Return of the Taliban [home page]
  • home
  • watch online
  • pakistan
  • tribal areas
  • interviews
  • site map
  • discussion

peter tomsen

photo of peter tomsen

Tomsen served as President George H.W. Bush's special envoy and ambassador to the Afghan resistance from 1989 to 1992. Here he lays out the historical background of the Taliban's rise to power and its relationship with Pakistani intelligence, known by its acronym ISI. He also explains the two fears driving Pakistan's Afghanistan policy -- India and Pashtun nationalism. Tomsen believes the ISI knows exactly where Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawarhiri are hiding, and that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is not fully cooperating with the U.S. "I don't think we're getting our money's worth, and I think we have to take a tougher line," he tells FRONTLINE. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on Aug. 10, 2006.

Certainly the violence hemorrhaging out of Pakistan is the major reason why things are not going well in Afghanistan.

What is the historical relationship between the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] and the Taliban? How does that work?

The ISI began at the time of the birth of Pakistan. At that time, British officers were still advising the Pakistani and Indian armies, and the British officer advising the Pakistan military suggested an interservices intelligence organization that would serve all three services in the Pakistani military. So that was established.

Later on, … ISI began to blossom, assuming many responsibilities outside the military intelligence area. In fact, you could combine CIA, FBI and military intelligence under the umbrella of ISI.

And the ISI recognized at some point the value of fundamentalism, of conservative Islam, political Islam? Or was it that the people that were in the ISI were, in fact, extremists?

At that time, and even today, the top Pakistani military leaders for the most part are not extremists. In fact, they're very Westernized, and they send their kids to the best Western-oriented schools in Pakistan, and then they send them abroad.

The 10 corps commanders in Pakistan along with Gen. [President Pervez] Musharraf, that is the core of power in Pakistan even today. It's not the extremist network; it's not the politicians. It's the Pakistani military. …

In terms of ISI's power, it … was enormously expanded during the jihad, when you had [a] huge flow of resources via the CIA, which was ISI's counterpart into Pakistan.

There was a category in the CIA budget at that time which dealt with infrastructure of ISI, and ISI received hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars for its own infrastructure. That was in addition to weapons going to the mujahideen, transportation of the weapons from China or Egypt or elsewhere in the world. This was a separate budget category. It amounted to an awful lot of money, which poured into ISI coffers and … permitted ISI to expand its involvement not only inside Pakistan, but also outside of Pakistan.

Now, of course, [former Pakistani President Gen. Mohammad] Zia [ul-Haq] wanted to use the ISI as the point organization to handle Afghanistan. It was a time when Pakistan was a front-line state. It was under tremendous pressure from the Soviet Union. Soviet helicopter gunships and aircraft would occasionally fly over Pakistan and inflict damage on civilian populations. There were constant threats coming from the Soviet Union about Pakistan being the springboard for mujahideen's offensives from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

So he chose to use this very secretive organization to conduct the jihad against the Soviet Union inside Afghanistan. … He also insisted that all U.S. weaponry be handed over to the ISI at Karachi when these ships came in laden with weapons, and that ISI would then take control of the ordnance and move it to the frontier and then organize distribution.

That was very important to Zia to, of course, control what goes on in Pakistan and not let the, for instance, thousands of American logistic experts be running around the country. It helped the deniability side, because ISI was able to clandestinely move.

So that was the reason. It was a secret organization; [it] had an ability to move money, materiel, weapons of all sorts. He could do this sort of privately.

Yes. There were arms dumped in the country -- huge arms dumps. And there were marshaling areas. Each of the mujahideen resistance parties -- there were seven in all -- they had their own ammunition depots, and they had their own commanders inside the country. …

All run by the ISI?

Everything was run by the ISI. And I would add another point: ISI knew everything that was going on, not only on the frontier on the Pakistani side, but over the frontier inside Afghanistan, certainly in the Pashtun areas, but also beyond. Inside of Pakistan, of course, in the tribal agencies they knew what was happening in every square meter of that area.

You say that the corps commanders, the top generals that formed the core of power in Pakistan, are secular for the most part. Where does the ISI get its religious colors?

