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Pakistan ISI Involvement in the Afghanistan War

The Middle East is a strategically important region and the control over the region opens the way to the control over the oil supply from the Gulf region worldwide. In such a situation, the US, being the leading power in the world, attempts to establish its control over the Gulf region and the Middle East but it confronts a strong resistance from the part of terrorist organizations, which resist to the democratization of the Middle East conducted under the lead of the US, because the democratization leads to the decay of Islamic traditions and establishment of western traditions and westernization of the Middle East. At the same time, such countries as Afghanistan are strategically important for the US because Afghanistan is viewed by many experts () as the basis for terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda. However, in spite of the military interference of the US in Afghanistan and the recent killing of Osama bin Laden, terrorist organizations in Afghanistan persist. In this regard, some experts () suggest that the control over the territory of Afghanistan alone is not enough for many terrorists move through Afghan-Pakistani border and escape from the US military and Afghan army to Pakistan, whereas, as the threat fades away, they come back and renew their training and terrorist activities in Afghanistan. On the other hand, it is obvious that the movement of terrorists throughout Afghan-Pakistani border is impossible without the assistance of Pakistani authorities or military. Recently, Pakistan ISI has become subject to severe criticism because many repots reveal its close connections with terrorists in Afghanistan. Even though the Pakistani authorities deny the existence of any correlation between Pakistan ISI and terrorists in Afghanistan, the movement of terrorists throughout the Afghan-Pakistan border persists and the ISI fails to prevent it, if naturally the ISI has such a goal.

In fact, the US views Pakistan as its major ally in the Middle East, for the Pakistani officials have declared its support of the US policies in the Middle East and the Pakistani government is pro-American. In such a situation, allegations concerning the assistance of Pakistan ISI to terrorists in Afghanistan and to Taliban, in particular, sound unreasonable and illogical. In actuality, the Pakistan officials are loyal to the US and do not support any terrorist organization or anti-American force in the region. On the other hand, specialists () still insist on possible support of terrorists in Afghanistan from the part of Pakistan ISI.


At this point, it is possible to refer to the position of the British Defense Ministry think tank charged, “Indirectly Pakistan (through the ISI) has been supporting terrorism and extremism – whether in London on 7/7 [the July 2005 attacks on London’s transit system], or in Afghanistan, or Iraq.” (Bajoria, 2011). In fact, the British are allies of the US in its military operations in the Middle East and basically support the US policies. Therefore, the British Defense Ministry is interested in the protection of interests of the US in the region because the interests of the US and the UK coincide, to a significant extent. At the same time, the British Defense Ministry grounds its position on reports obtained in terms of the intelligent activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In such a way, the possible relationships between the Pakistan ISI and Afghanistan and local terrorist organizations could have existed and probably exist at the moment.
At this point, it is quite noteworthy that May 1, 2011, killing of America’s most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani military town not far from Islamabad raised new questions over army and ISI support for the al-Qaeda leader and the legitimacy of their counterterrorism efforts (Bajoria, 2011). In fact, the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, was the terrorist number one in the list of the US intelligence and the major threat to national interests of the US but he did not hide in Afghanistan, which the US viewed as the main basis of international terrorism. Instead, he hid in Pakistan. This news was particularly sensational, taking into consideration the fact that the US viewed Pakistan as its allies, whereas the enemy number one of the US hid in Pakistan. In fact, the presence of Osama Bin Laden could hardly be out of knowledge of the Pakistan ISI. In other words, the ISI probably had the information that Osama Bin Laden was on the territory of Pakistan but it failed to identify his location and, what is more, the ISI did not even inform the US about the presence of the terrorist number one in the world on the territory of the US. In such a way, the Pakistan ISI failed to assist the US to found and kill Osama Bin Laden.


At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the recent case of possible involvement of the ISI in the cooperation with terrorist organizations operating in Afghanistan was not the only evidence of the cooperation between the ISI and Afghan Taliban and other terrorist organizations. In fact, the ISI’s first major involvement in Afghanistan came after the Soviet invasion in 1979, when it partnered with the CIA to provide weapons, money, intelligence, and training to the mujahadeen fighting the Red Army (Bajoria, 2011). In such a way, the ISI has already cooperated with Afghanistan, whereas, today, the interaction of the ISI and Afghanistan and its terrorist organizations is likely to persist.


