Afghanistan Special: New Report on Pakistan’s Intelligence Links with Insurgents (Waldman)

By Prof. Scott Lucas | 14 June 2010

There has been a lot of media furour over the last 48 hours about a new report about the relationship between Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence and the insurgents.




This morning, for example, The Guardian of London features a denial by Pakistani President Asif Zardari of the report’s claim that he met with insurgents in April to assure them of his support. Surprisingly, however, almost none of the media coverage does more than cite a couple of dramatic sentences from the report, and I can only find one article that takes the reader to the study.

Based on 67 interviews, 22 of them with insurgents in Afghanistan, “The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan Insurgents”  is written by Matt Waldman of Harvard University and issued by the London School of Economics’ Development Studies Institute. This is the Conclusion, followed by the link to the entire report:


Afghanistan: What Happens When Our Allies “Do More”? (Mull)


The Taliban movement has a strong internal impetus and dynamic. Numerous studies have shown that there are endogenous drivers of the insurgency, and this is confirmed by the interviews. Taliban and Haqqani fighters are motivated by a range of factors, many of which relate to government predation, corruption or injustice, and the perceived aggression of foreign military forces.

Thus, despite the claims of many interviewees, the ISI (and elements of the Pakistani military) may not actually control the Afghan insurgency, which implies power over all major dimensions of the movement and its campaign, and the ability to bring it to an end. However, as the provider of sanctuary, and very substantial financial, military and logistical support to the insurgency, the ISI appears to have strong strategic and operational influence –– reinforced by coercion. There is thus a strong case that the ISI and elements of the military are deeply involved in the insurgent campaign, and have powerful influence over the Haqqani network.
This relationship appears to be of a different nature, or at least order of magnitude, than
suggested by most studies. However, this assessment has been shared with three experienced Afghan analysts and two senior western security officials, who concur with the principal findings.

It means that without a change in Pakistani behaviour it will be difficult if not impossible for international forces and the Afghan government to make progress against the insurgency. It also means that, as one southern commander put it, ‘if the ISI doesn’t support negotiations [with the Afghan government], then they won’t succeed.’

Perhaps more significantly, it is hard to see how the international coalition can continue to treat Pakistan as an ally and ‘effective partner’. Only last December President Obama affirmed that ‘we are committed to a partnership that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual trust.’92 Since 2001 America has provided Pakistan with $11.6 billion in security-related assistance and $6 billion in economic aid. It is due to provide at least $7.5 billion dollars of aid over the next five years.

Pakistani officers are even represented on the Tripartite Joint Intelligence Operation Center situated in ISAF Headquarters in Kabul. American and other western intelligence agencies must be aware of Pakistan’s conduct. The apparent contradiction –– backing the enemy’s backer – is perhaps a reflection of America’s preoccupation with the threat it faces from Al Qaeda and associated groups, rather than the Afghan Taliban. It may reflect a reluctance to confront an unstable, nuclear-armed country that faces a serious internal threat from Pakistani Taliban groups. It may also reflect a concern not to jeopardise Pakistani cooperation in preventing terrorist attacks against western targets; or a fear of galvanising extremism among Pakistani immigrant communities.

Nevertheless, Pakistan appears to be playing a double-game of astonishing magnitude. The conflict has led to the deaths of over 1,000 American and 700 other foreign military
personnel; thousands of Afghan soldiers, police, officials and civilians; and an unknown
number of Afghan, Pakistani and other foreign insurgents. It has already cost America nearly $300 billion, and now costs over $70 billion a year (Belasco 2009). As a Haqqani commander put it: ‘Of course Pakistan is the main cause of the problems [in Afghanistan] but America is behind Pakistan.’
The Pakistan government’s apparent duplicity – and awareness of it among the American
public and political establishment – could have enormous geo-political implications. It could jeopardise American financial support: security-related assistance is conditional on Pakistan’s cooperation on Afghanistan.97 Moreover, it could trigger punitive counter-measures by the US and its allies, or direct military action against the Afghan Taliban in Pakistani territory. However, an aggressive American response to Pakistan’s conduct is only likely to generate further instability, especially given the army’s on-going battle against Pakistani militant groups and widespread anti-American sentiment among the population. The priority must be to address the fundamental causes of Pakistan’s insecurity, in particular its latent and enduring conflict with India. This requires a regional peace process and, as Bruce Riedel has argued, American backing for moves towards a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. It should be accompanied by support for military and political reform, and a combination of incentives and disincentives to persuade Pakistan’s elite that support for Islamic militants is no longer in Pakistan’s national interests (see Fair 2009 and Fischer 2010).

Even this is no panacea for the Afghan conflict; it merely makes treatment possible. So long as the root causes remain – especially a corrupt, exclusionary, unjust government, and the perception among some Afghans of an aggressive, self-serving foreign military presence –– then the violence will continue.


Read entire report….


* An earlier version of this article is published at Enduring America.



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