Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

The enemy of my enemy is my enemy

Posted by Charles II on June 13, 2010

Declan Walsh, The Guardian:

Pakistani intelligence is so deeply involved in the arming and funding of the Afghan Taliban that it holds a seat on the militant leadership council and has sent the president, Asif Ali Zardari, to make prison visits to captured leaders, a report by the London School of Economics has said.

Researcher Matt Waldman said Pakistani support for the insurgency was “official” policy, implemented by the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency in the form of money, weapons and training.

“Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude,” the report, which cited interviews with unnamed Taliban commanders and western officials, said.

An ISI official in Islamabad described the report as “rubbish”….

One [interviewee] said the ISI support originally came from the US government…

The latter point is a question that I asked Ahmed Rashid and he did not answer. Not that he would necessarily know. But logically someone kept militant Islam in Central Asia alive and well after US military aid was cut off from Pakistan. Funds came from Saudi Arabia, presumably. But would the Saudis have done that without American approval? Doubtful.

So it’s interesting that the creation of the Taliban may or may not (according to one interviewee in a report that may or may not be rubbish) have been accomplished with American dollars. I suspect it did, but only because I believe in the existence of Nemesis.

3 Responses to “The enemy of my enemy is my enemy”

  1. Stormcrow said

    Connections between ISI and the Taliban would not surprise me. The Pashtun are the majority ethnic population of the FATA, IIRC, and wherever they’re settled, the Taliban must be reckoned with, one way or another.

    From what I’ve read about the FATA, it’s almost as difficult a place to manage as Afghanistan itself. Mountainous and a crazy-quilt of dozens of different tribes, each one effectively sovereign in it’s own little patch of ground. Doesn’t matter who’s theoretically running the show in Islamabad. Any cooperation you’re going to get from the FATA, you’re going to have to dicker for.

    And the ISI is as ungovernable a bunch of spooks as you’re going to find on Planet Earth. They have never given a hoot in hell what the mere President of Pakistan said. A law unto themselves.

    So the ISI working both sides of the fence is not only reasonable, it’s likely. Both with information and with money.

    But going from this to American money helping to found the Taliban is quite a stretch. Especially since the article doesn’t imply a foundational connection, even for the ISI.

    • Charles II said

      The word “originally” could be read to mean foundational, Stormcrow, though the rest of the sentence may imply a starting point of 2001.

      A key point to understand is that Islamic fundamentalism is deeply alien to that part of the world, which has always been known for moderate, even mystical practice. A heavy hammer had to be applied to destroy that instinctive moderation before fundamentalism was adopted. Some blows of that hammer were swung by the Soviets, whose support of secularism discredited it. But most of the blows were delivered by mujahedeen and the ISI.

      During the 1980s, of course, the big money was American, which may have flowed through the ISI, and Saudi. After the USSR departed, so did official American support. Because the US was trying to enforce non-proliferation, aid to Pakistan was cut off in ca. 1992. Spare parts for American built jets were withheld, causing a bit of a crisis. Indeed, without American aid, Pakistan was in financial straits (and has been ever since). In ca. 1994/5, the Taliban was created using in part the former mujahedeen. It’s believed that it was created, equipped, and directed under ISI. One theory that I have seen is that the conflict in Afghanistan from this period on was a proxy war between India and Pakistan.

      We also know that significant American money flowed directly to the Taliban in the months just prior to 9/11. As much as the media tried to knock down and discredit Bob Scheer’s interpretation of a NY Times report to that effect, it appears that he (and the original Times story) was probably correct. And, of course, now substantial American money is flowing to the Taliban as a bribe to keep roads open.

      So, basically, there’s a gap in our knowledge. American money flowed to the mujahedeen. Then comes a period when we don’t know who was sustaining the mujahedeen and then the Taliban. Then American money flowed to the Taliban. The relationships and the willingness to deal were clearly in place all along. But we don’t know with certainty what happened from about 1992-2001. Someone sustained radical Islam. That someone certainly included Saudis. Did it include covert US money? Unknown. But the Saudi money almost certainly would not have flowed if the US had objected.

      Now, the Pashtun do love to fight, at least as long as there’s money in it. But, as I said, it’s very unnatural for them to do it for religious reasons.

      It’s a puzzle, and one that I have not been able to answer in the 10 years since I wrote my two pieces for American Politics about the causes of 9/11 (Stop the Spin and A Tangled Web).

  2. jo6pac said

    We also know that significant American money flowed directly to the Taliban in the months just prior to 9/11.

    This isn’t the first time we have funded the enemy, thanks for the links Charles that’s how remember it. Sad, I doubt we will ever turn the corner away from this type of action.

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