In official statements, Pakistan says it backs a peaceable decision in Afghanistan. But when there’s one world capital the place the Taliban victory was greeted with barely disguised glee, it was in Islamabad. On Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan praised Afghans for “breaking the shackles of slavery.” On social media, retired generals and different Taliban boosters hailed the triumph of Islam, by no means thoughts that the defeated Afghan authorities too known as itself an Islamic republic.
Exultant Pakistanis shared a video clip from 2014 that includes Hamid Gul, a former head of the military’s spy company, Inter-Providers Intelligence. “When historical past is written, it will likely be said that the ISI defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with the assistance of America,” Gul says to a fawning TV studio viewers. “Then there will likely be one other sentence. The ISI, with the assistance of America, defeated America.”
You may perceive why Taliban followers wish to gloat. Between 2002 and 2018, the U.S. authorities gave Pakistan greater than $33 billion in help, together with about $14.6 billion in so-called Coalition Help Funds paid by the Pentagon to the Pakistani navy. (Donald Trump ended almost all navy help and in addition slashed nonmilitary assist from its peak within the Obama years.) Throughout the identical interval, Pakistan ensured the failure of America’s Afghanistan undertaking by surreptitiously sheltering, arming and coaching the Taliban.
“We discovered ourselves in an extremely weird scenario, the place you’re paying the nation that created your enemy so that it’s going to allow you to preserve preventing that enemy,” says Sarah Chayes, a former adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Employees, in a telephone interview. “For those who wished to win the warfare, you needed to crack down on Pakistan. For those who wished to conduct operations [in Afghanistan] you needed to mollify Pakistan.”
For Pakistan’s generals, successful the “double recreation”—ostensibly aiding America whereas concurrently abetting its enemies—required finesse. At instances, it appeared as if the jig was up, particularly in 2011 when U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in a protected home subsequent to Pakistan’s premier navy academy. However successive administrations—Republican and Democratic—refused to take measures that would have compelled Pakistan to rethink its help for the Taliban.
Concepts equivalent to forcibly denuclearizing Pakistan, imposing sanctions on military officers, curbing the journey and training within the West of ISI operatives and their households, scrapping Pakistan’s farcical designation as a “main non-NATO ally,” and declaring it a state sponsor of terrorism by no means made it past suppose tank stories and newspaper punditry. Washington all the time blinked, fearing instability in a nuclear-armed nation of greater than 200 million folks.
“Pakistan is a country-sized suicide bomber,” Ms. Chayes says. “The message Islamabad sends is that in the event you get too near us we’re going to blow ourselves up.”
The world will doubtless get that instability anyway. No less than for now, the Taliban’s victory fulfills the Pakistani military’s decades-old quest to achieve “strategic depth” by controlling Afghanistan. However this won’t sate the generals; it should whet their urge for food.
Earlier than the 9/11 assaults, they used Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as a coaching floor for anti-India jihadist teams equivalent to Lashkar-e-Taiba. Afghanistan additionally gave the ISI a solution to deflect accountability from itself for terrorist assaults traced again to territory managed by its protégés. Given the Taliban’s shut hyperlinks with teams like al Qaeda and the LeT, solely the willfully naive would take at face worth assurances by the jihadist group that they received’t permit Afghan territory for use to focus on different nations.
The symbolic significance of a military of zealots humbling the world’s sole superpower is tough to magnify. Within the Pakistani military it should strengthen the hand of those that view Afghanistan not merely in geopolitical phrases, however because the achievement of a non secular undertaking rooted in an excessive interpretation of Islam that shuns all Western affect.
The identical holds true in Pakistani society at giant. If music-hating, anti-Western, anti-Shiite misogynists can seize energy in Kabul, why can’t they do the identical in Islamabad? No less than one homegrown Pakistani jihadist group, the Tehreek-e-Taliban, is comprised of fighters already at odds with the Pakistani authorities.
In a telephone interview from Islamabad, Afrasiab Khattak, a former Pakistani senator and Pashtun-rights activist, factors out that Pakistan homes some 36,000 madrassas, or non secular seminaries, a few of that are militant. “The identical locations producing the Taliban are producing comparable folks in Pakistan,” he says. “They are going to contest for energy in Pakistan too.”
In early 2009, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai pressed Vice President-elect Joe Biden to crack down on Taliban protected havens throughout the border, Mr. Biden reportedly rebuffed him by mentioning that “Pakistan is 50 instances extra vital than Afghanistan for the USA.” As president, Mr. Biden might have ensured that Pakistan is 50 instances extra harmful to the U.S. and the world as properly.
This story has been printed from a wire company feed with out modifications to the textual content.
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