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Friends not, Masters

Pakistan, Afghanistan, Taliban, ISI, US-Pakistan, Harkat-ul-Ansar

It was the former president of Pakistan Mr. M Ayb Khan, who wrote a book about the Pak-US relations, and the name of that book was "Friends,not Masters." But today years later as we now have it, we can say Yeah Mr. Ayub Khan was right but,as I think, the name of sentence had to be,"Friends not, Masters." Yeah, this August, US CIA and state department declassified secret documents, which describes how the Pakistan is involve in Afghanistan war. But we should remind ourselves when the Pakistan was involve in Afghanistan, it was the age of Cold war, and Soviet influence in Asia. And, it was the US' will to occupy the regon of Euroasia. Euroasia is a specific region from China to Germany and according to the scholars the population of Euroasia as at about 75% of total population of world and its GNP is at about 60 to 65% of global GNP. As we now have it, what was the US logic of invasion over Iraq and Afghanistan and who were the Taliban and who supported them in past against the Soviet Union but today it is ununderstandable that the Taliban are enemy to US intrests. What a joke with political and human history. S, we were discussinbg about the US secret documents which shows that the Islamabad was/is(may be) supporting the Taliban.

Secret documents,which were declassified on 14th August 2007 when Pakistani public was celebrating its independence day, concern over Pakistan's relations with the Taliban during the seven year period leading up to 9-11. Few days before the release of these documents Pakistan's president; General Mushrraf acknowledged that, "there is no doubt Afghan militants are supported from Pakistan soil," in addition he also said, "Taliban were being sheltered in the lawless frontier border regions." Released U.S documents clearly illustrate that, "the Taliban were directly funded, armed and advised by Islamabad Itself." Released records represent the most complete and comprehensive collection of declassified documentation to date on Pakistan's aid programs to the Taliban, illustrating Islamabad's firm commitment to a Taliban victory in Afghanistan. These documents also support the findings of a recently-released CIA intelligence estimate characterizing Pakistan's tribal areas as a safe haven for Al-Qaeda terrorists, and provide new details about the close relationship between Islamabad and the Taliban in the years prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

Declassified State Department cables and U.S. intelligence reports describe the use of Taliban terrorist training areas in Afghanistan by Pakistani-supported militants in Kashmir, as well as Pakistan's covert effort to supply Pashtun troops from its tribal regions to the Taliban cause in Afghanistan-effectively forging and reinforcing Pashtun bonds across the border and consolidating the Taliban's severe form of Islam throughout Pakistan's frontier region. According to the released documents, "Harakat ul-Ansar, a militant Kashmiri group funded directly by the government of Pakistan, to terrorist training camps shared by Osama bin Laden in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan." And, "for Pakistan, a Taliban-based government in Kabul would be as good as it can get in Afghanistan," adding that worries that, "Taliban brand of Islam…might infect Pakistan," was "apparently a problem for another day." US embassy in Islamabad confronts, in a cable, an unnamed Pakistani official on the unsettling triangle possibly developing between Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA), Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Both bin Laden and the HUA have been granted sanctuary in Afghanistan and are linked with terrorist training camps in Khost, near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.

The U.S. fears there could be "a linkup between HUA, an organization Pakistan supported and bin Laden; it could have very serious consequences."The Pakistani official replied that the "HUA had been under very strong scrutiny for more than a year," and there had been "positive progress" in monitoring and controlling its activities. The HUA, he maintained, was under "enough control" that its activities would not create problems for Pakistan. Similarly he continued, "We won't allow our territory to be used by Osama bin Laden for such activities." "According to the official, Islamabad is in control and the Inter-services Intelligence Directorate does not operate in Afghanistan on a separate agenda that is independent of Islamabad's policies. Now ten years later, Islamabad seems to be acknowledging the domestic complications that the Taliban movement has created within Pakistan. A report produced by Pakistan's Interior Ministry warned President Musharraf that, "Taliban-inspired Islamic militancy has spread throughout Pakistan's tribal regions and could potentially threaten the rest of the country." Islamabad denies that it ever provided military support to the Taliban, but according to the newly-declassified documents that in the weeks following the Taliban takeover of Kabul in 1996, Pakistan's intelligence agency was "supplying the Taliban forces with munitions, fuel, and food." It has been also alleged in a CIA report no. DI TR 96-008 that, "Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) provides at least $ 30,000- and possibly as much as $ 60,000- per month to Harkat-ul-Ansar."

