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barnett rubin

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Author of several books on Afghanistan, Rubin is director of studies and a senior fellow at New York University's Center on International Cooperation. In 2001, he served as an adviser to Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.'s special representative for Afghanistan. Here, Rubin outlines Afghanistan's geostrategic importance to Pakistan and argues that U.S. policy is doomed to fail unless policymakers understand the regional politics. "I cannot really overstate how important the stakes are," he tells FRONTLINE. "A U.S. military leader in Afghanistan said to me just last week that if we do not find a way to stabilize the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States will always be at risk." This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on Aug. 15, 2006.

I don't blame Pakistan necessarily for pursuing its national interests. I blame the United States for not seriously trying to understand what that national interest is.

… Is Pakistan an ally of the United States and the war on terrorism?

Both the concept of war on terrorism and the concept of ally are deeply flawed concepts for trying to understand what is actually going on in the region. … They're for themselves; they're not with us or against us. They're for themselves, pursuing their own national interests. They didn't suddenly come into being with no history on Sept. 11 in order to be for us or against us. Afghanistan and Pakistan have been at odds ever since Pakistan was created in 1947. There has been conflict along that border ever since the British tried to demarcate it in the 19th century, so this is not something new. It's just a new version of it.

Pakistan said it was our ally during the Cold War. It took billions of dollars of assistance that we gave during the period of the Afghan struggle against the Soviet Union, and it used it to build up its military and its nuclear weapons in order to balance what it saw as its main threat, India. It then used those same resources in order to strengthen the most fundamentalist elements of the Afghan resistance in order to try to create a government in Afghanistan that would be weak and subservient to Pakistan to assure that there would never be any threat to Pakistan from that side, that India could not get any kind of a foothold there.

In addition, Pakistan has, from the beginning, faced a tremendous problem of national integration. The main political parties of the Pashtun and Baluch ethnic groups actually opposed the formation of the state of Pakistan. They were allies of the Indian National Congress. And Pakistan, ever since the inception of the state, has poured resources, including resources it got from the United States for other purposes, into trying to weaken the secular, intellectual and tribal leadership of the Pashtuns and the Baluch, and it instead strengthened religious extremist leadership in those ethnic groups, which would be much more supportive of the Muslim state of Pakistan.

Do they see no option but to use religion for political purposes of stitching together what are disparate states?

Actually, Pakistan has a chronic problem of national identity. Pakistan was not created as a territorial state of the area that it is now. Remember, it was created as a much longer state including what is now Bangladesh, and that makes no sense as a territorial state.

Its mission was to be the homeland for the Muslims of India and, from the point of view of many of the elites there, to be a homeland for Muslims beyond that. You will find many people in Pakistan who talk about making Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia into one country. That's not the official policy of the government, of course.

But in fact, when you look at the networks that are forming along the border where you have Pakistani religious extremists, Afghan religious extremists and Uzbek religious extremists, you can find the core of that sort of a project as well.

Now, the military leadership of Pakistan does not believe in that kind of goal. The military leadership of Pakistan [has] a very hardheaded, strategic thinking. But they want to keep Pakistan together. They want to distract the Pashtuns in Pakistan by turning them toward Afghanistan, and they want to be sure that they will never face any kind of hostile forces on their western border given all the problems that they have on their eastern border.

So religion is a tool, as far as the military is concerned, for holding those groups together?

The basis of power in Pakistan is the alliance between the military and the mosque. This is the theme of the book by Husain Haqqani of that very title [Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military]. That is, the military is the power that controls Pakistan; it legitimizes itself through the mosque. …

It's not immediately clear to most people that the military would find religion useful. Can you explain why they do?

First, the legitimacy of the state in Pakistan is based on religion. Pakistan means the "place of the pure." It is meant to be a homeland for Muslims. Now, the founders of Pakistan were actually very secular people. They meant it to be a homeland for Muslims as a kind of ethnic group in India, and they did not want it to be a religious state. But as a homeland for Muslims, gradually the Islamic discourse took over, and especially as the military came to be the dominant institution, they had to find some alternative way of legitimating their power than democratic institutions, elections and so on, and political parties. And they chose this kind of Islamic discourse.

Second, the use of groups that are willing to fight and die for very little money because they believe in a cause is a tremendous force multiplier. Pakistan has kept 700,000 Indian troops tied down in Kashmir at very little cost by essentially funding an armed insurgency. Of course India has responsibility for this, too, because of the crooked elections that are organized, the huge number of human rights violations and so on.