During Zia's period, he began to turn away from the standard sources of recruitment for the Pakistani military. … He began to encourage and permit the recruitment into the Pakistani officer corps from the less privileged strata of Pakistani society. …

From those poor areas, they were more likely to be conservative Islamists and less aware of the outside world beyond the traditional way of life in the village and Islam as it influenced the traditional way of life. There would be much more narrow vision not only of religion, but of the world in general. Those officers have risen through the ranks, and they do comprise, I would say, a minority, but a substantial minority of the Pakistani officer corps today.

… Some people say [the ISI] created [the Taliban]. How do you describe it?

I would say that the ISI created the Taliban. Let's always remember that the ISI operates on the instructions of the army leadership.

Why would the ISI create the Taliban?

Because the army leadership wanted them to. And the army leadership, also in the time I was involved -- that [was] in the early '90s -- wanted to favor [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar with 70 percent of the American weapons coming into the country, but the ISI and army leadership's game plan was to put Hekmatyar top down in Kabul, even though he was viewed by the great majority of Pakistanis -- it probably exceeded 90 percent -- of being a Pakistani puppet, as unacceptable as the Soviet puppets that were sitting in Kabul during the Communist period. However, that was what the generals wanted to create: a strategic Islamic [ally] with a pro-Pakistani Afghan in charge in Kabul.

The ISI was trying to create a puppet state in Afghanistan?


And they created the Taliban in order to facilitate that?

That's right. In fact, it's a tragedy for Afghanistan -- indeed for the world -- that for all of these years, for three decades now, you've had first the Soviets attempting to set up a puppet government in Kabul, and then, when the Soviets left, the Pakistanis attempted to establish a puppet government in Kabul. First Hekmatyar -- that failed. When that didn't work, the Taliban were created with Pakistani and ISI help. …

I was told that the Taliban all had Pakistani phone numbers when they were in power.

Yes. We should remember that the Taliban leaders grew up in Pakistan, and they went to Pakistani schools. They of course spoke Pashto, but their second language was Urdu, and it was not Farsi, which Afghans learn as they grow up in Afghanistan.

They had ration cards distributed by the Pakistani government. They went to madrassas, and their teachers were clerics from radical Muslim parties in Pakistan. So when they went into Afghanistan, they had spent most of their life in Pakistan. The Taliban movement more or less moved across the border from Pakistan to Kandahar first and then up to Kabul.

Throughout this whole period, the ISI played the major role in military matters, from organizing offenses to equipping the forces that were fighting, and even putting out public statements. … There was a colonel in Herat and there was a major in Kandahar -- they were coaching Mullah Omar and other Taliban, who were for the most part semiliterate, on how to administer their areas and how to proceed militarily. …

We should add here, of course, Osama bin Laden. When he arrived from Sudan, you then had a ménage à trois. You had an unholy alliance combining ISI, Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But then [and] right up until 9/11, this unholy alliance was dominated, directed, guided mostly by ISI in Pakistan.

The relationship then between the ISI and Al Qaeda was as tight as the relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaeda?

Yes. It was more or less Al Qaeda plugging into the Taliban and the ISI-run Taliban. The Taliban were the front; the ISI was managing things from the background.

Now, those camps that were bin Laden camps in Khost, the main camps -- Lion's Den I think was one of the big ones -- those were camps that bin Laden owned, but they had been built with U.S. money, right?

That's right. Those camps were built during the anti-Soviet jihad, and U.S. money and cement and other materials were for the main part the construction.

So we gave him the infrastructure?

Well, we gave [Jalaluddin] Haqqani the infrastructure.

We gave infrastructure to warlords who then became allies of bin Laden. Is that a fair statement?

Yes. I think that's a fair statement. We provided the resources, especially the money for all of the materiel -- the steel, the cement, the other construction materials that went into building those redoubts, which were there, as we know, inside Afghanistan to resist the Soviet occupation.

However, these cave complexes and these defense bastions were built also, from Pakistan's point of view, to strengthen the extremist Afghanistan mujahideen and to permit them to dominate the resistance forces in the post-Soviet period.