In actuality, experts generally suspect Pakistan still provides some support to the Taliban, though probably not to the extent it did in the past (Bajoria, 2011). This means that, today, the Pakistan ISI could have decreased its cooperation with terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and the interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. In this regard, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the interference of the Pakistan ISI is quite natural because Afghanistan is a neighbor country and, naturally, the Pakistan ISI attempts to establish its control over the development of Afghanistan to secure its position in the region and to enhance its influence in the Middle East using its connections with terrorist organizations and other forces in Afghanistan.


However, the extent of cooperation between the Pakistan ISI and Afghanistan and organizations operating in Afghanistan goes far beyond the mere attempt to gather ifnromation about the situation in Afghanistan and forecast its development. At this point, it is possible to refer to documents, made available by an organization called WikiLeaks, suggest that Pakistan, an ostensible ally of the United States, allows representatives of its spy service to meet directly with the Taliban in secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders (Mazzetti et al., 2010). In fact, Afghani terrorist organizations based in Afghanistan expand their operations and training programs on Pakistan. To put it more precisely, “there are Taliban in the Parwan Province…. Hes [sic] known about the Hizbul Mujahideen operating in Afghanistan and has knowledge of them working in the Parwan Province at least for the last two years. He suspects that they … work with Taliban and Pakistani ISI (Behreandt, 2010). In this regard, it is obvious that Taliban could not expand its network, while the Pakistan ISI remained unaware of this network. In such a way, the Pakistan ISI cooperates with Taliban and other organizations based and operating in Afghanistan because bases of Afghan terrorists in Pakistan could not exist, if the ISI conduct active anti-terrorist operations for the ISI should just provide the US military with information on the presence of terrorists in Pakistan and the US military would assist to the Pakistan ISI in the destruction of terrorist bases.


Obviously, the cooperation between the Pakistan ISI and Afghan terrorist organizations and Taliban had a negative impact on operations of the US military in Afghanistan. At this point, specialists argue that behind-the-scenes frustrations of soldiers on the ground and glimpses of what appear to be Pakistani skullduggery contrast sharply with the frequently rosy public pronouncements of Pakistan as an ally by American officials, looking to sustain a drone campaign over parts of Pakistani territory to strike at Qaeda havens (Mazzetti et al., 2010). It proves beyond a doubt that the cooperation between the Pakistan ISI and Afghan terrorist organizations and Taliban undermined military operations of the US in Afghanistan because terrorist fled to Pakistan, if the US military pushed on them too much and put under a threat their existence. Moreover, Pakistan was and still remains the supplier of human resources for terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and the Pakistan ISI could not remain ignorant of the flow of people to Afghanistan and their involvement in terrorist organizations and activities. On the other hand, the Pakistani authorities pretended to support the US. For instance, another report, this time dated “2007-02-25,” the Patan District Commissioner, who claimed to be eager to work with U.S. forces because “the Taliban had destroyed his country and now they had a chance because the US was present,” said that insurgents “were entering from Pakistan facilitated by Pakistans ISID” using as a “staging point” the Pakistani village of Mata Sangar (Behreandt, 2010).


In such a way, it is obvious that, in spite of the proclaimed cooperation between Pakistan and the US and the formal support of the US in the region from the part of the Pakistani authorities, the Pakistan ISI still supports Taliban and other terrorist organizations in Afghanistan. The situation seems to be paradoxical but to understand the reason for the Pakistan ISI connections with Afghan terrorist organizations and Taliban, it is important to dwell upon the issue of the control over the ISI and interests the ISI stands for. What is meant here is the fact that the control over the Pakistan ISI defines policies conducted by the ISI. In other words, who controls the ISI defines the policies conducted by the ISI.