But Pakistan has exploited that situation by arming guerrilla groups, using the techniques that we helped them learn during the war against the Soviet Union, and they kept 700,000 Indian troops tied down there that therefore are not on their border with Punjab [Province in Pakistan].

They managed to do the same thing with the Taliban, managed to oust a group -- namely the Northern Alliance, which they saw as allied with Russia and India -- and bring a kind of stability to most of the country, again, at relatively little cost.

Was the Taliban a creation, therefore, of the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence]?

The Taliban is not a creation of the ISI. The Taliban started as an indigenous -- Afghan, Pakistani -- type of movement. Taliban -- that is, students, religious students -- existed in the area for a long time, but the Taliban were made into an effective political and military unit by the Pakistan government, the ISI and other parts of the Pakistan government.

Would the Taliban have been able to come to power with[out] Pakistan's help?

Of course the Taliban could never have come to power with[out] the help of Pakistan. But of course, I should say in fairness, no group has been able to come to power in Afghanistan without foreign association of some kind for quite some time because the institutions of the state in Afghanistan have become so weakened.

But clearly, the Taliban took power with the help of Pakistan. Pakistan was one of only three countries that recognized them, and by the time that they were overthrown, Pakistan was the only country that still [had] good relations with them.

Now, on 9/11, Richard Armitage calls in Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, [director] of the ISI, and says: "You've got to meet certain conditions. You're either with us or against us. You have to stop supporting the Taliban." What did it mean to Pakistan to have to make what essentially is a 180-degree policy switch overnight?

It was a huge shock to them, but they had seen it coming to some extent, because they knew that the presence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was going to create problems for them, and how to deal with that had already become a rather contentious issue within the Pakistani military. They did not have full control over the Taliban by any means. There were lots of tensions between the Taliban and Pakistan.

What the Pakistanis had always done is they would declare themselves allies of the United States in the Cold War or in the fight against the Soviet Union and Afghanistan in order to ensure they had a military supply relationship, the purpose of which was actually to balance India.

Now, what they were faced [with] in September of 2001 was the threat of the loss of that military supply relationship and perhaps the destruction of their nuclear deterrence by the United States, because clearly, the United States at that time was not prepared to allow a country that was allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda to have nuclear weapons. So therefore [the Pakistanis] had to make a difficult choice, and they made it. They protected their military supply relationship. They protected their nuclear deterrence. They gave up active support of the Taliban at that point, and they gave some help -- inadequate as it was initially, but increasing help -- in the hunt for the leaders of Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda was not serving their interest well, because it in fact had destroyed their ability to use the Taliban by putting them under this pressure from the United States. So they had no problem in going ... after the leaders of Al Qaeda. But they never arrested a single major Taliban leader, even though all of them went to Pakistan.

How difficult was it for [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf to sell this new policy down the line?

Musharraf is not a unilateral dictator like Kim Jong Il in North Korea or Fidel Castro in Cuba or like Mobuto was in the Congo. Musharraf is the first among equals. The Pakistan state is run by a kind of politburo or committee of corps commanders, and Musharraf is the leader of that politburo, so they took this decision together. And once the corps commanders decide something in the Pakistan military, it is implemented.

So he says: "Look, you're going to get your weapons. The military supplies are going to keep coming, but we've got to turn against Al Qaeda and the Taliban."

No, we have to turn against Al Qaeda. … Certainly they stopped their active support for the Taliban. Of course, that took some [doing] because, in fact, there were people in the ISI who were very loyal to the Taliban. They had been working with the Taliban and with the mujahideen for decades before that. Their whole lives were tied up with it. They owned property; they had investments; they're making money out of it; they had intermarried with Afghans and so on. And a number of those high ISI officials actually went to Kandahar to help the Taliban prepare to resist the United States. …

It was not long after that that President Musharraf announced that he was removing the head of the ISI and a number of other such generals. So he did have to make some personnel changes. …

Can the United States trust Musharraf when he says he's cleaned up the ISI and that we're all rowing in the same direction?

Well, it's not a matter of trust. Unfortunately, in international politics, I guess that President Reagan was correct in his statement that he used to use with [President of the Soviet Union Mikhail] Gorbachev: "Trust, but verify." I'm afraid that we have gone too far on trust and not far enough on verification.

