Monday, June 14, 2010
The Sun in the Sky
"The Sun in the Sky" is a discussion paper by Matt Waldman, published by Crisis States Research Center of the London School of Economics. The report is a product of months-long research and interviews with Taliban commanders and intermediaries in the most volatile provinces of Afghanistan, that is often rare for any foreign journalist and researcher. Hence, I also think Waldman should be appreciated for operationalizing the assertions and alleges on Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to an important extent.
At least Afghans who are aware of their history do not need any academic scrutiny to prove that the Taliban and insurgency in Afghanistan are the creation of ISI. The Afghanistan National Directorate of Security (NDS) have always provided the evidence of ISI's back up to the suicide bombers and insurgents sent towards Kabul from Pakistan's NWFP or North and South Waziristan. While many journalists including Ahmed Rashid and Steve Coll have written books on the various gamuts of the ISI-Taliban nexus, the Pakistani political leaders have too confirmed about ISI support to Taliban as its official policy.
But an attempt to bring the issue into a more politically critical discussion, is of huge importance. As the title of the report suggests, " Sun in the Sky"- this issue is light and clear like the sun in the sky that we often take it for granted.However no solution for Afghanistan would be viable without addressing this dilemma with ISI.
While the rest is a known reality- the influence and participation of the ISI in the leadership of the Taliban is a new discussion in the report. Waldman says:
"Insurgent commanders confirmed 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. Indeed, the agency appears to have circumscribed the Taliban’s strategic autonomy, precluding steps towards talks with the Afghan government through recent arrests."
The rest of the report continues to discuss the dynamics of the relationship of the Taliban movement with the ISI which is hierarchical, fearing, and of domination. It is understandable on the Taliban part as well to rely on the ISI support as they have been under fire in Afghanistan for all these years and the ISI have leveraged well on their vulnerability. This is an important component for any reconciliation arrangements that the external supports have to be seized for the insurgents. However, we in Afghanistan know it for sure, that if the Taliban movement is somehow subdued by the international forces and the Afghan government through their carrot and stick ( Re-integration and COIN) strategies, ISI will keep creating and recreating insurgencies for Afghanistan to secure their perceived national interest. As Waldman says:
"The Taliban-ISI relationship is founded on mutual benefit. The Taliban need external sanctuary, as well as military and logistical support to sustain their insurgency; the ISI believes that it needs a significant allied force in Afghanistan to maintain regional strength and ‘strategic depth’ in their rivalry with India.12 As a former Taliban minister put it: ‘The ISI are helping the Taliban a lot, but they only give for their own gain. There is a reciprocal issue: Kashmir. The root of the problem in Afghanistan is the Pakistan-India competition."
What is needed is to create assurances for ISI leadership that Afghanistan wont be anchoring any threats against Pakistan or will not allow India to use Afghanistan soil against Pakistan. While non-alignment is history now- we can not ignore the growing nuclear tensions in South Asia among India and Pakistan and the emerging threats from Iran as it goes nuclear. In such circumstances, what would be the the reactions and responses by Russia and China, time will tell us. But Afghanistan continues to bear the brunt of its geography.
( The report can be found : http://bit.ly/bI7sfMThe)