Why did they bet on extremists to take over Afghanistan? Why the bet on the Taliban rather than a bet, say, on some other warlord -- a Pashtun, like an [Afghan resistance commander] Abdul Haq, for instance?

There were two reasons. One was … the ISI and the Pakistanis wanted to emphasize the Islamist Afghan side over the nationalist Afghan side, secular tribal leaders in Afghanistan that had come out of the ruling establishment that was running the country for the previous 300 years, … because the nationalist side, the secular side, had always stressed the need to recapture Afghanistan as it existed in the last part of the 18th century and part of the 19th century, which included the Pashtun areas of Pakistan.

The tribal areas?

And Pakistan had lost Bangladesh -- one wing of the country -- in 1971. They were very worried that if this impulse returned in Kabul, and especially if it linked up with the Indian government, they would be caught in a squeeze by which the Afghans would be pushing to pursue a reclamation or --

Yeah. So they were afraid of Pashtun nationalism?


And they [thought] instead they could make a deal with the Taliban: Respect the Durand Line and the borders that the British had put down and cause less trouble?

Well, it's probably more religious here. The umma is the Muslim faithful, and they don't recognize political boundaries. If you're an extremist especially, that Durand Line means nothing. What matters is the unity of Muslims.

That fit into the second main reason why the Pakistani general staff supported the Islamists: to create … strategic depth to face India.

So that all of Afghanistan would be a client state of Pakistan, a large Muslim resistance to Indian encroachment.

Hindu Indians, that's right. And that has been, of course, the major geopolitical goal of Pakistan since partition is to confront India.

Because they're worried India's going to come back and retake them?

Exactly. And Afghanistan has another 20 million Muslims. If Afghanistan were in the sphere of influence of Pakistan, or a puppet state of Pakistan, Pakistan would be in a better position to confront India.

Let's talk about Haqqani a little bit. Haqqani is a guy we're fighting now?


But yet he was our client.

Right. He was also the ISI client.

And the CIA built a lot of his capacity.


Through the ISI.


[He] has been an associate of bin Laden's for a long time, right?

Yes, very close to bin Laden. … Haqqani was a major military commander for the Taliban. He led much of the destructive campaigns that destroyed the Shomali Plain north of Kabul, which the Northern Alliance had controlled previously.

He was a good fighter?

He was a good fighter. … He was a local mullah during the jihad, but somebody who had a client-patron relationship with ISI. Like other commanders, he would go over to the ISI headquarters in Peshawar and periodically meet with the ISI generals or colonels.

He also came to Islamabad for meetings.

He would come to Islamabad for meetings, but he would always be out for more -- something to attract more ordnance, more money for himself as hundreds of other commanders were trying to do. And ISI would sit in their offices and tell him, "Well, we're going to provide you this much for this many men, and we want you to take this particular offensive."

Together they would discuss the ISI plan for the next couple months, which Haqqani would then be implementing. He would not be devising strategies on his own. He would be instructed by ISI on what he needed to do.

Other commanders would, too. In the attack on Khost in January of 1991, which was the first major Communist bastion to fall after the Soviets left, … there were ISI officers positioned with different mujahideen groups who wouldn't cooperate with each other in a general offensive because of their differences. …

The ISI kept them together?

The ISI would keep them together, and the ISI would have their separate communication, the officers, prior to the attack. They'd provide all the ordnance for the attack. They'd help position it for the attack.

So the ISI knows these guys -- knows Haqqani, knows Hekmatyar?


And these relationships, what are they today?

Today ISI knows exactly where Hekmatyar is, and Hekmatyar, as you know, is like the Taliban, and Haqqani, leading anti-American and anti-Afghan operations inside Afghanistan, killing Americans, killing Afghans. Hekmatyar is operating from that … area just below Chitral, [Pakistan], and he has influence in Nuristan and in Kunduz, [Afghanistan], where he's from. …

So they know where he is?

They know exactly where he is. … A Pakistani ambassador, bitter about the military policy on Afghanistan, told me in 1990 that Hekmatyar, when he was a student in Kabul during the 1960s, he was an ISI agent who had come around to the Pakistani Embassy, where this ambassador used to work as a young diplomat, and collect his monthly paycheck.

