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