Written evidence from Dr Sajjan M. Gohel,
Asia-Pacific Foundation |
AFGHANISTAN - PAKISTAN
Dr Sajjan Gohel is currently, International Security
Director for the Asia-Pacific Foundation (APF) which is an independent
security and intelligence think-tank based in London. The APF
provides analysis on a variety of security and terrorist related
issues and is regularly consulted by various government and military
departments and media organisations both domestic and foreign.
Sajjan is head of the APF Analysis team that produces
reports on terrorist and security related issues throughout the
world. In addition, he has written Op-Ed pieces for the national
print media as well as serving as a guest commentator for television
news networks including BBC, ITN, Sky News, CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC,
CTV and CBC. Sajjan is also a regular speaker at international
conferences on terrorism and security issues.
Sajjan is one of the leading authorities in investigating
the ideologies, world-views, agendas, and strategies of trans-national
terrorist and insurgent groups throughout the world. His primary
focus is on the regional and wider situations in South-East Asia,
South Asia and Central Asia, the Middle East, Horn of Africa,
North Africa and Western Europe.
Sajjan has been part of the APF team that contributed
written testimony and oral evidence for the United Kingdom Foreign
Affairs Committee in the House of Commons on topics including
"Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism",
"Terrorism in South Asia" and "Global Security:
In March 2005, Sajjan was asked by the United
Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) to produce an assessment
on Lebanon and the security concerns after the killing of prominent
Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri.
In 2005, Sajjan formed part of a European Union
high-level working group to discuss the terror threat in the region
and to produce a working paper for then European Union counter-terrorism
chief, Gijs De Vries.
Sajjan serves as a visiting lecturer to the NATO
School in Oberammergau, and the George C. Marshall European Center
for Security Studies. He is also part of the "Partnership
for Peace Consortium: Combating Terrorism Working Group"
organised by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security
Studies, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
(OSCE) and NATO.
Sajjan, received his BA (Hons) in Politics from
Queen Mary, University of London. Sajjan has also obtained a Master's
(MSc) in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics
(LSE) and a PhD at the LSE entitled, "The Evolution of Egyptian
Radical Ideological Thought from Hasan al-Banna to Ayman al-Zawahiri".
- ¾ A
premature withdrawal from Afghanistan will enable the Taliban
to reassert its authority throughout the country whilst instigating,
fear, repression and discrimination, Afghanistan will again revert
to becoming a cesspool for terrorist groups like al-Qaeda.
- ¾ The
onslaught of Talibanisation in Pakistan has spread from the Federally
Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to the urban
heartland of Pakistan Punjab thus creating serious security concerns.
- British foreign policy will not be able to absorb
the consequences of the growth and expansion of Taliban activity
throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan as it will have a direct bearing
on Britain's security.
- If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will
mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaeda and its affiliates
would be able to plot major trans-national terrorist attacks.
- The poppy trade has played a critical destabilising
role in corrupting elements within the Afghan police, provincial
governments and bankrolling the resurgence of the Taliban. There
is a direct connection to the manufacture and processing of opium
that helps to fund and fuel the Taliban insurgency.
- There is a need to look at the opium trade beyond
just a law enforcement issue by considering its broader implications
for trade, security, and development. A main contributor to the
volatile narcotics-insurgency cycle continued to be the scarcity
of economic opportunities despite significant foreign aid.
- A majority of the aid money sent from Britain
to Afghanistan was channelled through international agencies and
organisations, not the Government, resulting in a large portion
of the aid being spent on administrative costs such as consultant
fees. Britain is the second largest aid donor yet most Afghans
are not aware of this, which undermines efforts to win hearts
- Security Sector Reform is identified as the cornerstone
upon which the success of the entire state-building process depends.
However, transformation rather than reform is the more appropriate
way to describe the process in Afghanistan.
- Land grabbing and water disputes have been a
major source of contention among tribes and individuals within
Helmand, often leading to disputes and subsequent violence within
and across communities. There is an urgent need to address the
causes for which the majority of Pashtuns are disgruntled and
- There is no effective counter-narrative to dispel
the myths and half-truths aimed at undermining the British presence.
If there is no policy for a strategic communication approach then
Afghans will only be hearing one perspective and that is from
- British film makers have been at the forefront
in illustrating social issues that suggest that there have been
some real success stories in Afghanistan's transition from Taliban
rule. In particular there have been grass-roots movements involving
sports and entertainment which have broad mass-appeal and can
also serve as a way of uniting the country.
- The UK needs to continue to robustly support
the rights of women in Afghanistan. The Afghan Government's attempts
to seek reconciliation with the Taliban will harm women's rights.
Women living in areas where the Taliban have regained strength
have suffered intimidation, violence and even death.
- The stabilisation of Afghanistan, to a very large
extent, depends on the nature of that country's relations with
Pakistan. There is an urgent need to resolve the longstanding
border dispute of the Durand Line and the Pashtunistan issue in
order to improve the prospects of counter-terrorism co-operation
between the two countries.
- The Taliban is not a homogenous group. It has
many factions and is a mixture of characters including ideological,
warlords, land owners, criminals, drug dealers and people out
- The most significant Taliban faction is Mullah
Omar's Quetta Shura based in or near the city of Quetta in north-western
Pakistan. The network of warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son
Sirajuddin lead a deadly parallel faction to the Quetta Shura.
The Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, although independent
of the Taliban, is also another group that poises significant
- Deep-rooted ties exist between Pashtuns on both
sides of the Durand Line, blurring the distinction between Afghan
and Pakistani Taliban factions especially with the Mehsud clan
which continues to carry out attacks throughout Pakistan. Equally
they have launched a strategy to recruit Pashtuns based in the
West for carrying out future attacks in North America and Europe.
- Pakistan had gambled for strategic depth in Afghanistan,
but has instead conceded reverse strategic depth to the Taliban
in Pakistan. The insurgency is particularly dangerous because
it has sparked an identity crisis throughout the Pashtun belt
- No politician in Islamabad appears to be ready
to take upon himself the task of fighting the militants within
Pakistan on behalf of the international community. The Pakistani
state has to stop approaching the issue of tribal insurgency through
the narrow prism of assuming that maintaining law and order.
- Pakistan's fragile democracy has been severely
damaged by the Government's poor response to the worst floods
in the country's modern history. Extremist groups have filled
the void and have been far more successful in distributing aid
than any governmental body or aid agency. The unfolding political
story of Pakistan including its role in battling terrorism and
the unfolding humanitarian disaster are inextricably linked.
- Directly because of dissatisfaction with Pakistan's
efforts in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the US began carrying
out drone strikes to eliminate members of al-Qaeda as part of
an evolving strategy to implement pre-emptive strikes to deter
or dismantle any potential terrorist plots that al-Qaeda and its
affiliates are planning.
- If continued drone strikes in Pakistan aimed
at terrorists could inadvertently kill members of the armed forces.
This could trigger the Pakistani military to close the Khyber
Pass for NATO convoys in the future which in turn could put Washington
in direct confrontation with Islamabad.
- The Pakistan-Afghanistan border region constitutes
a significant threat to western national security interests. Terrorist
related events in the UK have seen increasing connections between
radicals in Britain and their counterparts in the Pakistani tribal
areas that border Afghanistan.
- Intelligence co-operation between the UK and
Pakistan is essential. However, that "co-operation"
has at times been extremely problematic. It needs to be more transparent
- British foreign policy needs to factor in various
potential scenarios related to Pakistan. How will the UK react
and respond if another terrorist attack on British soil is traced
back to Pakistan; what will Britain's position be should and when
the security situation in Pakistan deteriorates to an alarming
level; what can Britain do to help bolster civilian rule in Pakistan
and blunt any interference by the military?
- Many British servicemen have died in Afghanistan
since operations began in October 2001. Many more have suffered
terrible life-changing injuries. The majority of deaths have been
from the Taliban that launch their attacks whilst crossing over
from safe-havens in Pakistan and then slip back in afterwards.
- The fear that the situation in Afghanistan is
unwinnable or that the Afghan Taliban is invincible are myths
but myths that are often repeated which are damaging for public
perceptions and morale. The irony behind the view that "Afghanistan
is the graveyard of Empires", is that for most of its history
Afghanistan has actually been the cradle of empires.
- The rising tide of violence and daily misery
has made the Taliban deeply unpopular in the south and south-west,
and nationwide polls indicate that they and other extremist groups
have little support.
- It is impossible and a fallacy to have a genuine
dialogue with the Taliban on issues that involve the respect of
the rights of women, and ethnic and religious minorities, to halt
and dismantle the infrastructure that enables opium poppy cultivation
and prevent al-Qaeda and affiliates from re-establishing their
safe havens inside Afghanistan.
- The Taliban cannot be compared with the IRA,
ETA or even the Tamil Tigers. All these terrorist groups have
had or continue to have a political wing which would take part
in the democratic process by standing in elections. They also
were willing to compromise at some level for greater political
representation and power-sharing.
- The Taliban believe that they are in the ascendency.
They feel they have the strategic advantage, durability and resources
to outlast the West in Afghanistan. British foreign policy will
need to assess what are the chances of being able to divide and
fracture the various Taliban factions.
1. The year 2010 saw a continued rise in
violent incidents in Afghanistan, including in areas around the
capital city of Kabul, which had previously been considered to
be relatively safe. Deteriorating security conditions made it
likely that the attempt to build a lasting and viable democratic
state in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly precarious. Afghans
appeared stuck in a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle in which
attaining security was increasingly viewed as being a precondition
to democratic state building, while the lack of investment in
institution building contributed to a deterioration of the security
environment. Lack of security was indeed an overriding concern
for both Afghans and the international community.
2. As of 11 October 2010, the number of
British fatalities in Afghanistan stands at 340. That is more
than the combined total of fatalities of all European nations
that have troops in Afghanistan. Helmand province, which is where
British troops have been most active, has the highest fatality
rate of all the Afghan provinces which is currently at 602.
With the mounting casualties for NATO forces in Afghanistan, large
scale Taliban attacks throughout the country, accusations of endemic
corruption throughout the Afghan Government, police and armed
forces, there is increasing concern and mounting pressure that
the West needs to either reduce its commitments in Afghanistan
or more dramatically withdraw entirely.
3. Despite the problems that exist and under
very challenging circumstances, abandoning Afghanistan will create
consequences that are unimaginable. Not only will the Taliban
reassert its authority throughout the country through fear, repression
and discrimination, Afghanistan will again revert to becoming
a cesspool for terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. In addition, through
the cultivation of poppies for the mass-production of opium, Afghanistan
will become a narco-state fully controlled and sanctioned by the
Taliban which will provide resources to a terrorist infrastructure
to use in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan to plot and plan
attacks across the globe. A narco-nation being a state sponsor
of trans-national terrorism would make the situation far worse
than it was before 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. In Pakistan,
the permissive conditions enabling the Afghan Taliban continue
unhindered. 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
4. With the collapse of the few remaining
institutional structures in Pakistan's North and South Waziristan,
the districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are rapidly succumbing to
the ruthless onslaught of Talibanisation. This problem has now
spread to the urban heartland of Pakistan Punjab where it is now
firmly entrenched. Afghanistan's future is intrinsically tied
to Pakistan's stability. If these centrifugal forces continue
to proliferate then both countries will continue to suffer from
an insurrection that is robust, lethal, and resilient. Unless
the networks and infrastructure that allow the Taliban to replenish
its ranks are dismantled, a new generation of leaders will emerge
continuing to threaten the security of Afghanistan, Pakistan and
potentially creating global repercussions.
5. Hope for a positive future in Afghanistan
and Pakistan is not lost. That said, any progress made since the
ousting of the Taliban militia from Afghanistan nine years ago
is under serious threat. When examining the current crisis in
both countries, observers must understand that the situation is
tremendously complex; an all-encompassing solution will not easily
be found. Some international policy makers continue to make the
same mistake of approaching conflicts in a conventional, narrow-minded
and incoherent manner. They carry with them a number of attitudes,
perceptions and expectations that don't reflect ground realities.
6. The fundamental question is can British
foreign policy successfully absorb the consequences of the growth
and expansion of Taliban activity throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan?
In addition this is not some far off problem that will only affect
other countries. In fact, it will have a direct bearing on Britain's
security. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean
an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaeda and its affiliates
would plot to kill and maim more Britons. So this is not only
a conflict of enormous strategic importance but it is also pivotal
to the defence of British political, economic and social dynamics.
