Pashtun-ruled Afghanistan which voted against Pakistan’s admission, on the grounds that Pakistan was in illegal occupation of Pashtun lands stolen by the British. Their vote was cast on September 30, 1947 and is an historical fact.
     

    In 1948, in the nearby state of Kashmir, its Hindu princely ruler and Muslim political leader joined hands in deciding to make Kashmir an independent country rather than joining either Pakistan or India. Pakistan’s leadership were immediately terrified of this precedent, fearing that the Pashtuns would soon follow suit and also declare their own ethnically independent state. In order to pre-empt that and prevent it from happening, Pakistan’s founder and leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah quickly decided to raise the cry of “Hindu treachery against the Muslims” and despatched hordes of armed Pashtun tribesmen to attack Kashmir. This was his way of distracting the Pashtuns from their own ethnic nationalism by diverting them into war against Kashmir “to save Islam”. These are the same Pashtun tribesman whose descendants are today’s Taliban. Fleeing the unprovoked invasion of their homeland, Kashmir’s Hindu prince and Muslim political leader went to India, pledging to merge with it if India would help repel the invasion. India agreed, and sent its army to repulse the Pashtun invasion. Pakistan then sent its army to clash with Indian forces, and the result was Indo-Pakistani conflict, which has lasted for decades.
     

    Pakistan’s fear of Pashtun nationalism and separatism, which it worries can break up Pakistan, is thus the root of the Indo-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir and also the root of Pak conflict with Afghanistan, not any alleged Indian takeover of Kabul. This is all due to the legacy of 1839, which happened long before Pakistan was even created.
     

    When a communist revolution happened in Kabul in the late 70s, Pakistan’s fear of potential spillover effects on Pashtun nationalism caused Pakistan to embark on fomenting a guerrilla war against Kabul that led to Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Aligned with with the USA, Pakistan then proceeded to arm the Pashtuns while indoctrinating them with Islamic fanaticism. The USA was not allowed any ground role, and was told it could only supply arms and funds to Pakistan, which would take care of the rest. Pakistan then simultaneously embarked on destabilization of India by fomenting insurgency there.

    After the Soviets withdrew, Pakistan again feared that the well-armed Pashtuns would turn on it and pursue secession. So Pakistan then created the Taliban as a new umbrella movement for the fractious factional guerrilla groups under an ultra-fundamentalist ideology. Bin Laden’s AlQaeda then became cosy with Taliban, and the result was 9-11.

    When the 9-11 attacks occurred, the cornered Pakistanis then did a 180 and promised to help the US defeat the Taliban and bring the terrorists to justice. Meanwhile they were racking their brains hoping to come up with a way to undermine the War on Terror from within. Now that they have succeeded in doing that, and in bleeding US/NATO forces, they hope to jump horses by kicking the US out and aligning with China.
     

    Because of Pakistan’s attempts to illegitimately hang onto Pashtun land, it has brought itself into conflicts with so many countries – first against its neighbors and then against more distant larger powers. This is the reason why Pakistan is an irredentist state and can never be an ally against Islamic extremism, because Pakistan depends on this very Islamism as a national glue to hold itself together, and keep nationalistic ethnic groups like the Pashtuns from breaking Pakistan apart.

    At the same time, Pakistanis don’t dare own upto the Pashtun national question at any level, nor its effect on their national policies, because any attempt to do so would open up the legitimacy of their claim to Pashtun land.
     

    Sovereignty is a 2-way street, entailing not just rights but obligations. Pakistan only wishes to assert rights it feels are owed to it from sovereignty, but wishes to completely duck the issue of any sovereign obligations to apprehend terrorists on what it claims as its own territory. This is because the fundamental reality is that the Pashtun territory is not really theirs, is not really under their control, and the Pashtuns don’t really recognize Pakistani central authority over them.