Another US cable describes, "reliable contact of consulate witnessed 30-35 sealed ISI trucks and 15-20 fuel tankers waiting to cross the Afghanistan- Pakistan border at Torkham." This cable does not specify what was contained in the ISI trucks. In April and May 2001 Human Rights Watch sources reported that as many as thirty trucks a day were crossing the Pakistan border; sources inside Afghanistan reported that some of these convoys were carrying artillery shells, tank rounds, and rocket-propelled grenades.An unnamed British journalist reports to the U.S. Embassy that her visit to two terrorist training camps in Paktia province, near the Afghan-Pakistan border on November 14, 1996 revealed that both camps appear occupied, and her "Taliban sources" advise that "one of the camps is occupied by Harakat-ul-Ansar (HUA) militants," the Pakistan-based Kashmiri terrorist organization. Whether or not HUA's presence in training camps in Afghanistan is known or supported by Islamabad or Pakistani intelligence is not commented on in the document. The reporter's sources inform her that the other camp is occupied by "assorted foreigners, including Chechens, Bosnian Muslims, as well as Sudanese and other Arabs.'

Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) was "using a private sector transportation company to funnel supplies into Afghanistan and to the Taliban forces." Other documents also conclude that there has been an extensive and consistent history of "both military and financial assistance to the Taliban." U.S. Intelligence Information Report concludes that, "The ISI is much more involved with the Taliban than Pakistani officials have been telling U.S. diplomats." U.S. intelligence indicates that the ISI "is supplying the Taliban forces with munitions, fuel, and food. The Pakistan Inter Service Intelligence Directorate is using a private sector transportation company to funnel supplies into Afghanistan and to the Taliban forces." Although food supplies from Pakistan to the Taliban are conducted openly, "the munitions convoys depart Pakistan late in the evening hours and are concealed to reveal their true contents." The document does not comment on whether Pakistani officials have been concealing this information from the U.S. or if the ISI, Pakistani intelligence, has been keeping its support of the Taliban hidden from other Pakistani government offices, in effect causing Pakistani diplomats to pass along false information to the U.S. Two different US Intelligence Information Reports also reiterates that how "Pakistan's ISI is heavily involved in Afghanistan," but also details different roles various ISI officers play in Afghanistan. Stating that Pakistan uses sizable numbers of its Pashtun-based Frontier Corps in Taliban-run operations in Afghanistan, These both documents clarifies that, "these Frontier Corps elements are utilized in command and control; training; and when necessary - combat. Elements of Pakistan's regular army force are not used because the army is predominantly Punjabi, who have different features as compared to the Pashtun and other Afghan tribes." According to the document, Pakistan's Frontier Corps provide some of the combat training in Kandahar or Herat provided to Pakistani madrassah students that come to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban. The parents of these students apparently know nothing regarding their child's military involvement with the Taliban "until their bodies are brought back to Pakistan.

" A document, in which source for information is excised, describes efforts to encourage multi-ethnic negotiations in Afghanistan that would work towards establishing a durable peace in the region. Pakistan urges the U.S. to back the "vacant seat policy," regarding Afghan representation at the U.N., and Taliban representatives Mullah Hassan and Mullah Jalil promise the source that if U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi returns to Afghanistan, Mullah Omar will meet with him, but due to "the schedule" he was not able to meet with Brahimi during his most recent trip.According to the source, the Massoud-led anti-Taliban alliance is weak and "if the Taliban would simply cease all military activity, the alliance would fall apart." He later adds that the Taliban will successfully take over the country, but "when faced with the challenge of governing the entire country, (the Taliban) will yield to technocrats." U.S. Ambassador Thomas W. Simons admits that "Pakistan has a 'privileged association' with the Taliban, but not control over them; Iran, and perhaps Uzbekistan and Russia have similar privileged associations with other parties to the conflict. But where does that lead us in terms of practical steps?" The Ambassador advises, "Our good relations with Pakistan associate us willy-nilly, so we need to be extremely careful about Pakistani proposals that draw us even closer. For, at the second level, Pakistan is a party rather than just a mediator." Regarding Pakistani aid to the Taliban, the Ambassador shows little interest in discussing the accuracy of the 20 million rupee estimate given by the ISI, responding that such a figure "did not include access to Pak wheat and Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL), or the trucks and busses full of adolescent Mujahid crossing the frontier shouting 'Allahu Akbar' and going into the line with a day or two of training." A documents describes that, in March 9, 1998 meeting between the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad's Deputy Chief of Mission Alan Eastham and a source who appears to be Pakistan Foreign Ministry official Iftikhar Murshed, the officials review several Afghan-related issues including U.S. concerns over Osama bin Laden's recent fatwa. The U.S. embassy is concerned over Pakistan's connection to bin Laden's statement, as the fatwa was signed by Fazlur Rahman Khalil, a leader in Pakistan's Harakat ul-Ansar (HUA). The source claims Iran is a great influence in northern Afghanistan, while "downplaying the Pakistani leverage on the Taliban." He maintained that the Taliban has "more than enough ammunition," and "no arms and ammunition from the Pakistani government have gone over the border in the past three or four months.