If the Taliban is ignored or assumed to be manageable, can we
therefore afford to assume that this threat will not regularly
arrive on our doorstep? These are the questions on which the stability
of AfPak, and perhaps the strategic future of the United Kingdom
7. Since the 2001 US-led liberation of Afghanistan,
the poppy trade has played a critical destabilising role in corrupting
elements within the Afghan police, provincial governments and
bankrolling the resurgence of the Taliban. Afghanistan produces
90% of the world's opium, the raw ingredient used to make heroin.
It is no coincidence that the provinces in Afghanistan that have
the highest opium poppy cultivation also happen to be the provinces
where the Taliban is virulently active. There is a direct connection
to the manufacture and processing of opium that helps to fund
and fuel the Taliban insurgency. Narco-Taliban is one of the biggest
long-term challenges to Afghanistan's security and stability.
8. Taliban commanders at the village level
have expanded their activities related to drugs from collecting
extortion and charging protection fees to running heroin refineries
and engaging in kidnapping and other smuggling schemes. Drug profits
flow up the chain of command within the Taliban and other insurgent
and extremist organisations operating along the Afghanistan-Pakistan
border. These funds appear to play a key role in funding the operational
costs of the Taliban.
9. The high rate of return on investment
from opium poppy cultivation has driven an agricultural shift
in Afghanistan from growing traditional crops to growing opium
poppy. Despite the fact that only 12% of its land is arable, agriculture
is a way of life for 70% of Afghans and is the country's primary
source of income. During good years, Afghanistan produced enough
food to feed its people as well as supply a surplus for export.
Its traditional agricultural products include wheat, corn, barley,
rice, cotton, fruit, nuts, and grapes. However, its agricultural
economy has suffered considerably from years of violent conflict,
drought, and deteriorating infrastructure. In recent years, many
poor farmers have turned to opium poppy cultivation to make a
living because of the relatively high rate of return on investment
compared to traditional crops. Consequently, Afghanistan's largest
and fastest cash crop is opium.
10. Western commanders and donor nations have
tended to view Afghanistan's opium trade as a law enforcement
issue, often not considering its broader implications for trade,
security, and development. The insurgency, meanwhile, is treated
as a military matter. Equally, drug enforcement agencies and intelligence
agencies have different priorities when it comes to Afghanistan
despite the fact that narcotics trafficking and terrorist funding
and attacks are all inter-connected. These divisions have stymied
efforts to build a comprehensive strategy toward southern Afghanistan.
11. Taliban commanders tax farmers in pre-designated
"territories". They collect a 10% ushr or tax
in some districts, while in others, local mullahs share the take.
The Taliban have even distributed leaflets ordering farmers to
grow poppy. In addition, they are paying Afghan men up to US$200
a month to fight alongside them against NATO troops.
This is substantially more than the average Afghan police officer
is paid by the Kabul Government. This has contributed significantly
to some with Afghan's police and military changing sides purely
due to financial inducement and as a result putting at risk a
number of British soldiers. Afghanistan's police are poorly trained,
plagued by drug addiction and infiltrated by the Taliban especially
at the lower entry level.
In one of the most high-profile incidents on 4 November 2009,
five British soldiers were shot dead in Helmand by an Afghan policeman.
12. To make matters worse, the problems plaguing
Afghanistan have spilled over its borders. Drug trafficking and
corruption also fuels growing instability in Pakistan, Iran, and
Central Asia. If left unchecked, there is the ever-present risk
that terrorists with global ambitions could tap into this source
to launch attacks outside the region. Through this entire smuggling
network which connects Pakistan and Afghanistan through narcotics
and the Taliban, there is the prevailing nexus with trans-national
terrorism. In December 2008, Khan Mohammed, a member of the Afghan
Taliban was sentenced to two life terms in prison in the United
States for drug trafficking and engaging in narco-terrorism. He
was planning to conduct a rocket attack on the Jalalabad Airfield,
an Afghan facility used jointly by US and NATO forces in Nangarhar
Khan Mohammed justified his willingness to sell heroin by stating,
"Whether it is by opium or by shooting, this is our common
13. Helmand Province, which is the source of
53% of all opium poppies in Afghanistan is considered to have
the most acute security problems where the insurgent Taliban effectively
controlled large parts of this province. The United Nations Office
on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released their 2010 Afghan survey in
September which revealed that opium cultivation in Helmand province
had declined slightly from 69,833 hectares to 65,045 hectares.
14. However, any decrease in Helmand was offset
by a jump in cultivation in neighbouring Kandahar province, where
the provincial government has not pushed anti-opium efforts. Kandahar,
the focus of a current surge in US troops to rout Taliban insurgents
from their southern stronghold has also become increasingly volatile
over the past year. Cultivation in Kandahar jumped 30%.
15. The total opium poppy cultivation estimated
for Afghanistan in 2010 did not change from 2009 and remained
at 123,000 hectares while rising prices suggested it may cause
a spike in the illicit crop in 2011. 98% of the total cultivation
took place in nine provinces in the southern and western regions,
including the most insecure provinces in the country. This further
underlines the link between lawlessness, the Taliban, and opium
cultivation observed since 2007.
16. Total opium production in 2010 was estimated
at 3,600 metric tons (mt), which is a 48% decrease from 2009.
The sharp decline was due to the spread of a disease, the causes
of which are unknown, that affected opium fields in the major
growing provinces, particularly Helmand and Kandahar. The disease
started to appear in the fields after flowering in spring. This
was too late to plant another crop. The total estimated farm-gate
income of opium growing farmers amounted to US$604 million in
2010. This is a significant increase from 2009, when farm-gate
income for opium was estimated at US$438 million. This year's
stable crop comes despite years of programmes aimed at reducing
the poppy crop, including subsidised seeds for other crops, vouchers
for farmers, alternative job programmes and incentives for provinces
to become "poppy-free".
17. The governor of Helmand, Gulab Mangal, had
instituted a counter-narcotics plan, known as Food Zone Programme
which was funded by Britain and the US. It involved a mix of sticks
and carrots which entailed a more aggressive counter-narcotics
offensive, incentives to grow more legal crops, and the introduction
of food zones to promote legal farming. The process required time
to implement. The first phase of the Food Zone Programme supplied
farmers with fertilizers and wheat seeds. Subsequently, opium
cultivation in the food zone decreased by 37% and was mainly replaced
by cereal crops. Outside the food zone, however, poppy production
increased by 8%.
18. The current distribution phase of the programme
is aimed at farmers living in areas affected directly by February
2010's Operation Moshtarak in Marjah, enabling the Afghan Government
to deliver tangible governance and benefits to those affected.
Operation Moshtarak is designed to clear central Helmand of the
Taliban and set the conditions for the Afghan Government to introduce
increased security, stability, development and freedom of movement
in the area.
The second phase includes a public awareness campaign highlighting
the dangers of opium, while the third phase involves law enforcement
activities, including eradication and bringing prosecutions against
those who persist in growing poppy. The Helmand Provincial Reconstruction
Team (PRT) is also supporting and mentoring the Counter Narcotics
Police of Afghanistan to assist them with the interception of
those involved in the narcotics trade. The programme covers six
districts, Lashkar Gah, Nad-e-Ali, Nahr-e-Siraj, Garmsir, Sangin,
and Musa Qala. Conclusive results on the Food Zone Programme are
yet to be established and may take several years before the true
impact is known.
19. Both Helmand and Kandahar have always had
a strong Taliban presence, serving as hubs for the northern Helmand
narcotics network, the production of IEDs, and weapons storage
Sangin and Kajaki initially became centres of concentration for
the Taliban after they were dislodged from Musa Qala in December
2007. When US forces retook Musa Qala they found 11 tons of opium
stored in warehouses there.
Since then, the Taliban have expanded their presence and organised
mobile courts and effective shadow governance structures in the
districts, dispensing speedy and effective edicts to the population.
20. The Taliban's presence in north-eastern Helmand
has increased significantly following February's Operation Moshtarak
in Marjah, an area that had served as the main safe haven for
them in Helmand.
Now that US and Afghan forces are operating in large numbers in
southern and central Helmand, many Taliban fighters have relocated
to the north to avoid coming under heavy fire.
21. Another main contributor to the volatile
narcotics-insurgency cycle continued to be the scarcity of economic
opportunities available to most Afghans. Economic growth was quite
high at around 8%.
However, this growth is usually and largely fuelled by foreign
aid, which accounts for more than 90% of public expenditures,
and the illegal narco-economy that, by conservative estimates,
accounted for one-third of Afghanistan's gross domestic product.
22. Therefore, a large portion of the economic
growth was not driven by normal indigenous economic activity.
Moreover, the foreign aid that trickles into Afghanistan symbolises
only a fraction of the amount pledged at international donor conferences.
A majority of the aid money that did reach Afghanistan was channelled
through international agencies and organisations, not the Government,
resulting in a large portion of the aid being spent on administrative
costs such as consultant fees. It could be interpreted as a miscalculation
for the Department for International Development (DFID) to not
invest all its development money into Helmand to support the British
campaign. Perhaps understandably DFID believed its goal is to
promote the development of Afghanistan and not support the British
military in their operations. This is why DFID channels 80% of
its funding to Afghanistan through the Afghan Government. However,
although the British are the second largest aid donors in the
country, most Afghans are not aware of this, which undermines
British efforts to win hearts and minds. When asked, Afghans referred
to the French, German, and American efforts and seemed unaware
of what the British were doing.
In the view of DFID, channelling assistance in this way was believed
to increase the capacity and legitimacy of the Afghan Government.
Unfortunately corruption, inefficiency and incompetence within
the Afghan Government mean that money is actually being lost in
the pipeline before it reaches those who need it.
23. The Helmandi economy functions significantly
around criminality, corruption, and networks of narcotics traffickers.
The dearth of schools, lack of human resources, and the blatant
shortfall of governance, justice, and economic opportunities provide
opportunities for exploitation by criminals, narcotics dealers,
and the Taliban. It is therefore problematic to draw clear-cut
distinctions between legal and criminal structures. This is a
challenge in terms of a counter-insurgency and reconstruction
strategy especially where perceptions of the state's legitimacy
amongst the populous are essential to the successful implementation
of its moral and political authority.
24. Security Sector Reform (SSR) is identified
as the cornerstone upon which the success of the entire state-building
process depends. However, transformation rather than reform is
the more appropriate way to describe the process in Afghanistan.
The process faces a paradox that will be difficult to overcome.
The SSR model requires a minimum level of security to function,
a base line currently absent in Afghanistan. Relying on SSR to
restore security and stability in the short-term has precipitated
a premature acceleration of the process. The Afghan National Army
(ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) are nowhere near the level
or capacity to assume counter-insurgency operations on their own
whilst at the same time providing effective security to the Afghan
25. One of the flaws of the counter-insurgency
doctrine has been a failure to identify or address the causes
for which the majority of Pashtuns, not directed by the Taliban,
are disgruntled and disillusioned. This especially includes land
and water disputes.
26. Land grabbing and water disputes have been
a major source of contention among tribes and individuals within
Helmand, often leading to disputes and subsequent violence within
and across communities. The critical problem of land theft is
a vital issue almost entirely ignored by both the Government and
In fact, the overwhelming majority of international funds concerning
rule of law is spent on criminal justice issues, with very little
spent on civil disputes that often can spiral out of control and
lead to violence and other crimes. Considering the extent of such
disputes, ignoring land and water disputes could destabilise many
areas within Helmand. On a national level, the Asia Foundation's
2009 Survey identified disputes over land and property as accounting
for 63% of all civil and criminal disputes, while crimes constituted
19% of disputes.
27. Warlords are frequently involved in such
disputes, which is complicated by the unusual extension of immunity
in 2004 to actions alleged to have been committed before parliamentarians
took office that in turn has led to a culture of impunity. The
same warlords who gained immunity by taking public office as parliamentarians
have been engaged in grabbing land that often belongs to people
who had left during the last 30 years of conflict.
In Muktar, an area of Lashkar Gah, refugees returned from Pakistan
to find that President Karzai's assurance that land would be restored
did not occur. Instead cronies of former notorious Helmand Governor
Sher Mohammed Akhonzada had occupied and taken the land in their
absence, leading to unrest and Muktar becoming one of the more
pro-Taliban areas of the city. In some cases, the ANP has been
involved in not resolving but perpetuating disputes.