But I don't blame Pakistan necessarily for pursuing its national interests. I blame the United States for not seriously trying to understand what that national interest is. What's going on between Pakistan and Afghanistan is not the war on terror. There are very serious, longstanding problems in that region, and if we want to pursue our interests, which have to do with assuring that that area will not be a basis for international terrorism against us, we also have to understand the very real concern, sometimes exaggerated concerns, of the people who live there and help them to address those.

Isn't that exactly why the argument has prevailed in Washington that we should go slow with Pakistan, that we should not push Musharraf too hard?

Well, that's a very one-dimensional idea of policy that the only thing you can do is push hard or soft. First of all, I don't see any pressure particularly about the Taliban.

We tell them that they have to stop using it as sanctuary. [U.S. State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism] Henry Crumpton went there and complained that Pakistan wasn't doing enough. Bush went there [in March 2006] and said, "I came to check up to make sure you're still with us."

Well, that's a good example of exactly what not to do. If you want to get the president of an independent country to do what you would like him to do, something which might be very difficult for him and which he might think is a threat to his national interest, I don't think you start by humiliating him in public, which is what President Bush did when he met with President Musharraf. First you sign a nuclear agreement with India, and then you act like he's a schoolboy and you're coming to check up on his grades. …

What Bush is actually doing is saying, "I came here to see if you're really on my side," and he looked at Musharraf and he expected Musharraf to say something like, "Yes. We are the loyal followers of the United States of America." In other words, he expected Musharraf to commit political suicide, which shows his complete lack of understanding of Pakistan or many other Muslim countries. I mean, it's just an astoundingly incompetent and counterproductive thing to do. …

Pakistan has some reasons for doing what they're doing. We need to try to help them deal with, for instance, the fact that Afghanistan has never recognized the border with Pakistan; that they have not integrated the tribal areas into their administration and political system; the fact that they faced some real -- though they exaggerate them -- some real threats from India. We have to help them address those things.

At the same time, we have to, I think, be much more serious about those threats -- not just threats, but the pressure that we make. Basically, the core of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is the military supply relationship. Now, if we are going to continue to give them military supplies regardless of their behavior on Taliban, basically that puts our credibility in the entire so-called war on terror at risk.

Let me pose a hypothetical question. Suppose that the Taliban were in Iran and were constantly making roads back and forth into Afghanistan, killing Afghans, killing Americans, killing Canadians, killing British and others, and the Iranian government said: "Oh, we have no control over it. I'm sorry. We can't stop it. It's too difficult for us." Would we say they were our number one ally in the war on terror? I don't think so.

We're applying a tremendously different standard of evidence to those two countries. It's not as if Iran is in favor of Al Qaeda and Pakistan is against it. No, Iran is much more against Al Qaeda than Pakistan is. There's a reason that Pakistan is the government that has arrested the most Al Qaeda people. It's because the Al Qaeda people are in Pakistan because it is the most hospitable country in the world for Al Qaeda.

Well, what would be reasonable, in your view, to ask of them?

I think what we can ask of them, what the U.S military believes they are capable of doing, is serious[ly] disrupting the command and control of the Taliban in Quetta by taking down the Quetta shura [Taliban council]. …

The ones that are operating out of the tribal territories, that is somewhat more difficult, because, in fact, they do not have direct administrative control over those areas. Actually, I agree with Pakistan when they say that trying to deal with that problem through a strictly military offensive is not likely to be effective. A political approach to the tribal territories is what is actually needed.

But so far, we haven't worked on a political approach to the tribal territories. One reason that extremism has spread there so much is that political parties are not allowed to operate in the tribal territories. There's no police in the tribal territories, so it means that the only political spokesmen that can get up and give a speech in the tribal territories are extremist mullahs using the mosques.

It means that tribal leaders and others -- and there are many such people in the tribal territories -- who have a more moderate position, who would like to support a more legitimate kind of Pakistani national interest, have been ruthlessly assassinated, many of them, hundreds of them in the past couple of years, and there's complete impunity for those assassinations.

I should also note people underestimate the economic component of this war. Afghanistan is one of the four or five absolutely poorest countries in the world. The tribal territories of Pakistan are on the same level as the poorest areas of Afghanistan. They are overpopulated. There is no employment. The incomes come from smuggling and participating in the war. There are virtually no schools except for the madrassas that are these engines for turning out fighters for the jihad. So we need to have a whole package -- political, economic -- both incentives and pressure to try to change that situation along the border.

