3 The extent of Pakistan's support
for the counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan |
39. Bordering the Afghan border to its south and
east, Pakistan is considered by the British Government to be crucial
to success in Afghanistan. Due to its latent conflict with India,
for most of its history Pakistan has sought to assert control
in Afghanistan through a policy known as 'strategic depth', by
fostering friendly regimes in Kabul and supporting and providing
sanctuary to insurgencies, including the Afghan Taliban, in a
bid to prevent Afghanistan falling under Indian influence.
40. Although India and Pakistan used to meet regularly
though the Composite Dialogue, which provided for formal political
dialogue on a range of issues including regional security, talks
were suspended following the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.
Bilateral political meetings to build confidence have since taken
place, apparently with the assent of the Pakistani military, but
there has been little substantive change in the overall position,
and the belief within large sections of the Pakistani military
that India continues to represent an existential threat to Pakistan
continues to dominate Pakistani thinking on military, foreign
and Afghan policy. They are particularly anxious about what is
perceived as a strong Indian presence in Afghanistan and future
Kabul-New Delhi alliance. This has been reinforced by concerns
about the disputed 'Durand Line'
that divides not just Afghanistan and Pakistan but a sizeable
Pashtun population on both sides of the border.
41. Prior to 2001, overt Pakistani support in the
form of diplomatic recognition to the former Taliban government
was combined with more clandestine backing for proxy terrorist
groups in Afghanistan, in many instances created and shored up
by the ISI, Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency,
which continues to drive foreign policy, in spite of the existence
of a civilian government.
42. Today, Pakistan's border areas with Afghanistan
provide ungoverned space from which al-Qaeda and other militant
and organised crime groups operate. Governance and security are
weak, particularly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas
(FATA). The populations of the border areas are among the poorest
in Pakistan, with the lowest literacy rates and limited access
to public services. This allows allow space for radicalisation,
and the Taliban has used violence, intimidation and terror to
gain control over civilian populations in areas of northwest Pakistan.
A sanctuary for Afghan insurgents
43. In December 2010, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman
of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff reiterated ISAF's longstanding
position in respect of Pakistan, namely that ISAF could not succeed
in Afghanistan without first shutting down safe havens in Pakistan.
Our witnesses were agreed that the ability of insurgents to seek
support and sanctuary in Pakistan imposes limits on the extent
to which ISAF's current counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan
can ever be successful, or to which insurgents can be persuaded
to embrace a political settlement.
44. There is no doubt that the Afghan Taliban continue
to receive support and sanctuary from within Pakistan, as Dr Gohel
explained: "Taliban factions, such as the Quetta Shura, led
by Mullah Omar, and the Haqqani Network continue to operate unhindered
from safe havens within Pakistani territory and use these sanctuaries
as a launch pad for cross-border attacks on US, British, Afghan
and ISAF troops in Afghanistan".
As the Government's written evidence makes clear, "Pakistan's
commitment to tackling this threat is important both for regional
stability and the security of the UK, in denying operational space
to both domestic and international terrorists".
45. In contrast to the longstanding US and ISAF position
outlined above by Admiral Mike Mullen, in January 2011, Lieutenant
General David Rodriguez, Deputy Commander, US Forces-Afghanistan,
argued that the US could succeed in Afghanistan even if Pakistan
refused to shut down the border with Afghanistan: "This is
not a mission-stopper in my mind".
However, several witnesses stated that the Afghan Taliban will
not be defeated militarily without Pakistan's help,
while Dr Gohel argued that ISAF's military strategy "will
always remain hampered and flawed as long as the porous and badly
manned border, the Durand Line, into Pakistan remains open".
On any given day, significant numbers of people are said to cross
Pakistan's formal boundary with Afghanistan, the so-called 'Durand
Line' which runs for much of its length through mountainous and
often highly inhospitable areas. Pakistan's ability to stem the
flow of insurgents across its border is very limited. Policing
and securing such terrain would require resources that most countries
would struggle to provide, and would require a far closer working
relationship with the Afghan authorities than exists at present.
Although regular discussions now take place between Pakistan and
Afghanistan and there is said to be increased technical co-operation
between the two countries' armed forces, police and border management
officials, it remains to be seen whether this can be translated
into practical co-operation on the ground.
For its part, the UK is supporting the development of border co-operation
centres designed to promote co-ordinated operational planning
between ISAF and the Afghan and Pakistani security forces.
A selective Pakistani approach
to the insurgency?
