Pakistan engineered Taliban return to Kabul, say US experts

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WASHINGTON: Pakistan is once again under American scrutiny after engineering the return of Taliban to power in Afghanistan, with US analysts predicting that Islamabad’s “already shaky reputation in the West is likely to plummet” and its relations with Washington, “already on the downslope, will unravel further.”
US analysts are pinning the responsibility of Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan on Pakistan, saying its spy agency ISI provided planning assistance, training expertise and sometimes on the ground advice to the Taliban all through the war leading up to its capture of Kabul.
They cite tribal leaders in the AfPak region to allege that in the last three months as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan, the Pakistani military waved a surge of new fighters across the border from sanctuaries inside Pakistan.
“The Afghan Taliban would not be where they are without the assistance of the Pakistanis,” Douglas London, a former C.I.A. counterterrorism chief for South and Southwest Asia, told the New York Times, which ran a lengthy critique on Thursday of Pakistan’s subversive and role in Afghanistan and duplicitous dealing with Washington.
According to London, Pakistan’s army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, and the head of the ISI, Hameed Faiz, met with Afghan Taliban leader Khalil Haqqani on a “recurring basis.” When Bajwa was pressed by the US to give up Khalil Haqqani and two other Haqqani leaders, he would say, ‘Tell us where they are.’” London said, adding, “My favorite quote was when Bajwa said: ‘You just have to come to my office and we will go in a helicopter and we will go and pick them up.’”
Pakistan’s help, London said, encompassed a gamut of services: safe havens for Taliban in the borderlands of Pakistan, medical services to treated wounded fighters, and free rein for the Haqqanis to run lucrative real estate, smuggling and other businesses in Pakistan kept their war machine churning. The ISI usually kept its operatives out of the actual conflict, fearful that they might be captured in Afghanistan, delivering a smoking gun to the Americans, he added.
The report underscored the fact that Pakistan’s duplicitous role in Afghanistan is driven by its animosity towards India. “The Pakistani army believes Afghanistan provides strategic depth against India, which is their obsession. The US encouraged India to support the American-backed Afghan government after 2001, fueling the army’s paranoia,” Bruce Riedel, a former South Asia adviser to the Bush and Obama administrations, told the paper.
According to the report, during a visit to Washington this spring, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf, stressed the need to eliminate the Indian presence in Afghanistan. Washington, it said, was, struck by his vehemence on India’s role in Afghanistan.
US analysts however warned that inasmuch as the Pakistanis and the ISI think they have won in Afghanistan, they should watch what they wish for. “If the Afghan Taliban become leaders of a pariah state, which is likely, Pakistan will find itself tethered to them,” Robert Grenier, a former C.I.A. station chief in Pakistan told the paper.
The report said that during the 20-year war the Americans tolerated Pakistan’s duplicitous game because they saw little choice, preferring to fight a chaotic war in Afghanistan to warring with nuclear-armed Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan’s ports and airfields provided the main entry points and supply lines for American military equipment needed in Afghanistan.
That bottom feeding, it suggested, may now be over.
It however warned that Pakistan, along with Russia and China, is helping fill the space Americans have vacated. Embassies of the three nations have remained open since the Taliban seized Kabul.

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