    Pakistan uses Islamic fundamentalism to submerge traditional Pashtun ethnic identity in a desperate attempt to suppress Pashtun ethnic nationalism, and to stave off the disintegration of Pakistan. The Pashtuns are a numerically large enough ethnic group possessing the strength of arms to be able to secede from Pakistan at any moment, should they decide upon it.
     

    The answer is to let the separatists have their way and achieve their independent ethnic states, breaking up Pakistan. It’s better to allow Pakistan to naturally break up into 3 or 4 benign ethnic states, than for it to keep promoting Islamic fundamentalist extremism in a doomed attempt to hold itself together. Pakistan is a failing state, and it’s better to let it fail and fall apart. This will help to end all conflict in the region and the trans-national terrorist problem. An independent ethnic Pashtun state will be dominated by Pashtun ethnic identity instead of fundamentalist Islam, and thus AlQaeda will no longer be able to find sanctuary there. Conventional ethnic identity is far more natural and benign than trans-nationalist Islamism with its inherent collectivist political bent. Supporting the re-emergence of 4 natural ethnic states – Pashtunistan, Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab – would be far better than continuing to support a dangerous and dysfunctional failed state like Pakistan which continues to spew toxic Islamist extremist ideology in a doomed attempt to hold itself together.
     

    Following the failure of the Vietnam War, many Americans later recognized that war was really a war of ethnic reunification by the Vietnamese people. It wasn’t a case of one foreign country attempting to conquer another foreign country – indeed, the north and south Vietnamese were not strangers or aliens to one another – they were 2 halves of a common whole. The question was whether they would reunify under communist socialism or under free democracy, but because a blinkered American leadership refused to recognize the Vietnamese grassroots affinity for one another and their desire to reunify, it pretty much ensured that Vietnamese reunification would take place under communist socialism.
     

    Likewise, the Pashtun people live on both sides of an artificial Durand Line (Afghan-Pak “border”) which they themselves have never accepted or recognized. It’s a question of whether they will politically reunify under close-minded theocratic Islamism or under a more secular and tolerant society. Because today’s blinkered American leadership is again blindly defending another artificial line on a map, and refusing to recognize the oneness of the people living on both sides of that artificial line, America is again shutting itself out of the reunification process, guaranteeing that Pashtun reunification will occur under fanatical fundamentalist Islamism as prescribed by Pakistan (much as Hanoi’s Soviet backers prescribed reunification under communist socialism.) It’s only later on, much after America’s defeat, that some Americans will realize too late that they should have seen that the Pashtuns on both sides of the artificial line were actually one people. Pakistan knows it all too well, because they’ve been living with the guilt and fear of it ever since Pakistan’s creation – but that’s why they’re hell-bent on herding the Pashtuns down the path of Islamist fanaticism, using Islamist glue to keep the Pashtuns as a whole hugged to Pakistan’s bosom.
     

    If only Washington policymakers could shed their blinkers and really understand what’s going on, then they might have a chance to shape events more effectively, and to their favor. Pakistan is rapidly building up its nuclear arsenal, as it moves to surpass Britain to become the world’s 5th-largest nuclear state.The Pakistanis are racing to build up as much hard-power as possible to back up the soft-power they feel Islamist hate-ideology gives them.

    The world needs to compel the Pakistanis to let the Pashtuns go, and allow them to have their own independent national existence, along with the Baluchis and Sindhis. Humoring Pakistan and allowing it to continue using Islamist hatred to rally the people towards unity to counter slow disintegration is not the way to achieve stability in the region, or security for the world.

    • Absurd

      • Where is it absurd my friend ? Truth hurts eh ?

    • Manifsan, Awesome enlightning reply. I never thought of this problem this way before.  I am of Sikh origan, family comes from a village now near Sialkot.  My grandfather had high regards for the Pathans, he said they had fraught relations and occasional violence against the Sikh army there. But there was mutual respect that two true men will have for each other. For the Punjabi Muslims, he thought of them with contempt. According to him, Pathans took Islam as a religion of their choice and ways and the Punjabi Muslims, converted under duress and fear, he said many times, I dont a Punjabi who is a Muslim.

