As if peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government weren’t already fraught with enough complications, Pakistan wants to get into the act too. Underlining the constructive role they have played throughout the war in Afghanistan, the Pakistanis are threatening to derail any peace agreement that might be reached without their participation:
Pakistani security officials are expressing frustration that they have not been included in Afghan President Hamid Karzai‘s recent overtures to the Taliban, warning that a sustainable peace agreement will not be possible without their support.
In interviews, army and intelligence officers here also said they were skeptical of assertions by U.S. military leaders that coalition forces have turned the corner in their fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan and that reconciliation talks are at hand, calling that narrative a “desperate” attempt to convince the American public that there is progress in the war.
Another high-ranking security official cautioned that the Americans must be careful that their “desperate push to produce results … does not become strategically unacceptable to our side. We cannot be insignificant in this war. If somebody is trying to keep us out and is striving for sustainable peace, good luck to them.”
These, of course, are Pakistani security officials speaking, a bunch of high-ranking army and intelligence officers. Not the Pakistani government. Because the Pakistani government is our friend, our very valuable front-line ally in the War Against Terror. Whereas Pakistani security officials are just a bunch of loose cannons, a law unto themselves, neither acting on behalf of the government, nor answerable to it.
But let’s not digress into the internal anarchies of this semi-failed state that we know and love so much (and support with so many billions of dollars a year).
These Pakistani security officials want in on reconciliation talks that they doubt very much are even really taking place. The U.S. position is that “the Afghan government must lead the peace process without interference.”
It is, of course, a little late for us to be making pious statements about Pakistan not interfering in Afghanistan. We have cheerfully looked the other way and allowed that to happen for far too long to have any credibility on the subject:
Pakistan is thought to have significant leverage over key insurgent factions. Pakistan heavily supported the Taliban during the group’s five years in power in Afghanistan before the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, and insurgent leaders now shelter in Pakistan. Elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services have allegedly maintained assistance to the Taliban, envisioning the group as a tool for exerting influence after U.S. and other foreign forces have left Afghanistan.
So now, as we hope that the Taliban and the Karzai government can make peace and live happily ever after, and Pakistan starts to mutter “Over my dead body, dear BFF!”, it’ does feel very much like we are only reaping what we sowed.
In a nutshell, it seems that the Pakistanis are very keen that Taliban leader Mohammad Omar is involved in the reconciliation talks. It has something to do with the fact that Mohammad Omar is their main man.
This time around, Pakistani army and intelligence officials said the Americans have not told them which Taliban leaders have been involved in meetings with the Afghans. And media reports that the Taliban’s top leader, Mohammad Omar, will be excluded from any reconciliation talks have added to the Pakistanis’ frustration. American officials consider Omar to be closely tied to Pakistan’s main intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI.
“We have been hearing that some Taliban commanders have been meeting the officials in Kabul without the consent of Mullah Omar,” said a brigadier general in the ISI, using an Islamic honorific with Omar’s name. “If that’s true, we believe it would be a fatal mistake, because the Taliban supreme commander still holds sway over the ranks of the Taliban and no one could defy him.”
Pakistan is just too used to being allowed to meddle in Afghanistan. And they don’t seem to have any intention of kicking the habit any time soon.