Such land grabbing and corruption by warlords and ANP risks the
stability of many Helmandi districts.
28. Presently, little information exists as to
who Helmandis turn to for resolution of land disputes and whether
a land commission comprised of tribal elders and community leaders
could be formed in various districts to hear and resolve such
issues. Partnering with local Afghan non-government organisations
that already have personnel on the ground in Helmand could help
bridge these information gaps, identify leaders and potential
commission members and initiate engagement with these individuals.
29. While a Land Commission has been set up in
Lashkar Gah with the help of the Helmand PRT and overseen by Governor
Gulab Mangal's office, it has very little reach outside of the
city itself especially as it is undermanned and under-resourced.
When the counter-insurgency military operations within Helmand
are deemed to be complete, a plethora of land disputes and a vacuum
of leadership could destabilise the area, risking the NATO and
Afghan military's ability to effectively hold onto the area. Thus,
working with tribal elders and potentially expanding the reach
of land commissions to hear such disputes is an important step
30. Many disputes in Helmand also concern use
of irrigation canals, leading to contention among tribes and individuals
within Helmand and often escalating to violence within and across
communities. The best way ahead may be to informally form shuras
that bring together different tribal elders to meet face-to-face
to discuss and resolve disputes. District government officials
employing irrigation and agricultural specialists could play a
big role in informally resolving disputes regarding water and
land, thereby reducing potential violence and instilling trust
and confidence in district government. Addressing land and water
disputes is crucial in winning hearts and minds and garnering
local support for the Government.
31. British troops have sacrificed their lives
and futures in order to help rebuild Afghanistan and it is a concern
that the Taliban have implemented and developed a well-rehearsed
narrative on the notion that the British army is in Afghanistan
to seek revenge for 19th century defeats. As the former Taliban
Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef, stated:
Another strategic mistake [by the US] was to allow
the British to return to the south, or Afghanistan in general.
The British Empire had fought three wars with Afghanistan, and
their main battles were with the Pashtun tribes in southern Afghanistan.
They were responsible for the split of the tribal lands, establishing
the Durand Line. Whatever the reality might be, British troops
in southern Afghanistan, in particular in Helmand, will be measured
not only on their current actions but by the history they have,
the battles that were fought in the past. The local population
has not forgotten, and many believe, neither have the British.
Many villages that see heavy fighting and casualties today are
the same that did so some ninety years ago
The biggest mistake
of American policy makers so far might be their profound lack
of understanding of their enemy.
32. If grotesque distortions like this are left
unchallenged then unfortunately some Afghans may end up believing
the lies and distortions. Yet there is no effective counter-narrative
to dispel the myths and half-truths aimed at undermining the British
presence. If there is no policy for a strategic communication
approach then Afghans will only be hearing one perspective and
that is from the Taliban.
33. Afghanistan lacks communications infrastructure
that would enable ordinary Afghans to have access to technology
in order to obtain and receive accurate information. This situation
benefits the Taliban to disseminate uncontested versions of their
message and propaganda.
34. One of the most effective ways the Taliban
are able to disseminate their doctrine is through the use of what
are called "night letters". Night letters are leaflets
or letters attached to doors or walls to inform or threaten. They
are an effective means of communication in areas where access
to other media is limited such as Helmand province. The contents
of the night letters are usually warnings or instructions to the
local population to refrain from engagement with foreign forces
and the Afghan Government or taking part in elections.
35. The use of night letters is particularly
effective because the Taliban can move in and out of villages
and towns unnoticed compared to how British forces move in and
out of towns. Whereas the British forces want to be seen and openly
convey information, the Taliban may not want to be seen in order
to propagate fear into the local population by demonstrating through
night letters they can be around anytime. There are instances
where the night letters effectiveness is apparent, as a Time
Magazine article by Ayrn Baker would indicate:
36. Such is the impact of night letters, in some
southern provinces that they have slowed government services and
brought reconstruction projects to a halt because people are too
scared and intimidated. In Kandahar province, many police officers
have quit, medical clinics have been shut down. Even schools that
have been burnt down were notified in advance by night letters
warning parents to keep their children home.
Instances like this demonstrate the ability of the Taliban to
spread fear. Coalition and Afghan forces cannot be everywhere
at once. Since British and Afghan forces wear uniforms and are
visible, it is easy to tell when they are present. Their presence
reassures the populace of their safety. The Taliban however, can
move wherever and whenever there are no government forces present
and spread their fear.
37. The Taliban effectively communicate to the
people that they will be the ones who will remain when the western
forces withdraw. This is a difficult strategy to counter. The
Taliban will be able to continue its use of night letters in its
information strategy so long as they are free to move and operate
where there are no international or Afghan forces present. While
efforts should continue to directly confront Taliban fighters,
it must not be looked upon as the way to undermine the Taliban's
ability to influence and intimidate the population. Night letters
do far more to sow fear among the Afghans than airstrikes do to
make them feel secure.
38. The Taliban have also begun developing other
methods to reach their audience such as the distribution of DVDs,
mobile phone messaging, radio messages and websites.
39. The use of DVDs to spread propaganda by the
Taliban is a tool they most likely learned by observing al-Qaeda.
The Taliban distribute DVDs containing video footage of attacks
against coalition troops and Afghan forces. The distribution of
DVDs enables the Taliban to visually refute claims made against
them by the Afghan Government.
40. Other methods that the Taliban have employed
in their efforts to spread their agenda have been radio broadcasts
and mobile phone text messaging. The Taliban have had little success
with radio broadcasting due to their lack of being able to maintain
a fixed broadcasting station inside Afghanistan coupled with the
ability of coalition forces to jam the frequencies that they would
Mobile phone messages are becoming more ubiquitous as cell phone
ownership is reported to be at 52% of the total Afghan population.
This method seems to be the 21st century equivalent of a night
letter for the Taliban.
41. The acceptance of new technologies may have
more to do with sustaining internal morale and increasing recruitment
rather than a change in religious philosophy. The Taliban are
willing to change their acceptance of new ideas if they appear
to assist the Taliban in achieving their aims. Beside the need
to sustain morale, the Taliban most likely realised they need
to adapt their use of information tools to compete against the
Afghan Government and British forces. When the Taliban rose to
power, Afghanistan was devastated by the war against the Soviet
Union. The current technologies did not exist at the time and
as such the Taliban saw no need to embrace them in order to exert
influence and fear. Since the Taliban's overthrow, Afghanistan
has seen an influx of new technologies as a result of reconstruction
efforts which have now ironically been embraced by the Taliban
who will use modern technology to instigate medieval brutality.
42. The methods by which the Taliban disseminate
their messages have evolved not only from the first time they
took control but also over the past nine years of war. They continue
to have a firm control in disseminating night letters and the
lack of physical British or Afghan Government security forces
in all areas allows the Taliban to move freely, and appear to
be in all places at once. New tools to disseminate messages allow
the Taliban to effectively plant terror in the minds of audiences
and also give the impression that they are omnipresent.
43. British film makers have been at the forefront
in illustrating social issues that suggest that there have been
some real success stories in Afghanistan's transition from Taliban
rule. In particular there have been grass-roots movements involving
sports and entertainment which have broad mass-appeal and can
also serve as a way of uniting the country.
44. Rohullah Nikpai, an ethnic Hazara, won Afghanistan's
first Olympic medal in taekwondo at the Beijing Games in 2008.
It should have been an occasion for national unity. Yet few people
apart from the Hazaras were happy about his success. Many Afghans
expect sport teams and all other aspects of society to function
like a coalition government, ensuring tribal, racial and regional
balance. This expectation started with Karzai's Administration,
the foundations of which were based on such principles. This is
largely due to the legacy of the Taliban years. Back in May 2001,
a Pakistani youth football team was arrested and had their heads
forcibly shaved last year when they made the elementary mistake
of wearing shorts on a tour to Kandahar.
Kabul's football stadium was regularly used by the Taliban for
public amputations for convicted thieves and executions for murderers
as well as for anyone that violated their dogmatic doctrine which
included women who were either flogged, shot or stoned to death.
45. Yet sometimes sport provides a story which
not only justifies its existence, but confirms its vast significance.
The Afghanistan cricket team is such a story. They were only formed
in the aftermath of the Operation Enduring Freedom towards the
end of 2001. Only when thousands of Afghans sought refuge in Pakistan
did they properly learn to study and appreciate the game. Upon
their return, they continued to play and, as these things do,
it filtered down to new players who were similarly entranced.
The country, did not become an affiliate member of the International
Cricket Council (ICC) until 2001 and didn't have a single proper
pitch until 2008. Nevertheless the national side has gone from
being a non-entity to gaining successive promotions from Division
Five of the ICC League to getting agonisingly close to qualifying
for the 2011 World Cup. The saga is so implausible, that it reads
like a film script.
46. The Oscar-winning British film director and
avid cricket fan Sam Mendes has helped to produce a documentary,
Out of the Ashes, that records the Afghanistan cricket
team's rise. His involvement began after he was sent a first version
by the director, Timothy Albone, that charted the team's early,
and improbable, success. Out of the Ashes premiered at
the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 17 June 2010 and
screened as part of BBC4's Storyville.
47. The film follows the team's coach, Taj Malik,
as he prepares his charges for one of the first rounds of the
World Cup qualifiers, division five of the World Cricket League,
in Jersey in 2008, against such cricketing minnows as Japan and
Nepal. Successfully progressing on to winning divisional tournaments
in Tanzania, Buenos Aires and South Africa, it all comes down
to one match against Canada in the West Indies for a place in
the 2011 World Cup. Unfortunately they are beaten, missing out
on a dream that began years ago in the chaotic aftermath of post-Taliban
48. They do get however to qualify for the 2010
Twenty20 World Cup, the shorter and faster format of the game
in the West Indies. Although they fail to make much impact, losing
nobly against India and South Africa in a tournament that England
ultimately won, simply to appear on the world stage after having
barely any history of the game a decade ago is extraordinary.
49. The sport is growing apace at home despite
the obvious drawbacks of the security threat from the Taliban.
For the time being they will simply have to become accustomed,
like Pakistan, to playing their home matches away. There is an
essential need for developing the grass-roots of the sport in
Afghanistan itself. This is what retired Afghan cricketer Ahmadzai
Raees will be doing, running cricket camps in partnership with
Dr Sarah Fane of the charity Afghan Connection, which works to
build new schools, with concrete pitches, across the country.
The Afghan cricket story is the one story that gives everyone
hope. In 2009, Fane, Raees and the Afghan team held a cricket
camp for 50 children. 12,000 boys and girls turned up. It is the
responsibility of cricket's broader community to help develop
the game at a lower level. It costs $3,000 (£1,995) to lay
a concrete pitch at one of Afghan Connection's new schools.
50. Cricket is not without history in Afghanistan.
British troops brought cricket to Kabul in 1839 and Britain can
play a key role helping to nurture and develop the game of cricket
in Afghanistan. If successfully cultivated, cricket can serve
as a powerful unifying factor in the country. Security sector
reform within Afghanistan's police and military continues apace
and trains Afghans to a sufficient level to be operationally effective
but what it does not do is teach Afghans solidarity, nation building
and a sense of what it means to be Afghan first rather than affiliating
with their ethnic cleavage. Yet sport, and in the case of Afghanistan
can provide a feeling of camaraderie that is significantly lacking
in the country's political and military establishments. Although
the majority of players in the national team are Pashtuns with
a few Uzbeks this is a work in progress. Britain could therefore
gift a precious legacy by providing funding for the game for making
more pitches, providing equipment, arranging tours and awarding
scholarships. Importantly it is essential to let the Afghans own
the game of cricket in their country. Britain needs to create
the infrastructure but let the Afghans continue to develop it
on their own so they can win the trust of the Afghan people.
51. Under the Taliban, music and other forms
of entertainment were banned. Their feudal doctrine took Afghanistan
back to the Middle Ages. Today pop culture is slowly returning
to the country through the producers and performers of Afghan
Star, the country's version of The X Factor, which
airs on Tolo TV. If western leaders are looking for a way
to persuade the people within their countries that we should have
long-term commitment to Afghanistan, they couldn't find a better
weapon than the film Afghan Star. The show has been hugely
successful just as similar versions of the singing competition
that air all over the globe. Perhaps more meaningfully, the volume
of mobile text votes cast by viewers in favour of their preferred
performer reflects a form of democracy through a culture that
has sorely lacked it. Eleven million Afghans, one third of the
country, watch Afghan Star. The show is chronicled in British
director Havana Marking's documentary film of the same name which
won high praise at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
It was the UK's entry for the 2010 Oscar category for best foreign-language
film, Afghan Star follows an entire season of Afghanistan's
version of "American Idol".