Constitutionally, the ISI is accountable to the prime minister but most officers in the ISI are from the army, so that is where their loyalties and interests lie (Bajoria, 2011). Therefore, in spite of the formal control of the ISI from the part of the Pakistani government, but, in actuality, it is the military, who hold the control over the ISI. At the same time, experts say because of their links to the Taliban and other militant groups, the ISI has some influence in the region. But with the mushrooming of armed groups in the tribal agencies, it is hard to say which ones the agency controls (Bajoria, 2011).


In such a situation, it turns out to be quite natural that the Pakistan ISI, being the state agency, is under the control of the military that makes its policies different from policies conducted by the government of Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan denies the existence of any relationships and support of terrorist in Afghanistan by its ISI. Pakistan denies supporting the Taliban and other insurgents in Afghanistan (Behreandt, 2010). In this regard, it is possible to refer to the position of Pakistani officials. To put it more precisely, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi denied the accusations in the US documents. “These are far-fetched and warped reports that evidently are incompatible with reality” (Kazim, 2010). In addition, the former ISI chief Hamid Gul also denies any involvement: “Report of my physical involvement with al Qaeda or Taliban in planning attacks on American forces is completely baseless,” (Behreandt, 2010). In fact, the former Pakistani general and head of the country’s ISI intelligence service from 1987 until 1989, Hamid Gul, is regarded as someone who has a lot of sympathy for the Taliban’s fight against the United States and its allies (Kazim, 2010).


On the other hand, a recent study released by the London School of Economics concluded that, despite the war on terror taking place in its own country, Pakistan still provides support to the insurgents in Afghanistan right up to the highest levels of leadership (Kazim, 2010). In such a way, the Pakistan ISI conducts policies independent of policies conducted by Pakistani government. However, the government cannot regain the control over the ISI until it moves the military out of control over the ISI.


Therefore, the Pakistan ISI is likely to support terrorist in Afghanistan, whereas its pro-Western position is rather provisional than a strategic decisions being made by Pakistan and ISI. Pakistan only supports the West because it needs American money, he has said, adding that at some point, Allah willing, Pakistan won’t be dependent on outside help, and will be able to return to its Islamic roots (Kazim, 2010). In fact, this means that the Pakistan ISI is a conservative body, which stands on the traditional interests of Pakistan. Pakistan supports the US as long as it is interested in its support.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the Pakistan ISI is likely to support terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and Taliban, although the formal policies of Pakistan focus on the support of the US and its military operations in Afghanistan. The problem is that the Pakistan ISI is under the control of the military but not the government and the government has different views on the Pakistani-Afghan relationships.

References:


Bajoria, J. (2011). The ISI and Terrorism: Behind the Accusations. Retrieved on July 25, 2011 from http://www.cfr.org/pakistan/isi-terrorism-behind-accusations/p11644
Behreandt, D. (2010). “WikiLeaks Documents Reveal Extent of Pakistani ISI Activity in Afghanistan.” New American. Retrieved on July 25, 2011 from http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-mainmenu-26/asia-mainmenu-33/4160-wikileaks-documents-reveal-extent-of-pakistani-isi-activity-in-afghanistan
Cohen, Stephen P. (2008). The Idea of Pakistan. New York: The Brookings Institution.
Halliday, Fred. (February 1998). “State and Ideology in the Middle East and Pakistan.” Monthly Review Pr..
Kazim, H. (2010). “Former Pakistan ISI Chief Gul Denies US Accusations.” Speigel. Retrieved on July 25, 2011 from http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,708592,00.html
Malik, Hafeez. (2001). Pakistan: Founders’ Aspirations and Today’s Realities. Oxford University Press.
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Mazzetti, M. et al. (2010). “Pakistan Aids Insurgency in Afghanistan, Repots Assert. The New York Times. Retrieved on July 25, 2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/26/world/asia/26isi.html?pagewanted=1
Sharif, Shuja. (31 March 2005). “Musharraf’s Administration And Pakistan’s Economy.” Contemporary Review. 129–134.
Walsh, D. (2011). “”Whose Side Is Pakistan’s ISI Really on?” The Guardian. Retrieved on July 25, 2011 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/12/isi-bin-laden-death-pakistan-alqaida