    • Brilliant post sir. It’s a shame how the Afghans have been destroyed by Pakistanis.

    • your defeat is near and you will be buried in the afghan graveyard very soon ta ta bye bye USA and very shame to that although you have the latest technology and best arms but you failed. I advised you to please send your army personal to Pak Army (world best Army) that they have trained them. And teach them the tactics what we have used fro eliminating Taliban from swat etc

      • Afghanistan will be a graveyard for Pakistan, since Pakistan already has one foot in the grave.

      • Pak army?? Best in the world?? 1971 against India, 90000 surrendered after 12 days of fighting while they had enough ammunition to fight for 2 years. Oh I see, they did’nt have taliban to save them.

    • There is some truth mixed with large scale lies, wishful thinking and fantasies in what you have written in your long chapter of hatred. It is true, Afghanistan had opposed Pakistan’s membership to UN in 1947 but don’t you think Afghanistan would have opposed India’s entry to UN if Pakistan would not have gained independence as a separate state. In spite of that opposition in UN, Pakistan and Afghanistan have been living next to each other as very good neighbour. As Pakistanis we look at Afghanistan as a brother Muslim country with whom we share a common heritage of history, religion, language, culture and Islamic values. Pakistan is Afghanistan’s back yard and also provides the vital economic life line from Karachi port to Kabul. Pakistan is proud to have provided food and shelter to millions of its refugee brothers who were forced to abandon their homes as a result of Soviet and later on American invasion. You have talked about independent PASHTUN LAND, yes Pashtunes of Afghanistan would surely want to join Pakistan because of the better living standards on the Pakistani side. But Pakistan believes in the unity of Afghanistan and would never support the idea of division of Afghanistan on ethnic lines. Even today we have over three million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. Majority of Afghanistan’s ministers and Government functionaries have their properties and business in Pakistani cities and they keep visiting their families quite frequently. Islam is our strength and that is the thread which binds the people of these two countries in an inseparable bondage. Temporary friction created due to US invasion will disappear as soon as the foreign forces leave that country.
       The war in Afghanistan has no similarity with the war in Vietnam except that like the Vietnamis, Afghan’s also never submit to foreign invaders. US is currently facing a defeat in Afghanistan not because Pakistan has anything to do with it. In fact the cause of their failure is their wrong assessment of the Afghan spirit and their resolve for unlimited struggle. US military and political strategy has also failed because of their overwhelming reliance on a corrupt, inefficient and minority dominated set up in Kabul. Ten years of US occupation and today the condition of people of Afghanistan is much worst than before because the US and its allies have  failed in carrying out the promised development. Increasing number of people are now joining Taliban ranks because of the high handedness of US troops during night raids and search operations with no accountability what so ever. Taliban have also managed to penetrate the Afghan intelligence agency NDA and the Afghan Government security system. On the other hand Pakistan has refused to be the scapegoat for the failure of US strategy. By inviting the Taliban for talks, US has practically accepted its failure in Afghanistan.Any one who raises a finger against Pakistan’s nuclear programme should be ashamed of himself, knowing fully well that Pakistan’s nuclear capability is only defensive in nature. Pakistan would never had exploded a nuclear device if India would not have exploded the nuclear bomb first. Pakistan has a very credible and sophisticate defensive nuclear capability and there is no need to surpass Britain or any other country. It is merely a fiction and propaganda to cover the developments under the unholy Indo-US nuclear deal.Finally let me tell you that there are no separatist elements in Pakistan except a few individuals who are now living on wine and women provided to them by RAW, in Afghanistan and Switzerland.  Wishful concoction of your mind is your hope against the hope. Anyone who wishes to live in fools’ paradise with a cob web of fantasies he is most welcome to do so. As a Pakistani MY PRAYERS ARE WITH PEOPLE OF KASHMIR WHO ARE THE  VICTIMS OF WORST TYPE OF STATE TERRORISM. I have no doubt that their sacrifices will never go waste. Thousands of their young men and women have been killed and young girls raped by the Indian troops deployed in Indian Occupied Kashmir. They are ready to offer more sacrifices but they will never abandon their birth right of SELF DETERMINATION.  ALLAH-O-AKBAR– LONG LIVE PAKISTAN– MY SALUTE TO THE BRAVE PEOPLE OF KASHMIR FOR THEIR SACRIFICES AND RELENTLESS STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE.     