I cannot really overstate how important the stakes are. A U.S. military leader in Afghanistan said to me just last week that if we do not find a way to stabilize the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States will always be at risk. …

Pakistan has had five years to fix their problems in the tribal areas. They say they have 80,000 troops in there and are not making progress. What hope is there that Pakistan is going to succeed in stabilizing those tribal areas and cleaning out Quetta of Taliban?

The problem in the tribal areas did not start on Sept. 11. The tribal areas were constructed as they are now as part of a treaty before the Amir of Afghanistan and the British Empire in India that was signed in 1879 subject to further agreements in 1893. That area has been a source of problems since that time and before.

But … they have had five years to put schools into those areas, to open them up to the Awami National Party or to do a whole host of things that you might suggest that need to be done now. But South Waziristan is virtually in control of the local Taliban; Quetta is, as you say, full of Taliban; Peshawar's full of Al Qaeda.

Well, the Pakistan government had no incentive to undertake any such changes. They weren't subject to any serious pressure. They were not made any serious offers. Now, I don't think the offers would work without the pressure.

They get a $3 billion deal and F-16s.

Yeah, without doing anything. They got a $3 billion deal and F-16s because they have kept their nuclear weapons under control. They de-escalated in Kashmir so as to reduce the risk of a nuclear confrontation. They finally, reluctantly, put some limits on the A.Q. Khan network, and they have been very helpful in finding the leadership of Al Qaeda when we provide them with intelligence information. So they have delivered on that, but they haven't delivered on the Taliban. …

Suppose you threaten them with something severe, like limiting the military supply relationship in ways that would seriously hurt them; then they won't say anything. But suddenly you find a lot of trails to Al Qaeda, people go blank. Suddenly they're not helping you so much. So what do you do?

What was the deal that was made after 9/11, as you understand it?

I don't understand it, actually. See, part of the difficulties, the complexity, of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is that the United States wants so many things from Pakistan. You see, we go into President Musharraf. We give him the following list: One, de-escalate your conflict with India, your number one threat, because we will not tolerate the threat of a nuclear confrontation.

Two, arrest the leader of your nuclear program, [A.Q. Khan], a national hero who has given you your invaluable nuclear deterrent, and give us full access to interrogate him, because he is the number one source of nuclear proliferation in the world. …

Next we say we want your help in tracking down the leadership of Al Qaeda. We want you to participate in difficult and dangerous intelligence and police operations. Not only that, we want you to turn a blind eye when we conduct special forces and CIA operations from Afghanistan across the Durand Line -- that is, the border into the Pakistani tribal territories -- and pretend you don't know anything about it. …

Number four, we want you to have democratic elections and allow the military's worst enemies to come to power. And number five, we want you to give us this invaluable tool that you have used for 30 years with our assistance -- namely, using jihadi fighters as an asymmetrical tool to balance your neighbors in this very threatening region that you live in -- … and possibly split your own military officer corps and create social unrest in some of the most tense areas along your border. So that's what we'd like you to do.

So you imagine a Pakistani looks at that list and says: "That's a very difficult set of lists, and we're your best friend, so we're going to do as much as we possibly can to help you. So we'll do this, this and this. This is just a little hard for us. You've got to give us a little time." …

There seems to be a policy of public praise, no public criticism. If there's criticism, it's behind closed doors. That seems to be the policy we have with Pakistan.

The phrase I've heard secondhand from top U.S. officials is public praise, private pressure.

That seems to be the policy?

Yes. But the question is, first of all, what kind of pressure? Is it effective? And second, pressure alone, again, is not sufficient. Of course I've made a lot of critical statements about Pakistan, but I also understand Pakistan has some real problems, and it has some reasons for what it's doing. It's not doing these things because it hates America and hates freedom. It's doing things because it has some very serious problems of national integration and national security, and those problems cannot be solved by F-16s, or only a few of those problems can be partly addressed by F-16s. …

Do you buy the idea that Musharraf is now -- you've heard the phrase many times, I'm sure -- playing a double game with the United States, keeping the pot on the boil, keeping the money to fight terrorism coming, but not fighting too hard to eradicate the problem?

Look, putting it in that way analyzes Pakistan solely in terms of what we want them to do. Of course Musharraf is playing a double game. He wouldn't be doing his job if he wasn't. It's not the job of a head of state to be honest and frank and treat everybody as if they're his best friends. It's his job to protect the national security of his state.

Now, Pakistan has always played this kind of double game. That's part of the clever way they protect their national security. They act as allies of the United States to the extent that they can in order to get the weapons that they need to fight their own battles; to deter India; to, in a sense, destabilize the border area with Afghanistan so that the trouble goes in the other direction and not toward them. …

Who controls the tribal areas now?