52. Despite this not everyone is happy with Afghan
Star. Afghanistan's guardians of Islamic values, the Ulema
Council, protested that Afghan Star was not part of Afghan
culture. In 2009, a female finalist on the show received death
threats and was forced into hiding after her head scarf fell to
her shoulders during a performance.
Women having equal rights with men in Afghanistan has nothing
to do with cultural sensitivities despite the dogma of some.
53. It is more than just another documentary.
It offers a fascinating glimpse of Afghanistan with a special
focus on how the aspirations of its young people where 60% of
the Afghan population is under 21 and this may end up having a
far bigger impact on its future than its current political and
military struggles. The show serves as a platform for the young
people of the country to embrace pop music as a symbol of modernisation
and hope for the future. More than 2,000 people audition for a
chance to compete and although that figure is nowhere near the
size of those that enter the X Factor, it is still a large number
where televisions are not found in every house and conservative
traits still permeate Afghan society and culture.
The simple act of seeing music on TV, for a country still emerging
from a painful era where music was viewed as sacrilegious, cannot
54. In 2001, after the Taliban were ousted, the
first thing people did was bring out their radios and phonographs
and start playing music. Music became the sound of liberation
and its why young people have so eagerly embraced the show. It
gave them something they could be proud of, Afghans singing Afghan
music for Afghans. It provided the youth with a lifeline for safe
entertainment in the country. The show also makes a huge statement
for Afghans by bringing together contestants of different tribal
ethnicities as well as allowing the participation of several female
contestants, a huge leap in a country that has essentially been
run by a male-dominated tribal elder system.
55. Under the Taliban, girls were not allowed
to go to school and fewer than 900,000 boys were enrolled. In
the same period, university enrolment was only 7,881. In 2010,
nearly seven million students are now enrolled in primary and
secondary schools, 37% are female, and university enrolment has
grown to 62,000.
56. Once the Taliban seized Kabul in September
1996, their war on women's rights began with a vengeance. Girls
over the age of eight were forbidden to attend school and working
women were forced to remain in the home.
One can imagine the drastic loss of capacity suffered by both
the education and health systems in Afghanistan, where women more
traditionally held professional positions. The compulsory wearing
of the burqa in public spaces was not only a physical and psychological
burden but an economic one, as many Afghan women could not afford
the cost of the garment and had no choice but to share with their
neighbours, thus being confined within the home for days.
57. Women's participation in the Afghan economy
was virtually eliminated, as they were prohibited from showing
their hands during monetary exchange. Women were prohibited from
leaving the home without the accompaniment of a male relative.
In hospitals, women could only be medically examined when fully
clothed, making an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan impossible.
The Taliban perpetrated acts of rape,
abduction and forced marriage all in the disingenuous name of
ensuring that Afghan women lived in security, dignity and honour.
Since the defeat of the Taliban, some
progress has been made in improving the lives of women. However,
the current Taliban resurgence presents a serious threat to the
safety, security and rights of the women and girls of Afghanistan.
58. The Afghan Government's attempts to seek
reconciliation with the Taliban will harm women's rights, the
US-based campaign group Human Rights Watch says. Women living
in areas where the Taliban have regained strength have suffered
intimidation, violence and even death threats. The comments of
Sabrina Saqib, Afghanistan's youngest parliamentarian, are most
pertinent. She said "Women came back to life after the Taliban".
59. After the Taliban were driven from power
in 2001, women in Afghanistan, even in conservative areas in the
south, returned to jobs as teachers, civil servants and health
workers. But the intimidation of women has increased as the Taliban
have regained strength in those areas. A report by Human Rights
Watch entitled The Ten-Dollar Talib and Women's Rights,
Afghan women want an end to the conflict. But as
the prospect of negotiations with the Taliban draws closer, many
women fear that they may also pay a heavy price for peace
with the Taliban, a group synonymous with misogynous policies
and the violent repression of women, raises serious concerns about
the possible erosion of recently gained rights and freedoms.
60. The Taliban has been sending threatening
letters, the infamous "night letters", to women to warn
them to give up work. In one case, a female aid worker, who had
been receiving threats from someone claiming to be a member of
the Taliban, was shot as she left her office in Kandahar. She
61. The Mirwais Meena girls' school in Kandahar
had a student body of over 1,300 students. On 12 November 2008,
several girls were disfigured and two blinded after an attack
from the Taliban. The attack came as the girls and their teachers
were leaving the school. Men on motorbikes, wielding what appeared
to be water pistols, squirted acid on several groups of girls
and their teachers. Many were wearing burqas, but they were targeted
just the same. The attacks shocked the country, and the world.
Footage of the injured girls was shown on CNN, the BBC and other
international media. Yet despite the Government's well-publicised
arrest of ten men who have been accused of involvement in the
incident, the student body had been severely traumatised by the
62. Mohammad Daoud Daoud, the Deputy Interior
Minister for Counter-Narcotics, stated that the men had been paid
the equivalent of US$2,000 for each girl they attacked. Education
and security officials need to take robust measures to protect
the students. The authorities should provide buses to take them
to the school, to avoid the dangers of the road.
Schools are routinely torched and teachers murdered in areas where
the Taliban hold sway.
63. In May 2009, pupils were lining up outside
their classrooms for morning assembly at their school in Mahmud
Raqi village, Kapisa Province, when one girl collapsed unconscious.
Suddenly more girls started to collapse because of a gas poisoning
attack by the Taliban. In total there were 90 Afghan school girls
rushed to hospital, several slipped into comas. Six teachers were
also admitted. It was the third such attack against a girls' school
in Afghanistan in the same month, raising fears that the Taliban
are resorting to increasingly vicious methods to terrorise young
women out of education. Large parts of Kapisa are now under the
control of men loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord with Taliban
64. Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan woman made headlines
when she appeared on a cover of Time Magazine with the caption
"What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan". At 16, Aisha
was handed over to her husband's father and 10 brothers, who she
claims were all members of the Taliban in Oruzgan. She eventually
ran away but was caught by police in Kandahar. And although running
away is not a crime, in places throughout Afghanistan, it is treated
as one if you are a woman. Eventually her father-in-law found
her and took her back to her abusive home. She was taken to the
Taliban for "dishonouring" her husband's family. The
court ruled that her nose and ears must be cut off, an act carried
out by her husband in the mountains of Oruzgan, where they left
her to die.
Tragically, Aisha is only one example of thousands of girls and
women in Afghanistan who are treated this way. Aisha's situation
would be institutionalised. The UK needs to continue to robustly
support the rights of women in Afghanistan.
65. The threat is not only to Afghan women. Britons
that have travelled to Afghanistan for the purpose of working
as teachers, doctors and to help distribute aid have come under
attack. One of the most disturbing cases involved Karen Wo, a
surgeon from London, who was with a group of foreign nationals
working with the charity International Assistance Mission (IAM)
when they were ambushed by men carrying assault rifles in a forested
area of Badakhshan province. The Taliban claimed responsibility
for the murders.
The attack, the largest massacre in years of aid workers in Afghanistan,
offered chilling evidence of the increasing insecurity in the
northern part of the country and added to fears that the Taliban
insurgency has turned even more vicious.
66. The stabilisation of Afghanistan, to a very
large extent, depends on the nature of that country's relations
with Pakistan. Much of the history that has shaped the two countries'
border area can be traced to colonial fears of the British in
India and of Russian encroachment throughout Central Asia, coined
as the "Great Game" of the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. The legacy of this era can be seen in the two countries'
border demarcation. The 1879 Treaty of Gandamak, signed in the
midst of the Second British-Afghan War, led to the establishment
in 1893 of the Durand Line as an arbitrary boundary between Afghanistan
and colonial British India. The Durand Line, was drawn by a team
of British surveyors, led by Sir Mortimer Durand. This border,
which remains in place today, split both Pashtunistan and Baluchistan,
traditionally occupied by the Pashtun and Baluch peoples, between
Afghan rule and British colonial rule.
67. To a great extent, the line followed the
contours of convenient geographical features, as well as the existing
limits of British authority, rather than tribal borders. It divided
the homelands of the Pashtun tribes nearly equally between Afghanistan
and Pakistan, effectively cutting the Pashtun nation in half.
This largely imaginary boundary has been viewed since its inception
with contempt and resentment by Pashtuns on both sides of the
line. As a practical matter the border is unenforceable. In some
places the position of the line is disputed; in others it is inaccessible
to all but trained mountain climbers. The majority of the Pashtun
tribes and clans that control the frontier zones of eastern and
southern Afghanistan along the Durand line have never accepted
the legitimacy of what they believe to be an arbitrary and capricious
boundary. Afghanistan's promotion of Pashtunistan, although a
moderate form of nationalism and the very antithesis to the Taliban
doctrine, has brought retaliation from Pakistan since 1947.
68. There is an urgent need to resolve the longstanding
border dispute and the Pashtunistan issue in order to improve
the prospects of counter-terrorism co-operation between the two
countries. An amicable resolution of the Durand Line dispute and
the Pashtunistan issue will go a long way to help the campaign
against terrorism in as much as it would allay Pakistani fears
that a strong Afghanistan would revitalise past claims on the
Pashtun regions of Pakistan.
69. The Taliban primarily comprises of Pashtuns
from the Ghilzai group with some support from the Kakar tribe
of the Ghurghusht group. Taliban spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed
Omar, and most of the surviving senior leadership of the Taliban
are from the Hotaki tribe of the Ghilzai. The Taliban represents
an ultraconservative Islamic front with an ideology derived from
the Deobandi School. The movement, however, took Deobandism to
extremes the school's founders would not have recognised.
70. The Taliban is not a homogenous group. It
has many factions and is a mixture of characters including ideological,
warlords, land owners, criminals, drug dealers and people out
of work. The displaced and disillusioned Taliban youth of today
were moulded by their country's history of violence and found
solace and purpose in an extremely radical interpretation of Islam.
Distorted versions of Sunni Deobandism and Pashtunwali, the tribal
social code of the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan, became
the basis of the Taliban ideology.
71. Perhaps the most significant Taliban faction
is Mullah Omar's Quetta Shura based in or near the city of Quetta
in north-western Pakistan, a short distance from the border with
the Kandahar province of Afghanistan. Ever since the Quetta Shura
started re-organising in 2002 the leadership has been dominated
by former members of the Taliban Government. In October 2006,
Mullah Omar appointed a new leadership council with 12 members
and three advisors. On it were some new names such as Sheikh Abd
al-'Ali, now acting as the chief legal advisor to the Quetta Shura,
and Maulavi Abd al-Kabir, currently head of political relations.
72. In May 2008, a Quetta Shura publication contained
an article describing its organisational structure. According
to this article, the Quetta Shura's organisation consists of the
leader Mullah Omar, the deputy Mullah Baradar, a 19-member military
shura and a 15-member legislative shura led by a Sheikh Maulavi
Abd al-'Ali, which is primarily concerned with appointing judges
and setting up sharia courts in areas under the Quetta Shura's
73. The network of warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani
and his son Sirajuddin lead a deadly parallel faction to the Quetta
Shura. Haqqani was part of the mujaheddin resistance in Afghanistan
during the Soviet occupation, and both were allied with the Taliban
Government during the Taliban regime. Jalaluddin Haqqani served
as Taliban's minister for tribal affairs. Today, his activities
are largely carried out by Sirajuddin.
74. The Haqqanis have retained their separate
identity from the Quetta Shura. They issue statements and videos
through their own media outlets, as well as through postings on
Yet in an interview with Sirajuddin conducted by a Pakistani journalist,
he stated "we are fighting under the leadership of Amir al-Mu'minin
75. The Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar,
in contrast, turned down an offer to ally himself with the Taliban
in 1996, and fled the country instead. He did not return until
2002, after the Taliban had been ousted from power. Hekmatyar
has not sworn allegiance personally to Mullah Omar, and his party
pursues an independent political strategy in Afghanistan, although
it occasionally converges with that of the Quetta Shura.