46. Although witnesses expressed disquiet about the
lack of cross-border co-operation, they were more concerned about
Pakistan's approach to tackling the Afghan insurgency within its
own borders. The FCO states that Pakistan is "increasingly
recognising that it has suffered, particularly in the border areas,
from instability in Afghanistan" and that this has prompted
Islamabad to increase military and security co-operation with
UK's official position, as put to us by the Foreign Secretary,
is that "we have seen a greatly increased willingness on
the part of Pakistan to confront insurgencies on its own territory
and to take action against terrorist groups. I would like to emphasise
] rather than be critical".
47. Witnesses and a number of interlocutors disagreed
with the Government's official position. Dr Gohel stated that
"the rhetoric by the Pakistani military has not been translated
into any substantive action with only half-hearted measures against
the various Taliban factions headquartered in the country".
Pakistan has conducted an intensive counter-insurgency campaign
within its borders over the last two years, sustaining considerable
casualties in the process. However, its military offensives have
not targeted the Afghan Taliban or its former proxies in Afghanistan
including the Jallaludin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar militants,
or Kashmiri separatist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which
have been responsible for attacks on Western targets and the terrorist
strikes on Mumbai in 2008. Looking ahead, Sir Hilary Synnott told
us that Pakistan was unlikely to change its strategy in respect
of the Afghan Taliban".
Dr Gohel concurred:
The [Pakistani] military spent an enormous amount
of time and effort in the '90s to support and assist the Afghan
Taliban, giving them strategic depth in Afghanistan. [
They are not going to give up something that they invested so
much time in just because the West is getting angry.
48. Official Pakistani statements reject claims that
Pakistan is not willing to tackle the Afghan Taliban, and the
Pakistani military argues that action is simply prioritised according
to threat and its limited counter-insurgency capabilities, which
it states have hindered its ability to tackle certain groups,
particularly in the more inaccessible border areas in the north
west of the country. Indeed, President Zardari reiterated this
point to us in October, when he called for the UK to support the
provision of military hardware that he said would allow Pakistan
to target groups of concern to the West. Certainly, Pakistan's
military, although the sixth largest in the world, has not until
recently been configured for counter-insurgency. It has instead
been designed for conventional warfare and a perceived existential
threat from India.
49. However, it is worth noting that since 2001,
Pakistan has received in excess of $12 billion of overt military-related
aid from the US alone. In addition, in October 2010, to mark the
end of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue process, the Obama administration
announced a $2 billion military aid package for Islamabad. As
Sir Hilary Synnott explained to us, the US decision to open its
arms markets to Pakistan "has allowed Pakistan to use its
own domestic money to buy big-ticket military items that have
no relevance to the war on terror or Afghanistan, but are relevant
only in relation to India". Sir Hilary added that while "Britain
has not fallen into that trap",
it has nevertheless provided significant financial and other assistance
to help Pakistan improve its counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism
capabilities. Indeed, as part of its wider programme of defence
engagement, the UK has provided assistance to build the capacity
of the Pakistani Army to conduct effective operations in Pakistan's
north-western border areas.
50. Consequently, witnesses were largely of the view
that the failure to tackle the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan was
less to do with capabilities and more to do with will, or lack
of it. The Henry Jackson Society's written evidence states: "The
reluctance of the Pakistani authorities to collaborate in disrupting
the activities of the Afghan Taliban operating from within their
country has been enormously damaging to the counter-insurgency
effort in Afghanistan".
51. As noted above, in spite of the return of a civilian
government in 2008, the military and one branch of its intelligence
agencies, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI),
retain a pivotal role in Pakistan's defence, foreign, nuclear
and internal security policy and drive Pakistan's current policy
towards Afghanistan. In August 2009, our predecessor Committee
expressed concerns that there was a lack of uniform and widespread
support within the military and ISI for the need to tackle the
Afghan insurgency from within Pakistan. A number of subsequent
reports, including that authored by Matt Waldman for the London
School of Economics, have highlighted concerns about the Pakistani
military's approach to, and control over, the Afghan Taliban.
Mr Waldman concluded that "Pakistan appears to be playing
a double game of astonishing magnitude" in Afghanistan.
Despite repeated statements by some officials in the Obama administration
in Washington that Pakistan is working hard to crack down on militants,
a private White House review used unusually strong language to
suggest the Pakistani military is not doing nearly enough to confront
the Taliban and al-Qaeda, according to a leaked report to Congress.
The report notes that from March to June 2010, the Pakistani military
"continued to avoid military engagements that would put it
in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or [al-Qaeda] forces in
North Waziristan. This is as much a political choice as it is
a reflection of an under-resourced military prioritizing its targets".
The December 2010 White House review of progress in Afghanistan
also concluded that consolidating gains in Afghanistan "require[s]
that we make more progress with Pakistan to eliminate sanctuaries
for violence, extremist networks".