      • Afghanistan has always had good relations with India. It’s Pakistan which is the odd man out of the region. Pakistan even antagonized its neighbor Iran by supporting the hateful Taliban, who have persecuted and massacres Shias like the Hazaras. Because Pakistan has such a deep mistrust and fear of the Pashtuns, it seeks to keep the Pashtuns in a state of perpetual war. Otherwise, Pakistan is afraid that those it has preyed upon will rise up and seek vengeance against it. Pakistan knows how artificial and fragile the Durand Line is – and truly, its disappearance will mean the disappearance of Pakistan!

        • Issues touched upon my me in my reply remain to be unanswered. Any how, having good relations with India does not mean that Afghanistan has bad relations with Pakistan. Present relationship between India and Afghanistan is dependent on US sponsorship and circumstantial compulsions of the corrupt set up in Kabul. Otherwise the majority of the people of Afghanistan know that in their decade long war against USSR, India stood against them and side with Soviet Union, the aggressor and invader.   

    • An excellent and factual analysis. I am trying to find a fault with your article but do’nt seem to find one. Its surprising how people keep making a series of mistakes just to fix the first mistake which was’nt very big in the first place. During the run up to the elections, to enlist pro-communist support, Nixon had sent a note to the soviets promising cooperation. Later, he ordered “Watergate” to pull out the note just in case it was in the opposion file. The fix turned out to be far worse than the original mistake.

  4. Sigh. Taste of your own medicine US. Suck on that.

    • Haters gonna hate.

  5. You know what that’s exactly what they say of the US

  6. i always thought britishers never entred Afghanistan as WHO WILL LIKE TO HAVE THAT JUNK attn manafosan

    • @airborne:twitter , here you go:

      http://history1800s.about.com/od/colonialwars/a/kabul1842.htm

      The British were able to conquer part of the Pashtun territory, but the unconquered portion became the nucleus for the formation of modern Afghanistan. These wars were part of the Great Game being fought between the jockeying British and Russian empires. The so-called “border” between British India and Afghanistan (now Pakistan and Afghanistan) was called the Durand Line.

      Pakistan sought to permanently inherit the British-conquered portion of the Pashtun territory, but as you can imagine, the Pashtuns don’t really care for the Durand Line which goes through the heart of their land and carves it in two on a map. That line exists only on maps in distant faraway capitols, and the local people don’t recognize its legitimacy at all.

  7. You are right u r pastuns first anything else later. Actually that is not what Pakistan was based on . Forget it what is happening today. Bangladesh was formed because Bangalis chose to fall in Indian lap due to our faults accepted. Same is happening for you. I am reminded of all the falls of bhadad. wasay if u were not enslaved by britishers then . U r slaves of US now, whats the difference dear.

  8. Stupid reasons like pashtunistan or whatever junk will not destabalize pakistan. It is a nuclear state , beauty is that u consider it irresponsible. I am sure Pakistan will not allow India in its backyard even if both India and Afghanistan desire so, TRY IT

    • You are only imagining that India is in your backyard, because you refuse to recognize that Afghans have their own rights of sovereignty. So anytime Afghans try to exercise their sovereign rights, you claim it’s the hand of India. You want Afghanistan to be your colony.

      The fact that you go out of your way to brandish “noookleear veppons” shows that your mentality is no different from North Korea, which does the same thing because that’s all they have going for them. You are doomed to suffer the same fate as the North Koreans, with your population reduced to starvation while only the military lives in comfort with its boot on your heads.

      http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-pakistan-gated-communities-20111007,0,5585500.story

      Look at how your military lives in comparison to the rest of the population. It’s in their interest to maintain conflict and war, because that helps them to maintain their importance, their power and privileges. Therefore they can only seek war.