76. It is well known that after the fall of the
Taliban regime in late 2001, many senior members left the organisation.
Former Taliban officials have also actively joined political life
in Afghanistan. In the Parliamentary elections in 2005 six former
Taliban officials ran as candidates, and two managed to win seats
in the Parliament.
This indicates a possible weakness of the Taliban's coherence,
but on the other hand, the Taliban Government was more diverse
and included potential "moderates".
77. Deep-rooted ties exist between Pashtun militants
on both sides of the Durand Line, blurring the distinction between
Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.
The term 'Pakistani Taliban' usually refers to a loose coalition
of militant groups based in the Federally Administered Tribal
Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Since December 2007, they
have been known under the name Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TeTP),
an umbrella organisation of perhaps as many as 40 groups led by
the Waziristan-based militant Baitullah Mehsud.
78. Baitullah Mehsud also established his own
parallel government and he set up his own judicial system wherein
Pashtuns, approached him for justice rather than resorting to
judicial courts set up by the Government. The TeTP also divided
their respective areas of South and North Waziristan into administrative
zones and appointed military commanders over each region. These
military commanders are answerable to the supreme commander of
the local Taliban and the Taliban Shura of their respective tribe.
79. General Pervez Musharraf's decision to send
a brigade of Pakistani troops into the Shawal valley of North
Waziristan in September 2001 marked a dramatic change in Pakistani
policy in the FATA. Although the local population initially welcomed
Musharraf's troops in their mission to protect them against a
perceived threat from the Afghan Northern Alliance, their goodwill
did not last. Two years later, under immense US pressure, 70,000
Pakistani troops reluctantly fought tribal militants and a core-cadre
of foreign fighters that fled Afghanistan after the fall of the
Taliban regime. However, rather than eliminate the foreign militants
and restore control, the Pakistani military negotiated a highly
flawed cease-fire and withdrawal on 7 February 2005.
80. As a part of the peace agreement, Baitullah
Mehsud "pledged" that he and his associates would not
provide assistance to al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and would
not launch operations against government forces. Baitullah Mehsud,
at that time, explained that the peace agreement was in the interests
of the tribal regions as well as in the interest of the Government
of Pakistan. This has been more or less a consistent theme in
81. Fighting resumed however in July 2005, after
Baitullah Mehsud accused the Government of breaking the terms
of the truce. In September 2006, the Pakistani military negotiated
yet another controversial truce with the militants, facilitated
by tribal elders. At the time Musharraf was in the United States
and hailed it as a "landmark agreement" that world serve
as a role model for future agreements. Yet, within a month the
militants reneged on the deal and violence along the AfPak border
area increased substantially.
82. If nothing else, the "peace deals"
tremendously raised Mehsud's stature amongst his own men, and
established him as a negotiating entity on a par with the Government,
also allowing a respite to widen and further strengthen his support
base. Mehsud further consolidated his hold, and established his
Taliban credentials, when the Government conceded to his demand
to free militant prisoners in return for releasing more than 240
Pakistani security personnel, seized by his fighters, and held
hostage for two and half months.
83. The death of Baitullah Mehsud who was successfully
targeted by a US drone strike in August 2009 failed to undermine
the group's operational capability. Baitullah's successor Hakimullah
Mehsud, in collaboration with the Haqqani Network, pulled off
one of the most deadly and well-calculated terrorist attacks on
30 December 2009, when he sent a Jordanian, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal
al-Balawi, as a suicide bomber to wipe out an entire CIA unit
at Forward Base Chapman in Khost who were active in gathering
intelligence for the drone campaign in Pakistan.
84. The other significant aspect of this plot
was that al-Qaeda only played a peripheral role. The attack was
a joint operation by the Haqqani Network and the Mehsud clan.
The Haqqani's ensured that al-Balawi was able to move successfully
from Khost into Pakistan where he was given operational instructions
by Hakimullah Mehsud and even appeared in a video with him. The
Mehsud's then ensured that al-Balawi was able to move into Afghanistan
to carry out the attack.
85. The Khost attack was a clear sign of the
TeTP's growing ambitions and intentions. They obviously want to
target the US but previously lacked the logistical ability to
plan something large beyond the scope of AfPak. However, that
gap in ability was somewhat resolved when US resident, Faizal
Shehzad, a Pakistani Pashtun, attempted to carry out a car bomb
attack in New York's Times Square on 1 May 2010. The vehicle failed
to successfully detonate and the plot failed but it highlighted
concerns that the TeTP had launched a strategy to recruit Pashtuns
based in the West for carrying out future attacks in North America
86. To this day, the Mehsud clan continues to
inflict damage on the Pakistani military and police throughout
the country. Baitullah Mehsud created an infrastructure and network
that remains intact. Following his death, the Pakistani military
failed to implement an effective strategy to systematically dismantle
that infrastructure. As a result the TeTP used the time to reassemble
and plot and plan new attacks not just against the Government,
police and military but also to assist the Afghan Taliban in its
assault on US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.
87. The insurgency is particularly dangerous
because it has sparked an identity crisis throughout the Pashtun
belt in Pakistan. The local population, although at varying levels
of development ranging from the contemporary to the conservative,
maintains a common heritage in Pashtunwali or the Pathan way of
88. Pakistan had gambled for strategic depth
in Afghanistan, but has instead conceded reverse strategic depth
to the Taliban in Pakistan. Even then, as long as such elements
looked away from Pakistan and engaged themselves in Afghanistan,
the authorities thought they were safe in Pakistan.
89. Just like the Afghan Taliban organically
contributed to the formation of the TeTP, the Pakistan Taliban
has also spawned new entities. On 30 March 2009, militants launched
a deadly assault on a police training centre outside Lahore, the
capital of Pakistan's Punjab Province. Eight police cadets were
Less than a month earlier, on 3 March, gunmen in Lahore ambushed
members of the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team, killing eight
people. Punjab, the most populated of Pakistan's provinces, had
largely escaped the bloodshed plaguing the country's troubled
northwest. Yet since 2007, violence has escalated in the province.
The bold terrorist attacks in Pakistan's heartland within Punjab
Province and in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad show that local
logistical support for these attacks is attributable to what is
often labelled the "Punjabi Taliban". The major factions
of this network include the dregs from Sunni sectarian outfits
the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba and the Jaish-e-Muhammad.
Members of these groups are increasingly collaborating with the
Pakistan Taliban elements to conduct attacks in major cities.
The irony is that these outfits once maintained close ties to
Pakistan's military establishment.
90. The Pakistani state has seen a growing diverse
array of threats in recent years to its legitimacy and authority.
These challenges have included a substantial surge in religious
militancy, mounting provincial and tribal unrest and the weakening
of the institutional capacity of the state to govern effectively.
All three factors are present in its western border areas with
Afghanistan and can be traced in large part to its Afghan policies.
By encouraging and supporting extremists, like the Taliban, as
a tool to retain and hold influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan introduced
changes that undermined its own ability to maintain its writ within
its own borders. Policies on Afghanistan that altered traditional
power structures in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)
have resulted in wider domestic instability. Not inconsequentially,
the reputation of Pakistan's military has suffered.
91. No politician in Islamabad appears to be
ready to take upon himself the task of fighting the militants
within Pakistan on behalf of the international community. The
Pakistani state has to stop approaching the issue of tribal insurgency
through the narrow prism of assuming that maintaining law and
order will alone resolve the problem. It has to be acknowledged
that the old system of controlling the area through obliging tribal
maliks (leader of a village or tribe) patronised by the state
is falling apart. The state is now up against a rigid, inflexible,
fearless, and defiant group of militants who are winning the battles
against the state and filling the power vacuum in the area. As
a part of the support for the mujaheddin in the 1980s, the military
ruler in Pakistan at that time Zia ul-Haq gave the ulema a more
powerful position in the Pakistani state.
The old and largely non-religious system of governance, which
was in place in the FATA, was "Islamisized". Previously,
the malik was the local political authority. He was elected by
a jirga (tribal assembly of elders) in the village, and through
an Islamabad-appointed political agent received government funds
and handled relations with the state. The local mullah (Muslim
religious cleric) was clearly subordinate, and in most cases completely
92. From Zia's rule onward, the state began to
fund the mullahs directly, giving them financial control and independence.
Over the years the mullahs took on an enhanced political role
in the community and gradually became more powerful and influential
than the malik. With new resources and status, the local religious
figures were able to emerge as key political brokers and, very
often, promoters of religious militancy.
93. In terms of Afghanistan, the questions that
need to be asked are that does the Pakistani military envisage
the same future for Afghanistan as the West does? And does the
Pakistani military view the Afghan Taliban as a threat to regional
stability as the West does?
94. On 22 July 2010 Pakistan's army chief, General
Ashfaq Kayani, emerged as a greatly strengthened figure after
the fragile civilian government bowed to pressure to extend his
tenure as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) by an unprecedented three
years. Kayani, now has the remit to launch Pakistan's foreign
policy at a crucial moment in Afghanistan, where the army is manoeuvring
to forge a political settlement that includes elements of the
Taliban insurgency. The sudden move underscores the army's strength
over the democratically elected government of President Asif Ali
Zardari, which has been racked by political turmoil. Kayani will
now outlast the Prime Minister and the President and is likely
to oversee the next general election. The army chief also commands
more than 600,000 men, the sixth largest army in the world, and
an officer corps that controls sizeable business and property
95. Kayani has resisted all attempts by civilians
to exercise control over it. Surprisingly the general is well-regarded
in some quarters in the West despite the fact that he led the
intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate
(ISI) from 2004 to 2007, exactly the period when the Taliban staged
their comeback in Afghanistan. In Bob Woodward's Obama's Wars,
the author depicts Kayani as unreliable and capable of telling
only half the story.
Following Kayani's extension as COAS, he is now leading the Pakistan
military's efforts to influence a new reconciliation policy in
Kabul that will factor in Taliban elements of the Afghan Taliban
that retain close ties with the military.
96. In late January 2010, there was dramatic
news that Mullah Baradar Akhund, the Quetta Shura Taliban's second-in-command
and the head of its military committee, was apprehended during
a raid on a madrassa near Karachi in an operation by Pakistani
authorities. Initial reports about the arrest were confusing,
but the news was certainly welcome. The arrest was the first detention
of a rahbari shura or leadership council member since the
capture of Mullah Obaidullah Akhund in 2007, and this operation
was apparently led by the ISI.
The ISI traditionally played a key role in protecting the fugitive
Quetta Shura Taliban leadership in Pakistan. Baradar's surprise
arrest was quickly followed by a wave of other detentions: Maulavi
Abdul Kabir, the former Taliban Governor of Nangarhar and the
eastern provinces and also a member of the rahbari shura, was
picked up a few weeks later.
97. Pakistan's sudden co-operation in targeting
the Quetta Shura's core leadership after almost a decade of feigning
ignorance about its presence within the country surprised many
and raised expectations in the West that Islamabad's decision
signalled a quiet but decisive shift in Pakistan's geostrategic
policy. Unfortunately, the realities are less encouraging. It
then transpired that the arrested Taliban were in secret negotiations
with President Karzai to bring an end to the conflict and isolate
Mullah Omar within the Quetta Shura. It's not clear who created
the path for these negotiations but nevertheless the prospect
of significantly undermining the Taliban and their operational
capability had become a realistic possibility. However, the fly
in the ointment was the fact that Baradar, who had first-hand
knowledge of the nature and the extent of the Taliban network
in Afghanistan and Pakistan, also knew details of their linkages
with the ISI. Baradar's negotiating with Karzai had not been sanctioned
by the ISI and this angered them considerably, therefore, Baradar
was no longer worth protecting.
98. The arrests of some senior errant members
of the Quetta Shura in Pakistan are, firstly, an attempt by Pakistan
to seize control over any process of negotiations and reconciliation
that its military leaders believe is both imminent and inevitable.
Secondly, seizing some Taliban officials who do not serve Pakistan's
current purposes is a signal to the Afghan Taliban that all discussions
about reconciliation with Kabul must occur solely through Pakistani
interlocutors and in a manner that is mindful of Pakistani interests.
Such a reminder, even to the Quetta Shura, is a clear warning
of who is in charge.