Once the ISI officer was gone, and he asked this particular diplomat -- the ambassador who I met in Islamabad -- to pay off Hekmatyar for that particular month. So from that period, Hekmatyar was working for ISI, which explains volumes as to why ISI and the Pakistani military in subsequent decades tried so hard to put him in power. It also explains why they don't go out and pick him up today and hand him over to the coalition or hand him over to the [Hamid] Karzai government.

Why not?

… Probably the first reason is that they still see Hekmatyar as an asset. Many, I think, in the Pakistani military and in the ISI think that America does not have much staying power, and eventually it's going to leave the region once more, which will open the way for Pakistan to reassert this Islamist dynamic inside Afghanistan, and to re-establish a sphere of influence much like it had in most of Afghanistan during the Taliban period. …

Musharraf claims that he is firmly on the side of the Americans, that he is battling hard. He talks all the time about the great sacrifices that the army has taken, the hits they've taken. They've lost hundreds of men in western Pakistan fighting the Taliban. What are we to believe?

Well, they haven't been fighting the Taliban, because the Taliban have an open Web site in Pakistan. It's in Pashtu, and it doesn't include Dari, which is the main language spoken by most Afghans. The Taliban leaders wander around in Pakistan clearly organizing offensives into Afghanistan.

They wander around freely? Where?

You can find them in tea shops in Quetta.

Can you find them in Peshawar?

Yes, you can find them in Peshawar, but the former ministries and major commanders in the Taliban are mostly from the south, from the Durrani tribes. …

So way down south, South Waziristan?

Yeah, they're down south, south of South Waziristan in the Quetta area. When you move over to South Waziristan, North Waziristan, you'll find Afghans like Haqqani who are mullahs, who were anti-Soviet during the jihad, and pro-Taliban.

Musharraf says he's out to get him.

Yes, but they don't get him, and the reason is that they don't want to get him. The reason is that Musharraf is following still a two-track policy. There's no doubt that he's done a great deal, especially in cooperation with us, against Al Qaeda.

But he doesn't pick up -- I mean, assuming Haqqani is close to bin Laden. There's no question, is there, that Haqqani has some knowledge about where bin Laden might be?

Yes, but most knowledge is in the hands of ISI, not only about where Osama bin Laden is, but where [Ayman] al-Zawahiri is and where other Al Qaeda elements are along the frontier. Now granted, it's more difficult to get at them because of the unrest in the tribal agencies today. However, they know exactly where they are.

The ISI knows --

The ISI knows exactly where Osama bin Laden is, al-Zawahiri is. They know exactly where Hekmatyar is, and they know where Haqqani is.

Wait a minute. How can you say that the ISI knows exactly where bin Laden is?

Because it's ISI's job to know where bin Laden is. It's also because of the history of ISI's relationship with bin Laden, which is 30 years old.

Let me give you an example: Gen. Mahmood [Ahmed], a lieutenant general in the Pakistani army, he's from a very distinguished Pakistani military family. He's very well known and respected in Pakistan. He was in charge of ISI at the time of 9/11. Musharraf made the commitment to President Bush to cooperate against terrorism and to cooperate with us in Afghanistan, to go after the Taliban. However, there are numerous media reports that he was dismissed during the offensive against Taliban by the United States because he was still allowing weapons and materiel to go to the Taliban from the Quetta area up into Kandahar.

So any reason to think that's not true?

I have no reason to think that's not true.

You believe that he was continuing to support the Taliban?

I think so.

And Musharraf would have known that?

Yes, he would have known that. He had to fire him when everybody else knew it, that ISI was still under his leadership providing weapons to the mujahideen secretly or that ISI was still providing ordnance to the Taliban even after 9/11 and even after the so-called change in Pakistani policy. But today I understand that Mahmood has returned to the Afghan section of ISI and is working there.

Hamid Gul is also somebody who's out there. He was formerly head of the ISI, and he's outspoken in his support for the Taliban and his anti-Americanism. I don't think that he's sitting at home in retirement. He's very active.

So what kind of ally is Musharraf?