      • The link you gave is of Bahria Town (a real estate enterprise owned by a Civilian)
        Its a reflection of how Pakistan has grown in the past. 

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahria_Town

        Look at the ownership genius. The plots in this locality were so cheap that any middle class civilian or army men could afford it. 

        Nuclear weapons are a deterrence which we will continue to maintain and protect. America would have destroyed Irans nuclear weapons if they had the courage. Pakistan is far off… militarily.  Stop dreaming and wake up. 

        • Your country will end up a hollowed-out shell, with only the military surviving, while the population starves around them. You’re headed down the North Korea gutter.

          Your nuclear weapons didn’t prevent the US from raiding your country to kill your treasured guest Bin Laden. Looks like your deterrence was a sham – just like your sham role in fighting terrorism.

          Your country stands exposed before the world, having been caught in its lies.

    • India can walk over Pakistan, if not for the nuclear weapons, wait a few months or weeks or days and see, the Americans destroy your weapons. Then pray to Allah , because the Indians will roast and eat your Ass like a Tandoori Chicken with a lot of Masala.

  9. True… but the other way round

  10. I would request all American’s to start realizing that they are another doomed empire… in the grave yard of  Empires.

    Stop finding escape goats for your failures, in order to win war you need brave men… not some mummy daddy army that can only kill with drones. The earlier you realize that the better it would be for the America and Pakistan as well. 

    As far as Pakistan is concerned it has done more than its part in this So called war on terror, its about time the world realizes its failure and start approving of the Taliban who have prevailed mainly.

    • Afghanistan may be the graveyard of empires – but Pakistan already has one foot in the grave.

      • Hahahaha…. You sound funny at times.
        Pakistan will live, thrive and prosper… Your comments are not only ill informed but vague at the same time. 

        • You talk big while your nation is on life support and kept alive through foreign aid. Without foreign aid, your country would go under very quickly.

  11. This article is a huge pack of imaginary and fabricated allegations against Pakistan . Very soon the great people of United States will find out how the successive administrations in Washington have been committing criminal acts against humanity, in their name. People of Pakistan always thought that US was their ally. Basically for this reason Pakistan had supported US against USSR,  otherwise Pakistan had never faced any direct threat from Soviet Union. While mentioning all sorts of fabricated stories if the author of this article had any moral courage he would have at least admitted the fact that if US today is holding on in Afghanistan with some measure of success then it is primarily for the reason that Pakistan had provided its air bases, intelligence support and the logistic life line to the US troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan has deployed .15 million troops on Pak-Afghan border in support of US operations in Afghanistan at a huge cost to its national exchequer.  If Al-Qaeda today is not in a position to initiate its activities against US,  then let me tell you, it is because Pakistan had apprehended and handed over to US more than 500 Al-Qaeda leaders and operatives including Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the master mind of 9/11. This all is in addition to the huge loss of life and billions of dollars loss to the  economy which Pakistan has suffered during the last ten years.  We do share the  US concern about their imminent failure in Afghanistan but it must be understood that this is not due to any act of omission on the part of Pakistan. The US  military failure in Afghanistan is primarily due to the failure of politico – military strategy which never had any relevance to the ground realities.  Pakistan never asked US to bet on losing horses. What do you expect from a corrupt, inefficient and Tajik minority led set up in Kabul. Knowing fully well that Pakistan, being the immediate neighbor of Afghanistan,  has suffered very heavily in the past and will continue to suffer  if  the country remains in the grip of instability and  proxy war,  the US has been promoting the forces hostile to Pakistan  at the cost of Pakistan’s security.  Now that the conflict in Afghanistan is heading towards the End Game the people of Pakistan feel betrayed by US due to its total disregard to Pakistan’s security concerns.  OUR PEOPLE  FEEL CONVINCED THAT BY HAVING ALLIES LIKE UNITED STATES, PAKISTAN DOES NOT REQUIRE ANY ENEMY.