Well, the tribal areas are not under any kind of centralized control, and all of them are not the same. … In the tribal areas right now, the various jihadi networks, whether it is [Jalaluddin] Haqqani's [people] in Warziristan, [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar's people further north in Bajaur, etc., have sufficient military power that they can intimidate anyone, including the Pakistan military.

So essentially they have the run of the place, and they can use it for their agenda. They have driven out a lot of the traditional elites of the area, in particular the tribal leaders who have either been killed or have sought refuge in other parts of Pakistan. …

Since the 1980s, there's huge amounts of money coming in from intelligence services, from radical Islamic groups around the world. They … militarized this border region in an unprecedented way. So, these religious leaders, who used to be mainly little village mullahs, have now become political leaders with huge madrassas, with militias, with their own FM radio stations.

There are about 70 FM radio stations in the tribal areas, mostly broadcasting extremist propaganda. And therefore, have now greatly outweighed these tribal leaders who are more nationalist and secular.

[Jalaluddin] Haqqani is an example of that.

Well, Haqqani, of course, is from Afghanistan, he is not from Pakistan.

But he settled back into Pakistan after the fall of Kabul.

Yes. … Haqqani … was one of the bad favorite commanders of the CIA. They loved him. They have paid for the base that bin Laden's construction company for Haqqani in Tora Bora, because, again, of the same one dimensional approach. Are you with us or against us? Well, Haqqani was with us because he was also against the Soviet Union. But we never thought of what that would do to the region.

So, the CIA paid for bin Laden's camps, essentially.

Yes. We paid for that infrastructure. We and the Saudis.

And now he's killing our guys.

Yes.

Haqqani is very close to the ISI.

Oh, yes.

… Do you have any doubt that the ISI could go in there and arrest him right now?

Well, first, you know, there's little interesting background on Haqqani. … In the fall of 2001, besides the initial ultimatum that Armitage made to Pakistan, there was a lot of back and forth between the United States and Pakistan over what would happen in Afghanistan, because the U.S. military strategy was basically to arm the Northern Alliance to take hold of territory after it was cleared out by U.S. air power. And the Northern Alliance was a group which had been supported by Russia, Iran and worst of all, India.

And a long-time enemy of Pakistan.

At least as Pakistan sees it, a long-time enemy of Pakistan. The Northern Alliance leaders today are pleading for some kind of settlement with Pakistan. But nonetheless, yes, they had attacked the Pakistan embassy in Kabul in 1994 and even killed one of the employees there and so on.

So, Pakistan was saying, "We understand now you have to get rid of Al Qaeda. But we think Afghanistan will be more stable if you bring a moderate Taliban government to power. And also, we can not tolerate these anti-Pakistani forces taking power in Afghanistan."

So, we gave them some breathing room and said, "OK. You say you can bring a moderate Taliban government to power. Go ahead." So, they looked for alternatives and the main one that they find was Jalaluddin Haqqani. He was not that closely related to the original Taliban leadership. He came out of the mujahideen background and so on.

But he was a long time associate of bin Laden's.

Yes, of course. … But, part of the condition for his taking that position would have been that he had to cut his ties with bin Laden. I think that was quite clear, and, of course, he didn't accept the offer. …

But could the ISI today, in your view, find Haqqani? Do they know where he is? Is it reasonable to suspect that they have a good idea where he is?

I'm sure that ISI knows where Haqqani is. That does not mean that it would be easy for them to arrest him.

Why not?

Because Haqqani has many men who are very loyal to him, including many members of the ISI.

You're saying the ISI can't be trusted to take down Haqqani, even though Haqqani is one of the big problems we face over there?

Absolutely.

So, where does that put the ISI? Whose side are they on?

Well, I think the ISI is on the ISI's side. …

Can Afghanistan, the project in Afghanistan, be successful without the United States doing more to address the sanctuaries in Quetta in the tribal areas?

The view of the U.S. military in Afghanistan is that … we can be successful in Afghanistan even without cooperation with Pakistan, but it will be much, much more costly in lives lost, in money spent, and the results will not be nearly what they could be. …

But I'm not sure that's true. I've spoken to any number of people -- former U.N. officials, former Taliban officials, Afghan government officials, Iranian officials -- who have said in one way or another the same thing: Afghanistan will never be stable unless Pakistan wants it to be stable.