I think Musharraf is a good ally. … But I think in this part of the world, we always have to remember that there are things that you see and you hear, but they don't conform to reality. When we hear from Musharraf that he's cooperating with us fully, I don't believe it. I believe that he's following a two-track policy.

A double game is what the Afghans and the Americans might say?

I think that's absolutely correct, that he's attempting to keep in place ... this extremist variant of Islam that has its expression in the Pakistani radical Muslim parties as well as the radical parts of the Afghan mujahideen, which were sustained and supported during the jihad against the Soviet Union and have been supported ever since then.

He keeps that together, on the one hand --


And on the other hand he's receiving --

And on the other hand he's receiving $3 billion worth of American assistance.

Well, what sense does that make for the United States?

It's not in our interest to permit this situation to continue, because American young men are dying in Afghanistan. Our policy in Afghanistan is more and more strained because of the hemorrhaging of violence that's coming out of northern Pakistan into Afghanistan. …

We seem to fall over ourselves, though. [Coordinator for Counterterrorism] Henry Crumpton from the State Department goes over to Afghanistan and he says that Pakistanis are not doing enough, and immediately he sort of tries to back off from that statement when he's criticized by the Pakistanis. Why are we so afraid of the Pakistanis?

I think there's a number of reasons. One is Musharraf personally, that he's very much respected in this country, in this administration, as a leader who's in a very difficult situation. We also have to take into account that Pakistan is strategically located in an important part of the world and that Pakistan is a nuclear power.

On the other hand, we have to realize that we can do a lot more to convince President Musharraf that his policy, this two-track policy, is unacceptable; that we've reached the end of the line, and he has to move against the extremist elements that are generating this violence inside Afghanistan. He will never be able to eliminate it altogether given the nature of the tribal agencies, but I think that he could remove the greater part of the violence that's emanating from Pakistan and upsetting the reconstruction and security and stabilization process.

Well, let me play his side of the argument a little bit. He's got 80,000 troops somewhere between Quetta and Peshawar. … How can he get it under control if 80,000 can't do the job? He's got far more people in there and is losing more men than the Americans are losing on the other side of the border.

I don't personally buy his statements that he's mobilizing 80,000 troops against the extremist elements that are operating from northern Pakistan into Afghanistan.

You don't buy it?

I don't buy it. In the offensive into South Waziristan, there were about 7,000 troops, and then they were withdrawn after a couple months.

And they started negotiating with them?

Yeah, and they began to negotiate. There were these meetings with tribal elders and jirgas [councils], and the tribal elders promised, cross your heart, hope to die, that they would not be attacking government installations, and they would not be helping foreign militants in their areas. But of course, as in British times, in the British colonial period, that really didn't carry much weight, and it didn't have much of an effect.

The same pattern of violence continues to -- in fact, it's rising -- continues to occur in those areas. The number of fighters crossing the border continues to rise. We have a battalion of U.S. troops in Zabul [Province], and right across the border, 30 miles into Pakistan, there's a Taliban training center which is churning out fighters that are going across the border and taking on the Americans and intimidating villagers.

… You're saying that the Americans, with all the aid -- the F-16 deal, for all of that -- they can't get Musharraf to go take out a Taliban training center?

That's correct. They could close it down overnight.

So what kind of ally is this?

Well, we have to remember that they've done a lot against Al Qaeda, that they've picked up hundreds of Al Qaeda in cooperation with the CIA.

All we do is pick up number three. We pick up number three, and then we pick up number three again and then again. What about number one and number two?

Yeah, I think that would be a major boon, and I think we could do it fairly quickly --

If we had Pakistan's help.

-- if Pakistan decided to help. My opinion is that so far, if they have not crossed that line, they'd rather not. As I mentioned, they want to keep this asset in place for a future time when the United States might leave the region, and then they can exploit the asset again to aggrandize the position in Afghanistan and Kashmir as well. It's a two-track policy.

Bush was just there. It's a remarkable kind of relationship.

Have you ever noticed that before every major visit, like President Bush or the secretary of state, there's a move against an Al Qaeda type, or there's a little offensive that's launched somewhere in the tribal agencies? This is episodic. It precedes visits from the West, especially from the United States, in advance. They could disarm the protests that are coming through that are going to be coming from foreign leaders coming to meet Musharraf about the continuing violence that's coming from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Look at what we've just done. In other words, they can point --

Yeah, that's right.