99. Directly because of dissatisfaction with
Pakistan's efforts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas
(FATA), the US began using drones carrying Hellfire missiles to
eliminate members of al-Qaeda. Over time, the gap widened between
the US demand for Pakistan to do more and Islamabad's ability
to deal with militancy in FATA. The use of drones escalated significantly
in 2008 and continued to increase throughout 2010.
100. Drone strikes have been successful in eliminating
senior members of al-Qaeda such as Abu Hamza al-Rabia, Abu Laith
al-Libi, Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, Mustafa Abu al-Yazeed, Fateh
al-Masri, Fahd Mohammad Ahmed al-Quso and British citizens Rashif
Rauf and Abdul Jabber.
101. The use of drones are part of an evolving
US strategy to implement pre-emptive strikes to deter or dismantle
any potential terrorist plots that al-Qaeda and its affiliates
are planning. Electronic chatter combined with better information
from sources in the AfPak border area and better surveillance
technology have made this possible.
102. It was in 2008 that the US substantially
stepped up the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over north-west
Pakistan. Since then, the Hellfire missiles and drones that launch
them have become a common theme in counter-terrorist operations
in the border region of Afghanistan-Pakistan. The importance of
the drone strikes is reflected in the fact that the Obama Administration,
which has moved away from the Bush presidency on issues like Iraq
and Guantánamo Bay, has sought to intensify the use of
pilotless aircrafts to target al-Qaeda and Taliban safe havens
in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
103. Pakistan's official response to the drone
strikes is ambiguous about its consent for the drone attacks.
The response of the old Pervez Musharraf regime was generally
muted, probably due to increasing domestic political pressure.
The current Zardari Government in Islamabad is more vocal in opposing
the drone attacks, and frequently protesting the civilian casualties.
The issue, however, continues to be confusing for public perceptions.
No drone strike can take place without the consent of Islamabad.
It would harm the Zardari Government if they publicly supported
the air strikes but it serves them better to privately condone
them whilst publicly condemning them.
104. Despite the success in eliminating senior
members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban the drone strikes have proved
to be controversial as they also result in civilian casualties.
As a result the drone attacks cause significant anti-American
sentiment in Pakistan. The question is what is collaterally acceptable
and what is the balance between eliminating high profile targets
whilst trying to reduce civilian fatalities? It is worth recalling
that the Obama Administration has made it clear that they will
do things differently to the Bush Administration, whether it is
on Guantánamo Bay or Iraq. The one thing that has remained
consistent is the drone strikes. The problem is that the US has
lost faith and trust with the ISI in rounding up these people
on the ground. It felt that there was a leakage of information.
Actionable intelligence was sometimes being passed to the terrorists.
The solution that the Bush Administration came up with was drone
strikes, which are quick and decisive. The fact that the Obama
Administration is continuing with that, shows that it is having
tangible results. In the absence of ground troops being deployed
we will continue to see drone strikes take place.
105. To supply over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan,
NATO relies on road convoys with dozens of trucks to carry through
supplies. It is a key lifeline for supplies going into Afghanistan.
Up to 80% of NATO's non-lethal supplies into Afghanistan are through
mountain passes along the Pakistan border, through the fabled
Khyber Pass, near Peshawar, and Spin Boldak in the south. The
Khyber Pass was closed down by the Taliban seven times in 2010,
and convoys were unable to get through.
Supplies have also been brought into northern
Afghanistan via Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
106. However, increasingly these convoys are
coming under savage attack by the Taliban. And these ambushes
will get worse, which could impair NATO's efforts to keep a supply
lifeline running to its troops in forts and camps scattered across
the mountainous country. The main Kabul-Kandahar highway was once
a showpiece for how western aid would modernise Afghanistan after
the fall of the Taliban. Repaved in 2003, the 300-mile highway
is now pocked with craters from roadside bombs. Travellers face
three or four Taliban checkpoints along the way. Trucking firms
have paid local Taliban commanders from $5,000 to $6,000 for the
safe passage of each fuel tanker along the highway.
107. Pakistan had stopped NATO convoys crossing
the Khyber Pass in response to a NATO air strike on 30 September
2010 in which three Pakistani soldiers were killed when NATO helicopters
strayed into Pakistani territory while chasing Taliban militants
from Afghanistan. Unfortunately there is a perception that keeping
the NATO supply line vulnerable suits the Pakistani military's
strategy of creating favourable conditions for its proxy groups
in Afghanistan. What remains a worrying potential is if the continued
drone strikes in Pakistan aimed at terrorists inadvertently kill
members of the armed forces. This could trigger the Pakistani
military to close the Khyber Pass for NATO convoys in the future
which in turn could put Washington in direct confrontation with
108. British foreign policy needs to factor in
four future potential scenarios related to Pakistan. Firstly,
how will the UK react and respond if another terrorist attack
on British soil, like 7/7, is traced back to Pakistan? Secondly,
what will Britain's position be should and when the security situation
in Pakistan deteriorates to an alarming level especially in the
urban heartland in and around Islamabad? Thirdly, what can Britain
do to ensure that civilian rule in Pakistan remains intact and
blunt any attempt by the military to launch a coup? Fourthly,
if another attack takes place in India, like the one in 2008 in
Mumbai, and the launch pad is from Pakistan, what will the Government
be able to do to prevent a military escalation between India and
109. On 6 August 2010, British Prime Minister
David Cameron met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. Their
meeting attracted extra significance following Cameron's candid
remarks in Bangalore, India, in the preceding week, where he stated
"We want to see a strong and a stable and a democratic Pakistan
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".
110. With these remarks, Cameron became the first
western leader to formally identify the "elephant in the
room" which is that elements in Pakistan have, since the
September 11 attacks, adopted a strategic policy of covertly supporting
terrorist groups like the Taliban factions of the Quetta Shura
and Haqqani Network that have launched deadly attacks against
Afghan, ISAF and US troops in Afghanistan.
Another unresolved blot on Pakistan's record is the pervading
presence of the home-grown terrorist group, the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba
(LeT), that carried out the 2008 Mumbai Siege Attacks in which
170 people were killed including six Americans.
Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the former investigating magistrate from
France stated that the "Lashkar-e-Tayyaba is no longer a
Pakistani movement with only a Kashmir political or military agenda.
Lashkar-e-Tayyaba is a member of al-Qaeda. Lashkar-e-Tayyaba has
decided to expand violence worldwide".
111. What is most relevant about the Mumbai plot
is that this was terrorism by remote control. The gunmen were
just pawns being guided by their handlers in Pakistan who gave
instructions to them through using satellite phones. The handlers
were watching the siege unfolding on television and giving the
gunmen regular real time updates as to what the Indian security
agencies were planning, and how the world was viewing what was
transpiring. Many have said that the Mumbai siege attacks have
set a dangerous precedent in the type of attack that can take
place in hotels and the concern of it being replicated in New
York, London, Paris, Berlin or elsewhere. Hotel security will
always be an issue of concern and determined terrorists will always
find a way. What is equally relevant is how the use of media and
especially television news was used to guide the gunmen and enabled
them to move with stealth combing their way through ten locations
creating devastation along the way.
112. The person who did the reconnaissance and
scouting for targets in Mumbai was an American-Pakistani national,
David Headley. Headley fits into the type of person that terrorist
groups are looking to recruit. A western-educated individual with
a US or European Union passport for ease of travel and with western
social skills. These attributes enabled Headley to travel easily
to India and Denmark. The potential of Britons being recruited
by the LeT to fill a similar task is a disturbing possibility.
On 17 March 2006, Mohammed Ajmal Khan, was jailed for nine years
after admitting directing a terrorist organisation, including
providing weapons and funds to the LeT. Khan, from Coventry, UK,
received an eight-year term for his involvement with the group
and was sentenced to a further year for contempt of court.
113. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border region constitutes
a significant threat to western national security interests. Indeed,
terrorist related events over the last few years in the UK have
seen increasing international interest in the connections between
radicals in the UK and their counterparts in the Pakistani tribal
areas that border Afghanistan. Attention has focused on how such
groups and individuals could link up and co-operate to carry out
attacks in the UK.
114. Cameron's comments do not form an original
starting point but, in fact, are part of a gradual evolution of
thought in the West that the problems in Afghanistan, India, as
well as the potential global impact, are intrinsically tied to
the security challenges in Pakistan. Cameron's predecessor, Labour
Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, had stated in 2009 that Pakistan
has become not just a "breeding ground for terrorism"
but the "crucible of terrorism".
Prior to that, in 2008, whilst in Pakistan, Brown revealed that
"Three quarters of the most serious plots investigated by
the British authorities have links to al-Qaeda in Pakistan".
He added that 'The time has come for action, not words'.
115. Senior figures from the Obama Administration
have also commented on this issue. Speaking to local journalists
in Lahore in 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chided
Pakistani officials for failing to pursue al-Qaeda leaders inside
their borders, "Al-Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since
I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government
knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted
Therefore, in this light, the context of Cameron's comments have
followed an inevitable trajectory.
116. 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
uses unusually tough 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".
117. The new tough line from the White House
in the report to Congress comes as Obama faces increasing pressure
from fellow Democrats to get tough with Pakistan. Senator Carl
Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested
that the Pakistani Government is selective in its crackdowns.
He said, "They have gone after some terrorist targets inside
Pakistan but the ones they go after are the ones that threaten
the Pakistan Government".
118. The institution where most of the criticism
has centred regarding Pakistan's mixed record on counter-terrorism,
is the powerful military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services
Intelligence Directorate (ISI). Since 9/11, the West has become
increasingly dependent on the ISI and the Pakistani military in
terms of intelligence co-operation as regards terrorist groups
like al-Qaeda as well as launching effective operations to take
apart the terrorist infrastructure and militant strongholds throughout
the country. Paradoxically, the Pakistani military stands accused
of actually supporting and assisting these very same extremist
centrifugal forces. This was highlighted by the publication in
June 2010, of a report by the London School of Economics (LSE)
which was authored by Matt Waldman. The LSE report claimed that
"Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing
magnitude" in Afghanistan.
In addition, the WikiLeaks documents, 90,000 pages of mostly raw
intelligence illustrated a continued relationship between the
ISI and the Taliban.
This is not surprising.
119. The common thread between the LSE report
and the WikiLeaks documents is the fact that Taliban factions,
such as the Quetta Shura led by Mullah Omar, and the Haqqani Network
which is controlled by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin
Haqqani, continue to operate unhindered from safe havens within
Pakistani territory and use these sanctuaries as a launch pad
for deadly cross-border attacks on US, British, Afghan and ISAF
troops in Afghanistan.
120. Cameron's comments can therefore be taken
into context with the fact that, as of 11 October 2010, 340 British
servicemen have died in Afghanistan since operations began in
October 2001 which is a higher death toll than what the UK endured
during the Falklands War in 1982.
Many more have suffered terrible life-changing injuries. The majority
of deaths have been from the Taliban that launch their attacks
whilst crossing over from safe havens in Pakistan and then slip
back in afterwards.
121. Western Governments have known for some
time that the Pakistani military did not break its ties with all
the different Taliban factions as General Pervez Musharraf, who
ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008, had promised to do. Musharraf,
the country's military dictator, not only did nothing to sever
those deep links with certain favoured Taliban or other extremist
groups but on the contrary, he proceeded to weaken the judiciary,
suspend the constitution, arrest elected politicians, muzzle the
independent media, and misuse the billions of dollars of aid the
Although, under western pressure, Pakistan returned to being a
democracy in 2008, the shadow of the military continues to linger
and has an overbearing and suffocating influence on Pakistan's
defence and foreign policy agendas. In virtually all parts of
the world, nations have a military, but in the case of Pakistan,
the military has a nation. Therein lies the problem.
122. As Pakistani officials are keen to point
out, since 2001 more than 2,700 members of the armed forces have
been killed and many more severely wounded in fighting the Pakistani
Taliban. These figures exceed the total casualties suffered by
ISAF troops in Afghanistan over the same period. Yet, the key
part of the story that is missing is that although the Pakistani
military has been battling the Pakistani Taliban, which is an
indigenous movement, it has not attempted to dismantle the Afghan
Taliban factions which are carrying out attacks in Afghanistan.
According to Lt Gen Talat Masood, a retired Pakistan army officer
and now influential policy analyst, "There's a difference
of policy, not a double game".
However, this "difference of policy" is completely at
odds with British, European and American interests.
