The Afghanistan-Pakistan Connection

New reports coming from Wikileaks show the dark side of the supposed alliance between Pakistan and the U.S. As has long been suspected and reported, there is more solid evidence than ever that Pakistan’s military and intelligence forces are actively aiding the Afghan resistance. This story in the NY Times provides some interesting details on just how close the relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban is, and how much this has hindered the U.S. war effort in the region. The full 90,000 reports can be found here.

At the heart of the story seems to be Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – the spy agency linked closely with Afghan militants. Since 2004 it has supplied intelligence, weapons, and other resources, allowing them to launch attacks on U.S. forces and then retreat across the porous border into South Waziristan and the Tribal Areas. Since the 1970s, the ISI has been rather lenient toward various Afghan militants (including Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, two of the warlords still most wanted by the U.S.), seeing the fighters as useful for Pakistan’s own regional ambitions. For more details, see Ahmed Rashid’s excellent essay “The Afghanistan Impasse” in the New York Review from October of last year.

More than $300 billion has been spent on the war in Afghanistan alone since 2001. The top U.S. commander, General Stanley McChrystal was recently sacked in an embarrassing revelation about the disconnect between the military and the policymakers in Washington. The U.S. is committed to a hopelessly corrupt and powerless government under Karzai in the questionable belief that the only way to stabilize the country is to recreate it in the form of a strongly centralized traditional nation-state. Bombings and drone strikes have killed thousands of Afghan civilians, while many others have been kidnapped by militias, only to be turned over to U.S. forces and sent to black sites. The C.I.A. has been launching paramilitary attacks within the country and running the Afghan intelligence services as a virtual subsidiary.

These latest revelations about the war in the region confirms what many have already known for years: that the effort to stabilize Afghanistan and turn Pakistan’s government entirely to the U.S.’s side has been largely a failure. David Miliband, the former Foreign Secretary of the U.K. (and currently the Shadow Foreign Secretary) wrote in April that “within two to five years it is realistic to aspire to see the country still on an upward trajectory, still poor but stable, with a just peace, with democracy and inclusive politics taking hold at all levels, and with incomes growing.” Considering the reality on the ground, such optimism may be asking for too much.

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