52. Professor Shaun Gregory told us: "with respect
to the Afghan Taliban our interests and our objectives in Afghanistan
are at odds with Pakistan's and co-operation has been meagre.
At best Pakistan has not significantly retarded the Afghan Taliban's
return to dominance in the Afghan Pashtun belt from safe havens
in Pakistan; at worstand more plausibly in my viewit
has aided that process".
53. Speaking last August in Bangalore, the Prime
Minister said, "we want to see a strong and a stable and
a democratic Pakistan [
] But we cannot tolerate in any sense
the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is
able in any way to promote the export of terror, whether to India
or whether to Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the world".
The FCO's written evidence stated:
In our engagement with Pakistan we consistently
maintain that the presence of militant and terrorist groups poses
a grave threat to the Pakistani state as well as to the stability
and security of the region and beyond. [
] The most serious
international terrorist threat to the UK continues to come from
al-Qaeda core and associated militants, located in the Federally
Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.
54. We conclude that it was inappropriate and
unhelpful for the Prime Minister to have made negative remarks
about Pakistan's record on counter-terrorism in India. Nonetheless,
we further conclude that the substance of his concerns remain
The West's lack of political
55. Previously, under the Bush administration, US
effort was largely focused on targeting al-Qaeda operatives and
networks in Pakistan. To this end, between 2001 and 2007, the
US gave more than $10 billion in traceable aid to the Musharraf
regime, the vast majority of which went directly to the military.
In his book 'Descent into Chaos', Ahmed Rashid reflects the views
of many commentators who believe that the US's strategy of offering
aid with few, if any, conditions attached, produced few strategic
56. The change of emphasis under the Obama administration
towards seeing Pakistan as both part of the problem in relation
to Afghanistan, and potentially part of the solution has, in the
view of witnesses, been only partially successful at best. Under
the new strategy, both countries are treated as a single 'theatre'
(dubbed 'AfPak', a term and concept which infuriates many Pakistanis).
There are regular trilateral US-Pakistan-Afghanistan talks and
an ongoing "strategic dialogue". In addition to diplomatic
initiatives, the US has committed to providing the Pakistani security
forces with operational and development support to improve their
ability to mount successful counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency
operations. Non-military aid to Pakistan also tripled to $7.5
billion over five years, but was conditional upon Pakistan demonstrating
its commitment to uprooting al Qaeda and other violent extremists.
57. Although Pakistan has come under sustained pressure
from the US to turn against the Taliban since 2001, receiving
significant rewards in the process for doing so, the underlying
fundamentals of Pakistani security policy have not changed and
the Pakistani state's ongoing preoccupation with India and Kashmir
and its belief that India represents an existential threat, continue
to underpin and drive Pakistan's foreign and security policy and
its policy towards Afghanistan.
58. Professor Shaun Gregory's written evidence concluded
that "over the past nine yearsdespite billions of
dollars of military and civilian aid and much diplomatic attentionthe
US, UK and NATO have been unable to pressure Pakistan into serious
downward pressure on the Afghan Taliban, something General Petraeus
has said would be critical to NATO success in Afghanistan".
He attributes the West's inability to "force Pakistan to
act in our interests" to "the counter-leverage they
hold over us", namely that up to 80% of NATO's main logistics
lines flow through Pakistan, that ISAF relies on Pakistan for
base infrastructure and over-flights to prosecute the war in Afghanistan,
that the West relies on Pakistan for intelligence particularly
on al-Qaeda, and that the West relies on Pakistan's Army and ISI
to "keep Pakistan's estimated 60-100 nuclear weapons out
of terrorist hands". Professor Gregory concludes:
In other words we are too dependent on Pakistan
in too many grave security areas to seriously question their Army/ISI.
We know Pakistan arefrom our point of viewduplicitous
with respect to the Afghan Taliban, but there is little or nothing
we can do about that and we should not expect Pakistan to work
against what it perceives to be its own interests.
59. Our other witnesses were also of the view that
the UK, and even the US, with its ability to offer considerably
more aid, have little leverage over the Pakistanis. The only way
this could change, Sir Hillary Synnott told us, is "if their
strategic interests could be brought closer to ours. At the moment,
they are convinced that we are about to leave because of what
President Obama said last December  about the start of the
withdrawal [in July 2011]. As long as they have that conviction,
they have got us over a barrel".
60. We received evidence that the UK should make
its support for Pakistan more effective and heard accusations
that "in the past, there has been a failure of connecting
aid, loans, and grants to specific policy goals". Dr Gohel
argued that the UK should be "linking economic and military
aid to performance on those areas we judge to be most important.
In addition, the aid process must be far more transparent".