123. However, Chris Alexander, the former Canadian
Ambassador to Afghanistan states that the chief of Pakistan's
army staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, "once again successfully
deflected U.S. pressure to launch military operations in Baluchistan
and North Waziristan, where the Islamic Emirate [Afghan Taliban]
is based". Worryingly, at odds with the West, Kayani remains
rooted to the old military policy of utilising Afghanistan for
the purposes of "strategic depth". The Pakistani military
has never accepted the Afghan Taliban as a liability but instead
views them as a potential asset.
124. In addition to the challenge of the Taliban,
the problem of al-Qaeda Central and its affiliates like the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba
inside Pakistan remains a sore point between London and Islamabad.
Between 2004 to 2006, al-Qaeda had planned a series of co-ordinated
mass casualty attacks on British soil. These included the Ammonium
Nitrate Plot and the Airline Liquid Bomb Plot both of which were
disrupted by British intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
However, the 7 July 2005 Transit System suicide bombings in London
were successfully executed which resulted in the death of 52 people
and over 700 injured. In all these plots, British citizens most
of whom were of Pakistani origin had been recruited by al-Qaeda.
Some were made to travel to Pakistan for operational training
and ideological guidance. It is becoming increasingly complex
for British authorities to observe people travelling between Britain
and Pakistan and it is a significant challenge with nearly 400,000
yearly visits by British citizens of Pakistani origin with an
average length of 41 days. In addition, it has become more difficult
to determine which, if any, of those travellers are potential
radicals following the dangerous route for indoctrination and
training and the majority who are going there to legitimately
What remains clear is that Pakistan serves
as a gateway and finishing school for many British terrorists.
125. Therefore, intelligence co-operation between
the UK and Pakistan is essential. However, that "co-operation"
has at times been extremely problematic. In the case of the Ammonium
Nitrate Plot, which involved individuals planning to use half
a ton of the substance for bomb attacks on a wide array of targets
in southern England, the ringleader Omar Khyam provided a detailed
timeline of how he had initially been recruited by the ISI to
fight in the insurgency in Indian Administered Kashmir. He would
later be co-opted by al-Qaeda. When the trial resumed the following
week Khyam refused to provide any more testimony claiming that
the ISI had threatened his family in Pakistan because of all his
revelations. This became a worrying case involving the intimidation
of individuals by a foreign intelligence agency in a terrorism
trial in the UK and set a dangerous precedent.
126. Pakistan's fragile democracy has been severely
damaged by the Government's poor response to the worst floods
in the country's modern history. The flood waters hit Sindh province
particularly hard having travelled around 600 miles south and
east along the course of the River Indus.
In a slow-motion disaster, the floodwaters
had robbed ordinary Pakistanis of everything they owned. From
the storm-lashed remote northern valleys of Swat to the overflowing
Indus River in the south, as well as in-between.
127. President Asif Zardari's trip to France
and Britain as the floods raged created an image of an indifferent,
arrogant leadership. The image of President Zardari visiting his
chateau in France, while there was devastating flooding in Pakistan
will have long-term effects. However, it is the prime minister,
not the president, who is responsible for running the Government,
including its response to natural disasters. General Ashfaq Kayani,
by contrast, strategically visited victims days before the Prime
Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, who was campaigning for by-elections
instead. Kayani repeatedly visited the affected areas thus bolstering
his image with the people.
128. The World Bank estimates that crops worth
$1 billion (£640 million) have been ruined by the flood waters.
The Government may have to spend $1.7 billion on reconstruction,
and has said it will have to divert expenditure from badly needed
development programmes. Farming constitutes one fifth of Pakistan's
economic output, and 120 million people rely on agriculture both
for food and jobs.
129. The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and the 2005
Pakistan earthquake were massive disasters but the peak of the
damage was established after a couple of days and therefore were
finite and contained. The paradoxical problem with the 2010 flood
waters in Pakistan is that they lingered for several weeks and
moved so slowly that it caught everyone so off-guard. The media
undoubtedly plays a role. Television in particular is crucial
when it comes to capturing the public imagination. While in Britain
the floods have got a fair amount of attention, in the US there
has been little coverage, either in print or on TV. And low-key
coverage results in a low-key response simply because people don't
know what's going on.
130. The agricultural heartland has been wiped
out, which will cause spiralling food prices and shortages. Many
roads and irrigation canals have been destroyed, along with electricity
supply infrastructure. With the Government overwhelmed by the
scale of the disaster, Islamic groups, including extremist organisations
such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the "charitable" front for the
Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), have stepped into the gap. Locals complain
that government help is almost entirely absent.
On 10 December 2008, the United Nations Security Council declared
that Jamaat-ud-Dawa was a terrorist organisation directly tied
to the LeT. Additionally four individuals were designated as terrorists.
They included its spiritual leader Hafiz Sayeed.
Yet in Pakistan the group remains active and Sayeed a free person.
131. At a makeshift relief centre organised by
the Jamaat-ud-Dawa in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the north-western province,
volunteers piled donations of food, cooking oil and clothing near
a tent they had erected on a street in central Peshawar. The tent,
draped with large banners on which the name of Jamaat-ud-Dawa
featured prominently. There was also a donation box. Jamaat-ud-Dawa's
weekly newspaper Jarrar or Courageous was being
distributed. Its front page carried reports and photographs of
the flooding alongside provocative headlines including one which
declared that the conflict in Kashmir would only be solved 'with
the gun'. Although the Jamaat-ud-Dawa is filling the vacuum of
the inability of governmental and western aid agencies to get
to the areas most affected, the concern is that their ideology
and influence will also take hold.
132. Another Islamist group the Falah-e-Insaniat
which translates into "Humanitarian Welfare", also a
group affiliated to the LeT, was active in setting up feeding
centres for the homeless, as well as running medical posts and
whose staff were busily handing out cash to flood victims, Rs
3,000-5,000 (£22-£36) per family. This far outstrips
anything the Government of Pakistan has so far done.
Western aid is often channelled through Islamabad and the process
is often mired in a maze of bureaucracy and corruption.
133. The floods, triggered by torrential monsoon
downpours, engulfed Pakistan's Indus river basin. Villages have
been wiped away but the impact of the disaster is being felt throughout
Pakistan's population of 170 million. Fears that Zardari could
be overthrown, possibly through an intervention by the army, had
grown during the peak of the crisis leading Najam Sethi, editor
of the weekly Friday Times, to say, "The powers that
be, that is the military and bureaucratic establishment, are mulling
the formation of a national government, with or without the PPP
[the ruling Pakistan People's party]. I know this is definitely
being discussed. There is a perception in the army that you need
good governance to get out of the economic crisis and there is
no good governance".
For the time being, however, there does not appear to be any effort
by the military to use the humanitarian crisis as an excuse to
seize power. For the time being.
134. The unfolding political story of Pakistan
including its role in battling terrorism and the unfolding humanitarian
disaster are inextricably linked. Western generosity at this time
of crisis could still help prevent these Islamist groups from
gaining any more foothold under the cover of aid to the victims.
The more the West gives directly to the areas affected the most
and not through local proxies, the less likely it is that flood
victims will be driven by sheer desperation into the arms of extremists
and radicals. The scale of this catastrophe is unprecedented.
But this is not just about humanitarian aid. Looking after the
people of Pakistan now is in everyone's strategic interest especially
the UK. It is also of vital importance for Britain to support
and enhance Pakistan's democratic Government which remains under
siege from the military.
135. What is also creating nightmarish scenarios
is the concern over the safety and security of Pakistan's nuclear
and military instillations. In the post 2008 Mumbai siege attacks
atmosphere, there is a small but real possibility that the next
India-Pakistan crisis could escalate to nuclear levels. The other
aspect is that Pakistan may decide, as a matter of state policy,
to extend its nuclear umbrella or once again engage in nuclear
proliferation with one or more Middle East states, especially
if Iran acquires a nuclear device. In addition, should Pakistan's
security and stability continue to unravel, its nuclear assets
could be seized by remnant elements of the army or by extremist
136. As mentioned earlier, the stabilisation
of Afghanistan is reliant on the nature of its relations with
Pakistan. In turn, the aspect leads directly to the issue of the
Taliban and what their future role in the region will be. The
key questions are whether, or to what extent, the Taliban are
interested in negotiating with Kabul and the West? To what extent
are Kabul and the West in a position to lay down terms and conditions
for negotiations? If the Taliban are a decentralised entity, then
which Taliban faction or affiliate should Kabul be talking to?
On what terms and conditions would the Taliban be willing to share
power with the Karzai Government? What would be its impact on
the country's constitution, state structures, and foreign policy?
Is Kabul willing to integrate Taliban guerrillas into the armed
forces? How would it impact on the position of minority ethnic
groups? These are some of the issues of far-reaching consequence
which are not being thought of, especially as Kabul, in the given
circumstances, cannot speak from a position of strength. As Edmund
Burke said "The superior power may offer peace with honour
and with safety. Such an offer from such a power will be attributed
to magnanimity. But the concessions of the weak are the concessions
of fear" - Conciliation. (II. '75).
137. Afghanistan is one of those places in which
people who wish to spell doom and gloom are likely to know the
least of its history despite their confidence in making definitive
statements. Examples include that the Afghans had risen up against
all previous invaders and so any army would find itself immediately
bogged down in guerrilla warfare, the people have such a hatred
for foreigners that they would never co-operate with the occupying
forces and Afghan Government, it's an artificial country riven
by ethnic conflict and doomed fragment like Yugoslavia. All of
these maledictions are well off the mark. The fear that the situation
in Afghanistan is unwinnable or that the Afghan Taliban is invincible
are myths but myths that are often repeated which are damaging
for public perceptions and morale.
138. "Afghanistan is the graveyard of Empires".
The irony behind that statement is that for most of its history
Afghanistan has actually been the cradle of empires, not their
grave. One of those repeated myths is that Afghanistan is inherently
unconquerable thanks to the fierceness of its inhabitants and
the formidable nature of its terrain. But this isn't at all borne
out by the history. Until 1840 Afghanistan was better known as
a "highway of conquest" rather than the "graveyard
of empires". For 2,500 years it was always part of somebody's
empire, beginning with the Persian Empire in the fifth century
139. After the Persians it was Alexander the
Great's turn. Some contend that Alexander met his match there,
since it was an Afghan archer who wounded him in the heel, ushering
a series of misfortunes that would end with the great conqueror's
death. Yet coins traced to his reign keep being discovered in
Afghan soil today. In fact, Alexander's successors managed to
keep the region under their control for another 200 years.
140. Genghis Khan also had no trouble at all
conquering the place, and the descendants of his army, the Hazaras,
would build wide-ranging kingdoms using Afghanistan as a base.
Tamerlane ultimately shifted the capital of his empire from provincial
Samarkand to cosmopolitan Herat. Babur, who is buried in Kabul,
used Afghanistan to launch his conquest of a sizable chunk of
India and establish centuries of Muslim rule. Afghans were content
with this. In 1504, Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in
India, easily took the throne in Kabul. In 1842, the British lost
a bloody war that ended when fierce tribesmen notoriously destroyed
an army of thousands retreating from Kabul.
141. Subsequently the British instigated a punitive
invasion and ultimately won the second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-80).
Although they didn't prevent Tzarist Russia from encroaching on
Central Asia, they succeeded in occupying much of the country
and forcing its rulers to accept a treaty giving the British a
veto over future Afghan foreign policy. London, it should be noted,
never intended to make Afghanistan part of its empire.
142. Around 1984, the Soviets were finally getting
the better of the mujaheddin with the aid of helicopter gun-ships.
It was the West's considerable financial assistance as well as
military hardware and in particular the US decision to send anti-aircraft
Stinger missiles, which ended the Soviets' total air superiority
that allowed the mujaheddin to stage a comeback. The West defeated
the Soviet Union not the Afghan-Arab Mujaheddin. In addition,
many Soviet soldiers became opium addicts as well as suffering
143. The war against the Soviets was sharply
different from previous rebellions in Afghanistan's history as
a state, which were relatively fleeting and almost always local
affairs, usually revolving around dynastic power struggles. From
1929 to 1978 the country was completely at peace. Unfortunately,
popular views of the place today are shaped by perception and
hearsay rather than substantive knowledge of the country's history.