" Even though the source claims "Pakistan has 'little leverage over the Taliban,' " he provides the State Department with some of its first details on how "Pakistan was in the business of providing arms-related supplies to the Taliban… (and) could refuse to provide the Taliban fuel since the Taliban load up their planes in Pakistan." Pakistan provides support to the Taliban, but has little, if any control over their actions. "If Pakistan held up wheat consignments to the Taliban, the Taliban would say 'what the hell! We can smuggle enough wheat into Afghanistan to feed ourselves.' " According to the source, Afghanistan's border with Pakistan can be controlled by Pakistan if the Pakistani government chooses to do so, as "Pakistan, in the past, has shown that it can control this border. In fact, there are only just over 40 "jeepable" border crossing points. These points could be monitored if the Baluchistan and the North-West frontier provincial governments got serious about the issue of smuggling."

According to the documents, Pakistan's Frontier Corps provide some of the combat training in Kandahar or Herat provided to Pakistani madrassa students that come to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban. The parents of these students apparently know nothing regarding their child's military involvement with the Taliban "until their bodies are brought back to Pakistan." Another confidential cable dispatched from US embassy Islamabad on 6th August , 1998 regards that there is no evidence to support claims that recent Taliban military victories are the result Pakistani troop participation in Taliban battles. Members of the Northern Alliance told the U.S. Embassy that it "was inconceivable that the Taliban could 'do it all on their own,'" but U.S. efforts to substantiate these claims failed to produce supporting evidence. Although the participation of large numbers of Pakistani troops seems unlikely, it remains possible that Pakistani military advisors were involved in training Taliban fighters.

Taliban ranks furthermore continue to be filled with Pakistani nationals (an estimated 20-40 percent of Taliban soldiers are Pakistani according to the document), which further solidifies Pakistan-Taliban relations, even though this does not indicate not outward or official Pakistani government support. Osama bin Laden is mentioned as supporting pro-Taliban Arab fighters from an office in Herat.The US embassy's another confidential cable describes that Suffering under sanctions imposed in response to nuclear weapons testing in May 1998, Pakistan has reduced aid to the Taliban, although sources indicate Pakistan "continued to write a check worth a million or so dollars every couple of months." This decrease in support is not a political move by Pakistan, but appears to be a purely budgetary decision. Unlike certain other documents on Pakistan aid to the Taliban, this cable reports that there is little evidence of direct military aid from Pakistan to the Taliban, as Pakistan only admits to sending flour and fuel. Additionally Saudi Arabia, concerned over the Taliban's sheltering of Osama bin Laden, has been successful in reducing private Saudi donations flowing into Afghanistan. However the Taliban, through their access to drug trafficking, income from transit taxes, and continued, although limited support from Pakistan as well as the "capture of a fair amount of equipment during their successful late 1998 military campaign," does not seem to be in any immediate trouble from the recent decrease in funding from Pakistan. The cable also mentions that Osama "bin Ladin has also provided the Taliban with some money, but probably not enough to make a significant difference in their case balance." The Taliban's main opponent, Ahmed Shah Masoud continues to be very well funded, from Iranian, Russian, Uzbek and Tajik sources and although the Taliban show no immediate sign of weakening from the drop in funding, U.S. Ambassador Milam notes that "slight variations in funding and supplies can mean the difference between victory and defeat" in such small-scale, low-tech conflicts such as the war between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban.The documents also illuminate the convolution of U.S. diplomacy with Pakistan as the State Department has struggled to maintain the U.S.-Pakistan alliance amid concerns over the rise of the Taliban regime.

In the documents, U.S. Ambassador Thomas W. Simons advises, "Our good relations with Pakistan associate us willy-nilly, so we need to be extremely careful about Pakistani proposals that draw us even closer," adding that, "Pakistan is a party rather than just a mediator (in Afghanistan)." In another 1997 cable, the Embassy asserts that, "the best policy for the U.S. is to steer clear of direct involvement in the disputes between the two countries (Pakistan and Iran), and to continue to work for peace in Afghanistan." As to Pakistan's end-game in supporting the Taliban, several documents suggest that in the interest of its own security, Pakistan would try to moderate some of the Taliban's more extreme policies. But the Taliban have a long history of resistance to external interests, and the actual extent of Pakistani influence over the Taliban during this period remains largely speculative. As the State Department commented in a cable from late-1995, "Although Pakistan has reportedly assured Tehran and Tashkent that it can control the Taliban, we remain unconvinced. Pakistan surely has some influence on the Taliban, but it falls short of being able to call the shots."

By Hussain Mansoor
Published: 2007-09-26
Author: Hussain Mansoor

About the author or the publisher
I am a Karachi based journalist, working with news journals and papers from last 10 years.


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