Daniel Korski

Pakistan: friend or foe?

Pakistan: friend or foe?
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One of the biggest obstacles for NATO in Afghanistan has been the role of Pakistan and its intelligence apparatus in supporting the Taliban insurgency. Officially, the Pakistani government deny backing the Taliban insurgency, but even Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, have said they suspect Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence service of being engaged in anti-NATO activities.

Now, a new report by the Harvard-based analyst and former head of OXFAM in Kabul, Matt Waldman, takes the accusations to a new level.

'The relationship, in fact, goes far beyond contact and coexistence, with some assistance provided by elements within, or linked to, Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI) or military. Although the Taliban has a strong endogenous impetus, according to Taliban commanders the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement. They say it gives sanctuary to both Taliban and Haqqani groups, and provides huge support in terms of training, funding, munitions, and supplies.' 

Based on interviews with nine Taliban field commanders in Afghanistan between February and May this year, Waldman argues that the ISI are even represented, as participants or observers, on the Taliban supreme leadership council, known as the Quetta Shura, and the Haqqani command council and that Pakistani President Zardari has assured captive, senior Taliban leaders that they are ‘our people’ and have his backing. He has also apparently authorised their release from prison. The ISI even arrested and then released two Taliban leaders, Qayyum Zakir, the Taliban’s new military commander, and Mullah Abdul Raouf Khadem, head of the Quetta Shura, both close associates of Mullah Omar.


None of this should come as a surprise to observers of Pakistan – even if the extent of the links between the ISI and Pakistan are greater than assumed -- but nobody is sure what to do about it beyond what the Obama administration has been doing.