61. We conclude that the continuing existence
of Pakistani safe havens for Afghan insurgents makes it extremely
difficult, if not impossible, for ISAF's counter-insurgency campaign
to succeed. It is of considerable concern that the UK is in a
situation where, along with its key ally the US, it is reliant
upon, but appears to have little influence over, Pakistan, considering
the capacity of that country substantially to affect the longer-term
prospects for peace in Afghanistan.
Direct US action in Pakistan
62. Allegedly because actionable intelligence was
sometimes being passed to terrorists and because the US lost faith
and trust in the ISI to round up al-Qaeda affiliates and target
those providing sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban, the US has in
recent years used unmanned aerial vehicles, or 'drones', equipped
with missiles to eliminate members of al-Qaeda.
More drone attacks are said to have been authorised under the
presidency of Barack Obama than during the entire presidency of
George W. Bush.
63. While the drone attacks appear to have been successful
in eliminating large numbers of senior members of al-Qaeda and
the Taliban, and are perceived by the military to be necessary
to improve security conditions in Afghanistan, they have been
tremendously controversial among the majority of the Pakistani
population. Professor Gregory's written evidence stated that "the
US would like to expand its drone operations into northern Balochistanand
perhaps elsewhere in Pakistanbut this is likely to be resisted
by the Pakistan Army/ISI and government".
During December a number of media reports emerged which suggested
that US military officials were seeking to expand the "flight
box" for drone attacks, but that this had been rebuffed by
the US Department of State which was concerned about the potential
backlash in Pakistan.
Following the White House's December review of the situation in
Afghanistan, the New York Times reported that senior US
military figures were pushing the Obama administration to expand
cross-border commando raids against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants
in Pakistan. The
US administration denied that there was any substance to this
and other similar reports.
64. In spite of the US's attempt since 2009 to re-calibrate
its policy towards Pakistan, considerable tensions remain, and
relations are often fractious at best. Pakistan strongly resents
being viewed by the US predominantly through the prism of the
Afghan conflict and what it perceives to be the transactional
relationship that the US has imposed, with little apparent regard
for Pakistan's own strategic interests. The ability of insurgents
in Pakistan to carry out attacks against Western interests is
a major concern. We conclude that drone attacks are already a
high risk strategy and we further conclude that the use of ground
attacks, without the express consent of the Pakistani government
could significantly undermine the Pakistani government's authority,
provide militants with an excuse for targeting Western interests,
and have the unintended consequence of significantly escalating
tensions between Pakistan and the West. We strongly urge the Government
to do all that it can to ensure that future US policy on Pakistan
does not further undermine the stability of the Pakistani state.
67 HC 302, para 166. About two-thirds of Kashmir has
remained with India since the 1947-1948 war and for many Pakistanis,
this represents the unfinished business of Partition. Back
Named after Sir Mortimer Durand, Foreign Secretary of British
India in 1893 when the boundary was drawn up. Back
The New York Times, 2 February 2011 Back
Ev 76, quoting Chris Alexander, "The huge scale of Pakistan's
complicity", Globe & Mail, 30 July 2010. Back
Ev 32 Back
The New York Times, 2 February 2011 Back
Ev 48 [James Fergusson], Ev 50 [Matt Waldman] Back
Ev 81 Back
Ev 21 Back
Ev 31 Back
Ev 20 Back
Q 185 Back
Ev 61 Back
Q 82 Back
Q 82 Back
Foreign Affairs Committee, Global Security: Afghanistan and
Pakistan, para 171 Back
Q 71 Back
Ev 31 Back
Ev w4 Back
A domestically focused 'Intelligence Bureau' (IB) also exits,
as do a number of military intelligence organisations. Back
Matt Waldman, "The Sun In The Sky: The Relationship Between
Pakistan's ISI And Afghan Insurgents", London School of
Economics, Crisis States Research Centre, Discussion Paper
18, June 2010, p.22 Back
Ev 75 quoting Ed Henry, "White House report critical of Pakistan's
activity against militants", CNN, 6 October 2010 Back
"President Obama's remarks on the strategy in Afghanistan",
New York Times, 17 December 2010 Back
Ev 82 Back
Speech given by the Prime Minister in Bangalore, India, 28 July
Ev 31 Back
Craig Cohen and Derek Chollet, "When $10 Billion Is Not Enough:
Rethinking US Strategy toward Pakistan", The Washington
Quarterly, Spring 2007, 30:2 pp 7-19 Back
Foreign Affairs Committee, Global Security: Afghanistan and
Pakistan, Ev 162 Back
Ev 83 Back
Ev 83 Back
Q 82 Back
Ev 81 Back
Ev 60 Back
The Guardian, 7 October 2010 Back
Ev 82 Back
Wall Street Journal, 22 December 2010 Back
New York Times, 21 December 2010 Back