    • So true!

  12.  what do you expect from mcleans. copy and past journalism. totally one sided craap.

  13. Bull shit article. Maclean’s is complete bull shit overall.

  14. Very Good Article.. This bation is not only a failed nation but a terrorist state. Their goverment aids the taliban which kills our troops in Afghnaistan. All aid to this poor country should be stopped.

  15. Last year when I visted Swat in Pakistan, I had conversation with many Punjabi army officers. When I would press them on the issue of terrorist sanctuaries in FATA and lapsing of Swat into the hands of Taleban despite it being a settled district, they would indirectly admit all that to be their grand strategy to evict US and NATO from Afghanistan. One Punjabi officer commented to me that they are playing smart and they have got US and NATO embroiled in the Afghan quagmire and that now only a humuliating defeat awaits them.

    For about a century Western powers foremost US and UK have been building the Punjabi army while systematically weakening other nationalities like Baluchis, Pashtuns, Snidhis, etc. in that region. In 1950s, US gave the Punjabi ruling elite weapons and resources to suppress Bangali agitation against Punjabi domination. From 1953 till 1971, the Punjabi army killed millions of Bangalisin 3 military operations with active US consent. Again, from 1948 till 1970s the same Punjabi army suppressed 4 Baluch uprisings killing hundreds of thousands of Baluchis with arms supplied by US. In 1980s, US allied with Punjabi generals like General Ziaul Haq, General Hamid Gul, General Akhtar Abdur Rahman, etc. converted Afghanistan in particular and Pashtun land in general into a nursary for Islamic militancy  to be used to avenge its defeat at the hands Russian backed communists in Vietnam without any regard for the moral and ethical dimension of its strategy to maintain its geopolitical hegemony vis-a-vis Russia at the cost of an innocent people.  In the process, Punjab was rather more empowered even acquiring nuclear weapons i.e. the so-called Islamic bomb whereas the social and political fabric of Pashtun society was completely broken down.

    With nuclear weapons, the Punjabi-dominated army has regional ambitions. It wants to conquer Afghanistan and bring Central Asia under an Islamist influence based in Pakistan. And Pakistan under the leadership of its pre-dominently Punjabi military ruling elite considers itself to be the foremost Muslim power with the religious responsibility to unite all the Muslim regions in Central-South Asia through swords of arms into an expanded Pakistan. Besides, the land-locked Punjab and the Punjabi civil and military bureaucracy and industrial classes are the main beneficiary of the order that the Britsh sat up and US sustained and further strengthened  through its massive military and economic support to the army of pakistan in its strategy to contain the communist USSR.

    The same Pakistan army is now determined to help bring a humuliating defeat of US and NATO in Afghanistan of the same scale as of US in Vietnam. For almost a century, Baluchis, Sndhis, Pashtuns, and Bangalis have been at the receiving end of Punjab-US collosion. Now let us see how these old allies and new friends settle scores with each other.  

  16. Last year when I visted Swat in Pakistan, I had conversation with many Punjabi army officers. When I would press them on the issue of terrorist sanctuaries in FATA and lapsing of Swat into the hands of Taleban despite it being a settled district, they would indirectly admit all that to be their grand strategy to evict US and NATO from Afghanistan. One Punjabi officer commented to me that they are playing smart and they have got US and NATO embroiled in the Afghan quagmire and that now only a humuliating defeat awaits them.
     