So why is it not time, therefore, to be much [tougher] on Musharraf?

It's time to be much [tougher] on Pakistan, and it's also time to address sort of the chronic and deep-seeded issues in the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan which have contributed to this extremely harmful relationship between those two countries for several decades.

And if we don't?

And if we don't, I think that we are in for really an indefinite kind of war, except that what will happen is that probably the Afghan state will be unable to establish in the southern and eastern parts of the country. It will lose credibility.

It's already lost a tremendous amount of credibility; that is, the people in that region -- and I spoke to a lot of elders from that region recently -- do not want the Taliban to come back. But they also are bitterly disappointed in the government, which they say is completely distant from them. And they're not willing to collaborate with the government, even though they don't want the Taliban to come back.

So that means the Taliban are gradually neutralizing the people. Because the people will not defend the government, it will create a kind of political crisis eventually, and then some unexpected event could happen. For instance, we had those riots in Kabul at the end of May. As it turned out, nothing very bad happened as a result of them. But suppose there were riots five times that bad. It's quite possible. It could lead to a real collapse of the government potentially.

In addition, according to intelligence analysts I spoke with in Afghanistan, they believe that what we now see in terms of a Taliban presence is, as is normal with insurgencies, really a part of their actual presence inside the country. They have been constructing bases in some isolated areas. They have been sending delegations to different parts of the country, not only their native areas in the south and east, even areas of the country that they had very hostile relationships with previously. They have been distributing their message through the network of mosques.

I might add that the U.S. policies in Iraq toward Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinians have been a great bonanza for them, and they have been taking advantage of those policies in their propaganda, and the government is now very worried about the potential for violent demonstrations against those policies after Friday prayers. So I think that unless we can resolve the question with Pakistan, we won't be able to stabilize Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has not been stable for quite a long time. Why should we care?

Well, I think the answer is pretty obvious. The Afghanistan-Pakistan border region is where Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are. It's the area where the most members of Al Qaeda appear to be concentrated. It's the area where the technical assistance that was necessary to carry out this attack on the airliners [in summer 2006], the plan for which was revealed last week, it's apparently the source of the technical assistance for that attack. It is essentially, to the extent that there is such a thing, it's the hub of the international networks that are trying to wage terrorist attacks against the United States and some of its allies. …

Why not just take our troops across the border into the tribal areas and go after them?

The experience of trying to conquer those areas with troops throughout history has not been a happy one. The British could not do it. They had 50,000 there in the 1930s, more than in the entire rest of the British Empire. They still did not conquer it.

The Pakistani army has not been able to do it. The terrain is not one in which conventional armies can fight successfully against the tribesmen there, particularly now that they have access to global networks of financial support and high technology. …

Tell me about the deal that recently went down in Miram Shah [in North Waziristan], this jirga [council] that took place over the last few weeks.

As I understand it, there was a jirga which essentially involved the Haqqani group, the local Taliban and the Pakistani Deobandi political party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, which is sort of the religious godfather of the Taliban in both countries. They were meeting with the Pakistani military authorities. This was an attempt to try to broker a cease-fire in Wazirstan itself. Now, I don't know what was the actual content of the agreement. These were not public meetings; they were not on television.

Certainly what Pakistan's government needs is the ability to conduct some operations there to satisfy the United States that it is going after the particular targets of American policy; namely, the leadership of Al Qaeda. At the same time, I think that in order to get that leeway, they assured the other side that they would not interfere in their operations in Afghanistan. Certainly that was what I was told by a number of officials of Western countries in Afghanistan during this time.

If I'm a U.S. soldier over in Afghanistan, I'm not very happy to hear that deals are being worked out whereby we're able to get Pakistani cooperation to go after Al Qaeda, but that means the Taliban of Pakistan can come over the border after me.

No. If you talk to the U.S. soldiers, they're not happy about it at all. You know, they have some of the special forces there. They've had the experience of chasing people, seeing them go back across the border, the Durand Line, and then being fired on by the Pakistani border guards when they try to pursue them.

I know an Afghan official who met with the Americans in one of the PRTs [Provincial Reconstruction Teams] in southern Afghanistan recently. … They were complaining about the same thing. They were saying, "We always defeat them, but they always come back." And he said to them, "That's because you can win tactically every time and lose strategically if you do not disrupt their command and control." And their command and control is not in this province; it's across the border.

And we're not able to get at it.

No. Bad situation. …

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posted oct. 3, 2006

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