We seem to have a policy, though, of public praise for Musharraf, a sort of fall[ing] over ourselves to recognize the sacrifices that have been made there. Is there somewhere else a private criticism going on that we just don't hear about?

I think so. I think there is private criticism. When high-level American officials go to Pakistan, I think we do bring these things up. The longer we have been now in the region -- especially our military forces [have] been in the region -- the more intelligence we get.

We have a great deal of information now that's been accumulated as to which Taliban commanders and political leaders are where in Pakistan, how the infrastructure is operating in the tribal areas and in Baluchistan. It's feeding this insurgency inside Afghanistan.

We're fighting people that we funded at one point.

That's right.

I mean, we're fighting people like Haqqani, who you dealt with. Hekmatyar, Haqqani, other people.

Yes, and the time to have abandoned that policy was after the Soviets left. Before the Soviets left, the objective was to defeat the Soviet Union and drive them from Afghanistan. That was a major victory for the United States and Pakistan.

However, after that period, we should have been moving our policies in a different direction, which was not Pakistan's direction, because Pakistan's direction was to put a radical Islamic regime in Kabul. … We just straight-lined up until 9/11 a policy which deferred to Pakistan -- outsourced our policy to Pakistan.

To the ISI?

To the ISI. And we left the region. We stopped the covert assistance program. We stopped the economic assistance to Afghanistan, and we left the region.

And we continued to support Pakistan?

And we continued to support Pakistan's policy. So Pakistan tried to put Hekmatyar in power; the Afghans resisted it. Then they tried to put the Taliban in power. That worked, but, as you know, in the north, [Ahmed Shah] Massoud continued to hold out until 9/11. ISI was very much a part of that unholy alliance of the Taliban, ISI and Osama bin Laden during that period. We should have put our foot down at that time. …

It was known [after the bombing in Afghanistan started] that [the Taliban and Al Qaeda] would come back to Pakistan after we drove them out. Why didn't we go after them? I mean, there were American military commanders, I understand, who wanted to go push into the tribal areas and go after these guys.

That would be disastrous.


For the same reason it was disastrous for the British and recently for the Pakistani military in South Waziristan. When you go into these areas, you're, like, in the middle of another guerrilla war which you can't win. And as you know, if a conventional army does not win and a guerrilla force survives, then the conventional army loses.

Let's say we put our foot down and say, "You've got to clean this area up." If we can't do it, if our military would be pinned down in a guerrilla war, who's going to take back the tribal areas?

The sources that are keeping this infrastructure in place along the frontier are Pakistani. It's the ISI; it's the religious parties in Pakistan. It's still a lot of Saudi and other private money -- not from the Saudi government, private money from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE [United Arab Emirates] that's flowing still into the region and which has been flowing for the last 30 years, sustaining those 10,000-plus madrassas and training camps along the border.

So if Pakistan wants to crack down, they can stop that funding from coming in which is sustaining the infrastructure, and they can crack down on the religious parties that are really the lifeblood of the infrastructure. …

There's plenty of people here in Washington who think that if we ask Musharraf to do that, he could be pushed out in a coup and we'd be worse off than we are now. How do you respond to that?

I believe that that argument is fallacious.

But it's a dominant argument --

It's an argument which I think is inspired also by Musharraf and the Pakistani military; in other words, to project weakness on their part, and the Islamists are on the other side of the door and about to open the door and overthrow them.

The power in Pakistan rests in the hands of Musharraf and the 10 corps commanders who are all generals in Pakistan, plus the ISI. They are in a position to quickly crush, if they wish, any threat to their rule. It's not one man. He is a part of a grouping, a military grouping which really has dominated Pakistan in one way or another since its independence. …

Civilian governments could last for a while, but the military would generally give them some time and power and then take over again, in particular in these areas of Afghanistan, Kashmir and the nuclear area. Those have been monopolies of the military in which civilian policy-makers have not been permitted to participate.

