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Shock And Awe About-Face

File photo of Pervez Musharraf.
by Arnaud De Borchgrave
UPI Editor at Large
Washington (UPI) Dec 01, 2006
President Bush promoted Pakistan in 2004 to MNNA, the same status enjoyed by close allies Israel, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Egypt and Jordan. Major Non-NATO allies get priority in defense purchases. They have no North Atlantic Treaty obligations, but club rules preclude undermining NATO.

Pakistan has been violating club rules -- big time. President Pervez Musharraf presumably knows about his Inter-Services Intelligence agency's major operations. Official fiction holds that Pakistan is not assisting Taliban's comeback insurgency in Afghanistan.

Yet the interrogation of Taliban prisoners and suspected agents reported to Hamid Karzai's intelligence service -- a total of about 1,500 so far -- shows that every single one (not even one exception) had come from Pakistan, many of them former pupils in madrassas (Koranic schools).

Admittedly, these Taliban fighters may have come from Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, where Pakistani soldiers are not welcome. But most of them had been trained and equipped in Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan's two provinces that border Afghanistan, both governed by pro-Taliban administrations and both friendly to al-Qaida. The entire Taliban resurgence, the interrogations show, was conducted "under the supervision of ISI operatives, one to three layers removed."

The Taliban prisoners also told Afghan security interrogators that Pakistan supplied medical services, as well as rest and recreation facilities near the provincial capitals of Quetta and Peshawar.

Taliban was an ISI project to quell the mayhem that followed the humiliating withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989 after a disastrous 10-year occupation. Its first recruits came from major madrassas, under Wahhabi or Deobandi control, where they were taught the holy book by heart, along with the love of holy war to kill all enemies of Islam.

ISI claims it did not sire the Taliban. But it was present at its birth and assumed the role of wet nurse and then foster parent. ISI also provided training and equipment, and guided tactics and strategy as Taliban, based in Pakistan, under ISI supervision, conquered Afghanistan. Kabul fell to a victorious Taliban in 1996 where flat-earth clerics established their medieval dominion. Mullah Mohammed Omar, an Islamist Torquemada, tyrannical regime ruled for the next five years until the U.S. invasion in Oct. 2001.

ISI had 1,500 officers and operatives in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The country represented Pakistan's defense in depth in the event of an Indian invasion. Many ISI agents were veterans of the anti-Soviet guerrilla campaign that was fought by the mujahideen under ISI direction, with funding and weapons from Saudi Arabia and the U.S.

The culture of ISI has been anti-American ever since the U.S. turned against Pakistan after the Soviets left Afghanistan. The country's secret nuclear weapons program, protected by ISI, incurred a slew of hostile U.S. diplomatic, military and economic sanctions.

The Pakistani military, particularly ISI, is in a Dr. Jekill-Mr.Hyde mode when it comes to U.S. military requests. President Musharraf reacts favorably to U.S. intelligence on al-Qaida's operations in FATA and the rest of Pakistan. Almost 700 al-Qaida terrorists have been arrested since Osama bin Laden and his entourage escaped from the battle of Tora Bora in Dec. 2001.

ISI also gets high praise for its cooperation with British and U.S. intelligence on the movements of Pakistani Brits and Americans suspected of plotting terrorist actions. But ISI stubbornly protects Taliban insurgents when they cross back into Pakistan after killing U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. And al-Qaida's bin Laden, despite a $25 million bounty for information leading to his capture or death, continues to lead a charmed life in a secret location in Pakistan.

The controversial pact Musharraf signed with tribal leaders in North Waziristan last Sept. 5 was officially described as an attempt to sharply curtail Taliban activities. In fact, the deal was signed by pro-Taliban tribal chiefs who went right on helping the Taliban in their privileged sanctuaries. And Taliban incursions into Afghanistan trebled over the following four weeks. Musharraf tries to placate rival factions and forces -- in this case Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal -- MMA, a six-party coalition of religious extremists -- and, on the other side, the U.S., Afghanistan and NATO.

The British, Canadian, Dutch and German NATO allies fighting in Afghanistan know the score on ISI's assistance to the Taliban. Now fighting with battalion-size units, the Taliban enjoys ISI-protected privileged sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the border. But Musharraf's hanky-panky diplomacy is running out of hokey-pokey disinformation.

ISI assigned itself the task of scaring reporters away from embarrassing investigations. Four were held and beaten regularly for several months in 2006. On Nov. 1, the body of the Islamabad bureau chief for Pakistan Press International (PPI) was found near his home in Islamabad, one of four killed during the past six months. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) that represents more than half a million journalists in 115 countries described the Pakistani media as "rapidly skidding toward lawlessness."

Taliban's Operation Comeback now enjoys seamless battle space that stretches from Afghanistan's border provinces all the way into Pakistan's Pashtun region. And 12,000 U.S. and 32,000 (including 10,000 U.S.) NATO troops (from 11 of the alliance's 26 members) are fighting with one hand tied behind their back. Intel notwithstanding, they all make believe Pakistan's ISI isn't helping its Taliban wards. The Taliban and its ISI guardians also enjoy a nice slice of the multi-billion dollar opium poppy cake.

Many of the allies imposed some 50 caveats on where and when their soldiers could be used. Some said "no dusk to dawn operations," which is when Taliban guerrillas are on the move. Others would only serve in "tranquil provinces" in the north with little Taliban activity.

At the NATO summit in Riga this week, president Bush obtained pledges to lift some -- unspecified -- combat curbs on troop use. But France, Germany, Italy and Spain, still declined to allow their troops to be deployed in "hot" combat zones close to the mythical Pak-Afghan demarcation. But they agreed to make unspecified "exceptions" for unspecified "emergencies." And France even suggested bringing Iran into the mix to for a "global strategy" to address NATO's difficulties in Afghanistan.

Latvia and Estonia, former Soviet colonies, committed 10 percent of their armed forces (Latvia has an army of 1,817) to Iraq and Afghanistan. National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley praised them for "punching above their weight" militarily.

By week's end, Pakistan's "Major Non-NATO Ally" status became a total sham when a government spokesman said NATO needed to reach an accommodation with the Taliban insurgency. "Instead of fighting Taliban militants, foreign troops should reconcile themselves to this reality," he said, and "if the Western world makes the mistake of prolonging this war, we would only see a never-ending conflict."

By this Pakistani logic, NATO was now the culprit and should make way for Taliban. At this rate, al-Qaida could look forward to getting its Afghan bases back. And Afghanistan could be volte-face "shock and awe." With 70 percent illiteracy and an economy 60 percent dependent on opium and heroin, democracy was never a viable option.

Source: United Press International

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