    For about a century Western powers foremost US and UK have been building the Punjabi army while systematically weakening other nationalities like Baluchis, Pashtuns, Snidhis, etc. in that region. In 1950s, US gave the Punjabi ruling elite weapons and resources to suppress Bangali agitation against Punjabi domination. From 1953 till 1971, the Punjabi army killed millions of Bangalisin 3 military operations with active US consent. Again, from 1948 till 1970s the same Punjabi army suppressed 4 Baluch uprisings killing hundreds of thousands of Baluchis with arms supplied by US. In 1980s, US allied with Punjabi generals like General Ziaul Haq, General Hamid Gul, General Akhtar Abdur Rahman, etc. converted Afghanistan in particular and Pashtun land in general into a nursary for Islamic militancy  to be used to avenge its defeat at the hands Russian backed communists in Vietnam without any regard for the moral and ethical dimension of its strategy to maintain its geopolitical hegemony vis-a-vis Russia at the cost of an innocent people.  In the process, Punjab was rather more empowered even acquiring nuclear weapons i.e. the so-called Islamic bomb whereas the social and political fabric of Pashtun society was completely broken down.
     
    With nuclear weapons, the Punjabi-dominated army has regional ambitions. It wants to conquer Afghanistan and bring Central Asia under an Islamist influence based in Pakistan. And Pakistan under the leadership of its pre-dominently Punjabi military ruling elite considers itself to be the foremost Muslim power with the religious responsibility to unite all the Muslim regions in Central-South Asia through swords of arms into an expanded Pakistan. Besides, the land-locked Punjab and the Punjabi civil and military bureaucracy and industrial classes are the main beneficiary of the order that the Britsh sat up and US sustained and further strengthened  through its massive military and economic support to the army of pakistan in its strategy to contain the communist USSR.
     
    The same Pakistan army is now determined to help bring a humuliating defeat of US and NATO in Afghanistan of the same scale as of US in Vietnam. For almost a century, Baluchis, Sndhis, Pashtuns, and Bangalis have been at the receiving end of Punjab-US collosion. Now let us see how these old allies and new friends settle scores with each other.  

    • Sania Yousafzai,

      I agree with you – Pakistan’s Punjabi-dominated army is not representative of the entire country or its interests. The army only seeks to perpetuate its rule, by hook or by crook, stoking up fanaticism and provoking wars. They are at the heart of all that is unhealthy about Pakistan.

      One day when your Pashtun people are free from their British-/Punjabi-created hell, then much conflict will disappear from the region, and none of us will ever want to have anything to do with the bad name of Pakistan again.

  17. Stephen Cohen used to be a guest of Pakistan army generals during 1980s when Afghan War was at its height. This “Cold Warrior” seems to be suffering from Cold War nostalgia when Pakistan army acted like a subservient ally and its officer extended him hospitality and loyal obedience in their barracks and messes. 

    Come on Mr. Cohen —Times have changed now…these are now new dynamics.

  18. Canadians are wanna-be Americans,they will do anything to please America,30,000 people have been killed in Pakistan in Terrorist attacks since 9/11 compared to 3,000 people who died on 9/11,Macleans doesn’t see this,also many of the attacks in Pakistan were conducted by the CIA and the Taliban.

  19. Mullen talks of a “relationship” with Pakistan – is this a school girl crush?  I thought this was about American security.  Pakistan is the enemy, and always has been since 9/11.

    If Al-Qaeda was housed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, and if the Taliban were the proxies of the Pakistani government, to the extent where, as this author noted, ISI agents were killed in a 1998 American missile strike, then it easily follows that the Pakistani’s should be held culpable in the 2001 terror attacks on NYC, given that it was their – in essence – colony, from which the attacks were plotted.

    And who wouldn’t be surprised if the ISI had involvement or at least knowledge of the 9/11 attacks before hand? 

  20. In Simple terms it is an article eulogizing the monster and serving snake oil through appeasement. Thank you cold war relics. Still hung over the usefulness of Pakistan.

    Listen you armchair heros, China is no sugar daddy and DOES NOT give cash to anyone including pakistan unlike Americans. Call the bluff of pawki Jehadi army.  

  21. And why were India, Pakistan and Israel allowed to become nuclear nations in the first place.
    A lot of problems would be easily solved if the nuclear issue was not there.

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