The usefulness of the religious parties are that they hold together what is otherwise a country of disparate nationalities, or what? What is the importance of that, of religion to the military?

The religion has played into the military's game plan vis-à-vis Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Because it creates jihad? It creates --

Jihadis. And you send fanatics into Kashmir, and you send fanatics into Afghanistan.

And you can't beat the Indians, and you can't subdue Afghanistan with conventional forces, so you use guerrillas, basically jihadis.

Yeah. …

Musharraf, when I asked him what was in this for him, didn't say, "Al Qaeda's a common enemy." He didn't say, "They've tried to assassinate me twice." What he said was, "I get a lot of money from the United States for doing this." … Should we worry about Musharraf's loyalty?

No, but I don't think we're getting our money's worth, and I think we have to take a tougher line. He and the rest of his military circle, these corps commanders -- including the corps commander in Waziristan -- should have a frame of mind that's different than the frame of mind that they've had since 9/11 if they want to cooperate with the United States. That would involve a sterner and more effective position against those elements in the frontier that are increasingly threatening [to] the stability and peace process in Afghanistan.

But we don't take that tougher line?

We have not, to date, taken that tough line, and when we do, it should not be based on periodic statements of cooperation from Musharraf and his colleagues. … We want to see results, and those results can only come with a crackdown on the Pakistani lifeblood that sustains the infrastructure along the border. It's not Afghan resources; it's Pakistani and also foreign monies that keeps it going.

Can we have success in Afghanistan without addressing the question of Pakistan and the sanctuaries?

I don't think so. I mean, as long as the situation is like it is today, where the Taliban and these other anti-U.S. … extremist Afghans like Hekmatyar and Haqqani are able to use Pakistani territory to mount attacks into Afghanistan, it's going to destabilize the already fragile situation in the country left over from 23 years of conflict. Five years from now, we will be at the same position we are today, or it will be worse. So if we want to reverse this plateau situation or a negative trend that's under way in terms of security, certainly, inside Afghanistan, we have to start with Pakistan. …

Should we be legitimately worried that western Pakistan can become the kind of failed state that Afghanistan was before 9/11, harboring Al Qaeda, providing a base for global terrorist operations?

Actually, it already is. Various State Department terrorism reports have stated that the gravamen of world terrorism has moved from the Middle East to northern Pakistan. … Now those areas, too, will become a springboard for international terrorism. …

Is there any legitimacy to the argument that Musharraf makes that Karzai and the Americans should stop whining about Pakistan and clean up their act in Afghanistan?

If you looked at the panorama of reasons why things are not going that well in Afghanistan, certainly the violence hemorrhaging out of Pakistan is the major reason why things are not going well in Afghanistan. There are other reasons, and one is that the international community has not done that well in implementing an assistance program in Afghanistan.

There's corruption in Afghanistan. There's the drug business in Afghanistan, which is getting worse and worse. Some say that Hamid Karzai has cooperated too fully with warlords. We, too, armed the warlords, and we stuck with the warlords; we gave them stipends for years after the Taliban were overthrown.

And we ignored their drug-running.

And we ignored their drug-running. So there's other reasons why things aren't going so well. But the most important reason by far is this infrastructure that continues to be fed along the frontier and inside Pakistan. It's been there for 30 years, a combination of madrassas, training centers, religious parties in Pakistan that run them as fronts for the ISI and the generals. They continue to send groups of fighters -- two years ago it was 10s and 12s; now it's in the hundreds into Afghanistan.

So if that keeps mounting -- it's already the biggest problem -- but if this trend continues in the same direction it's going, [if] things get worse in this particular category of problems, I think that this Afghan democratic project is doomed, that once again Afghanistan will collapse into a fragmented state, and that warfare will tear Afghanistan, and it will become a breeding ground for terrorism and a launching ground for international terrorism once more. …

home + introduction + watch online + discussion + producer's journey + pakistan + tribal areas
militants + interviews + producer's chat + readings & links + dvds & transcript + site map + teacher's guide
press reaction + credits + privacy policy + journalistic guidelines + FRONTLINE series home + wgbh + pbs

posted oct. 3, 2006

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of wgbh educational foundation.
photo copyright © corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation