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User Name: Asif_Haroon_Raja
Full Name: Asif Haroon Raja
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London report - old wine in the new bottle


Asif Haroon Raja


Themes coined by Indo-US-Israeli nexus read something like this: Pakistan helped fugitive Afghan Taliban to regroup since they are viewed as strategic assets. Parts of ISI support Taliban, and are protecting Mullah Omar and other leaders. Balochistan is sanctuary of Afghan Taliban, recruiting ground and command post to coordinate operations in Southern Afghanistan. All strategic decisions are made by Quetta Shura. Decisions flow out to field commanders who in turn take tactical decisions. They are uninterested in operations inside Pakistan. Pashtun tribes in Kandahar region, which is Taliban ethnic and spiritual base, have strong ties with those on Pakistan side. FATA is the breeding ground of terrorists, most dangerous place and main base of Al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden and other top leaders of Al-Qaeda are in FATA since 2002 and coordinate activities in Eastern Afghanistan. Pakistan secret services continue to secretly train Taliban fighters. While Zardari is keen to wipe out terrorism Pak military doesn’t share the view.


On 11 May, blog Brie Bart floated a balloon in the air that as per credible intelligence sources, Mullah Omar had been captured by Pakistan. This rumor was circulated a day after Hillary Clinton accused some Pak officials of sheltering Osama and Omar. London-based think tank Legatum Institute has opined that given the rising trend of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, in next 1-3 years timeframe Pakistan would convert from pro-western wholly secular society to one that is Islamic and anti-American.


Recent report of London School of Economics authored by Matt Waldman and published by Sunday Times has created quite a stir. Salient points of implausible report are: Taliban are creation of ISI; the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences Taliban movement; ISI provides funding and training to Taliban on a very large scale; ISI has strong influence on strategic decision-making and field operations of Taliban; ISI controls most violent units of Taliban, some based in Pakistan; ISI gives sanctuary to Taliban and Haqqani group; ISI and civilian government arms Taliban, launches them against specified targets in Afghanistan; representative of ISI has a seat in Afghan Shura based in Quetta; Zardari is in cahoots with Taliban, met their leaders and assured them unstinted support; Pakistan is playing a double game.       


Zardari is handpicked choice of Washington. He is liberal, pro-western, pro-Indian, and very friendly to Hamid Karzai and anti-Islamist. He has religiously pursued American policies against terrorism. Zardari’s rating has dropped from 64% in 2008 to 32% since he is generally seen as the man responsible for most woes of Pakistan. He is viewed as US installed president incapable of taking independent decisions. With such a sullied image he can ill-afford to befriend Afghan Taliban. Having lost the domestic support, would he like to earn the displeasure of his chief mentor and come on its wrong side? He loses everything and gains nothing by this move.


What was the great need for him to make a secret trip to the unspecified jail and meet 50 Taliban leaders? Was it a guest house or a jail where such a large number was housed? The President doesn’t visit a place singly and stealthily particularly when the overall security situation is highly turbulent. He moves with a heavy entourage under full security cover. How come his visit went unnoticed by the media? Why the Taliban needed his personal assurance of support if the ISI was fully in league with them? As supreme commander of armed forces he has yet to visit FATA and Swat where war is raging. It was understandable if Lt Gen Shuja Pasha or Gen Kayani had undertaken the sojourn which is also an unrealistic hypothesis. 


If the figure of 50 had been ascertained, why couldn’t the names found out? Why the CIA and FBI positioned behind every bush in Pakistan since September 2001 could not pinpoint this so-called jail? The US couldn’t have dreamt of a more scrumptious target for drone attack than this one which would have contributed a great deal towards breaking the back of Taliban movement? It might have saved Gen McChrystal from launching Kandahar operation about which he is hesitant. Considering the chaotic state of affairs in Afghanistan where defeat is staring in the face of coalition forces, the US military would have pounced on this great opportunity especially when Washington has made clear that it has the right to take unilateral action whenever any actionable intelligence is available inside Pakistan.


The Taliban are known to be media shy. They remain underground and keep focused towards their main objective of fighting occupation forces. Mission oriented approach has kept the resistance alive. It is their aloofness which has kept them safe from the roving eyes of CIA-Mossad-RAW-MI6-BMD-RAAM for ten years. Giving interviews freely to an unknown man Waldman runs against their policy. Time and again the Taliban have asserted that their Jihad against occupation forces is indigenous and without any external support. This story has also been rubbished by them.


Now that the Taliban have inched closer towards the victory stand, why should they give all the credit to ISI? What do they gain out of it? If Waldman has really interviewed nine important Taliban field commanders and Afghan intelligence officials, why has he not specified bio-data of each interviewee? Why not a single one he interviewed has corroborated his story? Why none interviewed from Pakistan? If he could gain access to so many Taliban leaders so easily, I reckon heads of six intelligence agencies based in Kabul should hang in shame since for last ten years they have been desperately searching for them, but unable to nab even one.         


The ISI would have gone out of their wits to let the cat out of the bag by suggesting to President Zardari to meet Taliban leaders in person. Taking into account the rich intellectual background of Matt Waldman, this story is a poor fabrication and doesn’t speak well of the architect. He must have been paid well to present such a bizarre story with no head or tail. The whole emphasis is on defaming Army and ISI, transferring failures of ISAF on Pakistan, and to maximize pressure on Zardari to keep playing US dictated game. There is hardly anything new in the charges leveled against Pakistan except that old themes have been suitably modified to make them appear more dramatic. It is just like putting old wine in the new bottle. Having realized the absurdity of the report, the US dismissed it but Boston Globe absolved Zardari and laid the whole blame on Pak Army.         


The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst and author of several books
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