By Khaled Ahmed
Oct 18 2013
For Pakistan, the challenge is the non-state actor, not America
Imran Khan leads the national consensus in Pakistan today that the army yielded too readily to the American threat after 9/11 — “after one phone-call saying, are you with us or against us?” Forgetting what the national consensus was in 2001-02, the media has accepted the new catechism: Pakistan should have resisted the American challenge and not moved against al-Qaeda and its affiliated elements, who attacked targets in America and Europe from their safe havens in Pakistan.
Today, almost all the parties believe that the country joined a war on terrorism that was not Pakistan’s to fight. Pakistani Taliban terrorists are greatly encouraged by this new political consensus and are using it to isolate the army leadership that still residually believes that the war against terrorism is Pakistan’s war. It is quite possible that the army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who changed tack last year in a speech saying it was indeed Pakistan’s war, has suddenly decided not to take another extension but retire and go home because of this new all-party consensus.
Some generals who fought al-Qaeda agents after 9/11 and caught and handed over a large number of such elements to the United States for Guantanamo Bay and for trials in New York — including the likes of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef — have gone through an abject inner transformation against America and in favour of “our brothers”, the Taliban. General Shahid Aziz — a relative of General Musharraf — produced a heavy, badly-written tome on such a transformation after he retired earlier this year. Another Taliban-admiring officer, Major-General Sanaullah Niazi, was killed last month by the Taliban, which obviously didn’t care for this spiritual opportunism.
General Pervez Musharraf, who joined the global consensus formed after a UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) was passed under Chapter VII of its charter, is accused today of having caved in to Washington to join a war that was not Pakistan’s. Yet the evidence shows otherwise, and it is actually national memory which has caved in, in the face the Taliban.
Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran who headed President Obama’s review of inter-agency policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, has revealed the time and effort it took to bend the Pakistan army to the global will finally embodied in UNSCR 1373. His book, The Search for Al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future (2009), tells us about the stages Pakistan went through before giving in on the Taliban.
It was President Clinton who first raised “the bin Laden issue with Sharif directly during the prime minister’s visit to Washington on December 3, 1998”. The president asked Sharif to use Pakistan’s influence with the Taliban to help fight al-Qaeda. Sharif suggested that the US help train an ISI commando team to take care of the bin Laden problem. As he explained it, “Pakistan could not be publicly seen to be taking a tough line on the Taliban — that would only help India (read Pakistan army) — so Pakistan would work covertly with the United States on the al-Qaeda issue.”
In 2000, Clinton had the unpleasant task of approaching Musharraf, who had overthrown Sharif and taken over, on the subject of Osama bin Laden. Here we see a clear formulation of what is known as “strategic depth” against India, which, after 2001,was to give birth to Pakistan’s two-pronged policy of fighting terrorism and secretly protecting the Afghan Taliban.
Riedel writes: “President Clinton travelled to Islamabad in March 2000 to press Musharraf to use Pakistan’s leverage over the Taliban to persuade them to stop supporting terrorism... Musharraf was direct and clear: he would do no such thing. Musharraf explained that Afghanistan was of vital interest to Pakistan. It gave Pakistan strategic depth in its struggle with India. With an unfriendly Afghanistan, Pakistan would have been wedged between two hostile neighbours; therefore Pakistan had to maintain close ties with the Taliban and could not try to put pressure on them on America’s behalf.”
In 1998, the Security Council had highlighted terrorism, especially the Taliban government’s role in sheltering and training terrorists in its territory, and demanded an end to the Taliban’s practice of providing sanctuary to terrorists. Pakistan chose not to abide by the resolution of the Security Council. Instead, “the Pakistani military assistance to the Taliban intensified”.
In October 1999, the Security Council passed another resolution specifically mentioning Osama bin Laden by name, “noting that he was under indictment in the United States for the African bombings, and asked that he be turned over”. In addition, the council imposed sanctions, including a ban on all flights into and out of Afghanistan and a freeze on Taliban funds abroad. The Taliban defied the resolutions and “Pakistan stood by for another year without using its leverage”.
In December 2000, the council adopted UNSCR 1333, targeting Pakistan more directly: it called on all states to cease providing arms and ammunition to the Taliban, prohibit the training of Taliban fighters by their nationals, to halt any advisory support to the Taliban military and withdraw any advisors or volunteers fighting with the Taliban. This was an indirect reference to Pakistan. It did not have to be named explicitly: Pakistan was the only country in the world providing military aid to the Taliban.
Pakistan stuck to its guns. The Security Council then passed UNSCR 1363 in July 2001, creating a monitoring team to oversee the implementation of 1333. This made it the last of five UN resolutions after the African bombings which called on the Taliban and Pakistan to take action against al-Qaeda. Pakistan’s resolve was broken only after 9/11, when it complied with UNSCR 1373 and began acting against al-Qaeda leaders embedded in the country.
Riedel goes on to tell us that the Taliban benefited from a safe haven and help in Pakistan, even when the group’s long and well-established ties with the ISI and the Pakistan army were cut by Musharraf after 9/11. This was “most dramatically illustrated during the December 1999 hijacking of Air India’s flight 814 from Kathmandu to Kandahar, perpetrated by al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Kashmiris mixed together”.
Riedel then writes: “One thing is very clear. The Taliban and al-Qaeda apparatus that operates in Pakistan does so with very close connections to the Pakistani terrorist groups that the ISI helped create in the 1990s. Moreover, the ISI itself continues to have close and intimate ties with these groups. Since early 2002, whenever a raid has been conducted in Pakistan against an al-Qaeda safe-house, al-Qaeda members are found being hosted by militant Pakistanis, primarily from Lashkar-e-Taiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed, group supporters of the Kashmiri insurgency.”
In short, Musharraf played a “stab in the back” double game with the US. Instead of putting him on trial for treason, Pakistan should declare him a national hero.
The non-state actors have recoiled on Pakistan. To understand its tormentors, Pakistan should read Machiavelli’s book and go to the page where he tells the Florentine prince not to fight wars through non-state actors — he calls them mercenaries — because “they have their own agenda”.
“Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous. They are disunited, thirsty for power, undisciplined and disloyal...in peacetime you are despoiled by them and in wartime by the enemy. Mercenary commanders cannot be trusted because they are anxious to advance their own greatness, either by coercing you, or by coercing others against your wishes. Experience has shown that only armed princes and republics achieve solid success, and that mercenaries bring nothing but loss.”
Khaled Ahmed is a consulting editor with ‘Newsweek Pakistan’