In any case, today's American-led intervention in Afghanistan
can hardly be compared to the Soviet occupation. The Soviet Army
employed a scorched-earth policy, killing more than a million
Afghans, forcing some five million more to flee the country, and
sowing land mines everywhere. Even the most generous estimates
of today's Taliban insurgency suggest it is no more than 20,000
men. About 10 times as many Afghans fought against the Soviet
144. The way in which the current Taliban insurgency
is becoming criminalised also presents opportunities. The rising
tide of violence and daily misery has made the Taliban deeply
unpopular in the south and south-west, and nationwide polls indicate
that they and other extremist groups have little support. Additionally,
there are indications that anti-state actors at all levels of
the insurgency compete for drug spoils. Military intelligence
units within NATO should try to capitalise on these inner rivalries
to weaken the insurgency, yet remain aware of the risk that fighting
between rival commanders could cause collateral damage in the
local community. In a 2010 new poll conducted by ABC, ARD and
the BBC, it revealed that 69% of Afghans named the Taliban as
the greatest threat to their nation. Only 4% said it was the United
145. It is impossible and a fallacy to have a
genuine and meaningful dialogue with the Taliban in the hope that
they will somehow be willing to enter into a power-sharing arrangement,
respect the rights of women, and ethnic and religious minorities,
to halt and dismantle the infrastructure that enables opium poppy
cultivation and prevent al-Qaeda and affiliates from re-establishing
their safe havens inside Afghanistan. For the Taliban themselves
these are issues that they will not compromise on whatsoever.
Even if they agree to any of these terms in principle, they have
an established track record of reneging and violating any agreement.
146. It is important to point out that the international
community had been talking to the Taliban even before September
11, to try and prevent them from blowing up the Bamyan Buddhist
statues. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban were
asked to hand over Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in order
to avoid an invasion of Afghanistan. In both instances, the Taliban
exhibited their rigidness and obstinacy and nothing was achieved.
147. The Taliban cannot be compared with the
IRA, ETA or even the Tamil Tigers. All these terrorist groups
have had or continue to have a political wing which would take
part in the democratic process by standing in elections. They
also were willing to compromise at some level for greater political
representation and power-sharing. In addition, all these groups
had women in their organisation which played an important role
within their infrastructure. The Taliban is opposed to power-sharing,
elections, compromise, and any substantive role for women.
148. The Taliban do not, in general, approve
of jirgas as a means to settle disputes. The Taliban regard the
tribal elder shura system as un-Islamic as strict Quranic huddud
punishments are hardly ever applied. Indeed some say that the
customary jirga system acted as a restraint on the wilder excesses
of fundamentalist Islamic law.
In Taliban-controlled areas, the Taliban either co-opt and work
with the tribal elder shuras or constantly threaten and intimidate
them, reiterating that a weak district government provides a vacuum
in rule of law that the Taliban is filling.
149. For some time now, Karzai has been persuaded
to talk to the Taliban with a view to ensure a negotiated settlement
which can allow western forces to leave in good order and bring
peace to the region. If that is the case, then Karzai has to be
allowed to choose which factions of the Taliban he wishes to negotiate
with. There cannot be any interference or pressure from the West,
Pakistan or any other country on which Taliban elements can be
brought into a reconciliation process. The Afghans are the only
ones that know which Taliban groups can be reconciled and those
that carry ulterior motives and agendas.
150. The divide inside the country has widened
among the Pashtuns and also between the non-Pashtun north and
the Pashtun south. The minority Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras are
vehemently against any deal with the Taliban. Even more complex
are the demands of Afghanistan's neighbours who all want to make
sure that their proxies dominate the next government in Kabul.
151. The Pakistan army wants to see a settlement
that brings the Taliban back to Kabul in a power-sharing deal.
In other words take Afghanistan back to the pre 9/11 position.
Karzai has carried out secret negotiations with the army's Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI) which first wants him to reconcile with the
neo-Taliban groups led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani
- the very groups the US wants kept out. Karzai even sacked his
own intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, who was opposed to concessions
to the ISI. Yet ironically Karzai has got nothing in return. He
is deeply frustrated with the ISI's refusal to extradite to Kabul
senior Taliban leaders it is holding.
152. Despite claims by some, there is no such
thing as "moderate Taliban" or 'extremist Taliban'.
Moderate Taliban is somebody who will kill you with a knife or
a pistol and not with an RPG or by blowing himself up. What we
have is the ideological Taliban and those who join the Taliban
for strategic or monetary purposes. It may be possible to clinically
extract some of the financially motivated members of the Taliban
by offering them employment, training and economic opportunities.
It is not possible to talk to the ideological Taliban who pose
the greatest danger. Their view and their mediaeval agenda are
totally different to what the overwhelming majority of Afghans
want for their country. The Taliban doctrine also goes against
everything the West has been trying to achieve in Afghanistan.
It is impossible to discuss anything positively with the ideological
Taliban, other than to hand them back Afghanistan and admit that
the Afghanistan project has failed.
153. It is inevitable that there will be some
form of a political solution but it must be accompanied with the
policy of tough military pressure to convince insurgents that
they cannot win, coupled with offering the foot soldiers an economic
way out. In spite of whatever incentives may be offered, the Afghan
Government and ISAF cannot assume that all Taliban members will
want to participate in reconciliation programmes. For example,
the prison in Lashkar Gah has established a reconciliation programme.
In many cases arrested Taliban members in Helmand who joined the
Taliban to be a part of their campaign against the international
forces and the Afghan Government, affirmed that they would remain
part of the Taliban until told otherwise. These individuals have
no desire to reconcile!
No matter what efforts are extended by the Afghan Government or
ISAF, a significant amount of Taliban members will never disavow
the cause, and reaching out to and reintegrating leaders will
be an important step in reconciling all those who follow such
154. In addition, the Taliban believe that they
are in the ascendency. They feel they have the strategic advantage,
durability and resources to outlast the West in Afghanistan. Therefore
it is too simplistic and naïve to somehow assume that they
would have any meaningful desire to compromise with Karzai. An
artificial deadline for troop withdrawal, which is not conditioned
based, dramatically undercuts the US and UK by signalling uncertainty
to its partners and enemies alike. Zabiullah Mujahedd, a Taliban
spokesman told the BBC:
We do not want to talk to anyone - not to [Afghanistan
President Hamid] Karzai, nor to any foreigners - till the foreign
forces withdraw from Afghanistan
We are certain that we are
winning. Why should we talk if we have the upper hand, and the
foreign troops are considering withdrawal, and there are differences
in the ranks of our enemies?
155. To increase community awareness and acceptance
of reconciliation, Afghan officials could embark upon a public
information campaign using themes specific to Helmand and from
Islam and Pashtunwali. For example, terms like integration are
not used by Afghans; rather, Afghans speak about being allowed
to participate in Government. Additionally, messages that touch
upon Pashtunwali concepts, such as nanawati or forgiveness, as
well as peace and justice themes prevalent in Islam could help
promote reintegration and reconciliation in Helmand. Appealing
to a sense among many Pashtuns that their participation is necessary
to rebuild their country would provide a positive way to re-engage
disaffected portions who feel marginalised by the Government.
156. British foreign policy will need to assess
what are the chances of being able to divide and fracture the
various Taliban factions. Can there be a settlement with the movement
as a whole, involving the exclusion of al-Qaeda and its affiliates?
Failing that, when the West withdraws its troops, will the Afghan
National Army be able to beat them back from the main towns, or
will the Taliban sweep to power in the Pashtun areas, or even
the whole country?
157. The most likely scenario may well resemble
the past Soviet withdrawal. The West will build up the Afghan
army to the point where it thinks it has a reasonable chance of
surviving on its own, albeit with continued US support, including
both air power and money to buy off local Taliban commanders.
The army will then either hold the Pashtun cities against the
Taliban in a series of bloody sieges or lose to them and retreat
to Kabul and the non-Pashtun areas. Whatever is going on behind
closed doors, the bloody preliminaries of an Afghan peace settlement
are being played out at gunpoint along Afghanistan's lawless border
with Pakistan. A manufactured exit strategy, capitulation through
negotiation, will simply leave the problem for future generations
to grapple with.
158. The security situation in Afghanistan has
deteriorated in the last five years, and it will take time to
reverse the Taliban gains. The first step is to weaken the perception
that Taliban victory is inevitable. One of the biggest impediments
to weakening that perception is the July 2011 date to commence
withdrawal. This premature date has provided a psychological boost
to the Taliban by signalling a lack of long-term western commitment
to the mission. Furthermore, the West requires sincere co-operation
from Pakistan in closing down the Taliban's sanctuary on its territory.
Unless Pakistan has confidence in NATO's commitment to winning
in Afghanistan, it will continue to hedge on its support for the
Afghan Taliban and tolerate terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda.
159. There is still a chance for the international
community to bring durable, lasting peace to Afghanistan but it
is guaranteed to take a long time. It is critical that all actors
agree to reassess their individual and collective roles and strategies.
The Taliban are running a highly competitive propaganda campaign
and it is in the interest of all international donors to develop
ways of communicating their goals and plans to the local Afghan
population. If "Enduring Freedom" is to be achieved,
we must abandon our conventional approaches to conflict resolution,
think more dynamically and consider the real objective: bringing
real and lasting peace to the Afghan people.
160. Afghanistan's woes began with outside interference
and though the Taliban was dislodged from power in 2001, they
were never defeated or dismantled. They simply moved their headquarters
across the border into Pakistan and have in fact proliferated,
and this is being fuelled by those who wish to see pro-Taliban
and al-Qaeda elements re-asserting themselves. The key point to
understand is that the Taliban is not a political movement or
even a militia. They are a terrorist group adopting the tactics
and strategies of the insurgency in Iraq, killing with stealth
and unflinching in their agenda, whilst using the trafficking
of narcotics to partly fund their activities.
161. Afghanistan's vast opium/heroin industry
finances the Taliban and feeds rampant government corruption.
British authorities should make public the names of the top Afghan
drug lords, including government officials, so that they can no
longer act with impunity. And because Afghanistan's court system
is still incapable of handling major drug cases, Kabul should
sign a treaty with Washington that would allow key heroin traffickers
to be tried in the United States.
162. Short-term measures regarding counter-terrorism
and military co-operation should not get in the way of long-term
imperatives to stabilise Pakistan. There is an essential need
to devote as much attention to shoring up Pakistan's damaged democratic
institutions and helping Pakistanis resolve their permanent domestic
political crisis. Only this can ensure that the Pakistani military
cannot interfere with the political system.
163. Britain needs to make its support for Pakistan
more effective. In the past, there has been a failure of connecting
aid, loans, and grants to specific policy goals. 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
164. Despite extreme poverty, a landmine-littered
landscape, endemic corruption, a weak central government, a virulent
insurgency, a damaged economy, booming opium production, and a
host of other daunting concerns, Afghanistan nevertheless remains
geo-strategically vital. The West cannot repeat its post-Soviet
abandonment of the country, or naïvely assume that some stillborn
peace deal can be achieved with the Taliban, because the results
of that will continue to have negative consequences for the region.
By abandoning Afghanistan once, the West allowed the country to
become a refuge for terrorist groups to recruit, train, and wage
war globally. The effect on Afghanistan, the region, and the rest
of the world was dramatic and terrifying. This time, if the West
leaves, or loses, the results will be even worse.
165. The Taliban are showing no signs of weakness
but on the contrary are increasing their resources and infrastructure,
expanding their reach into Afghanistan and successfully implementing
the fear factor into Afghanistan with deadly effect. Success in
defeating them militarily anytime soon appears remote, and the
strategy will always remain hampered and flawed as long as the
porous and badly manned border, the Durand Line, into Pakistan
166. Pakistan has fallen victim not to terrorism
directed against it by external forces, but rather to the corrosive
effects of extremist groups, many with a trans-national ideological
orientation, that have flourished within its own borders, and
often with the tacit support of military intelligence elements.
Therefore, the remedy for the security dilemma must and can only
lie primarily within Pakistan itself. It is therefore imperative
for the UK to support and help to enhance the democratic and civil
society institutions in Pakistan that the military has spent in
167. Throughout Pakistan's history, a weak and
polarised political system has enabled the military to seize and
maintain power. Therefore, a robust democratic culture will require
the two main political parties, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP)
and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), to renounce the
vendettas that characterised their rivalry during the flawed democratic
transition of the 1990s. Strong internal and external political
pressures will be necessary to redress the democratic deficit
because the army will not voluntarily empower civilian institutions.
168. Whilst the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan
remains in place, it will continue to act as a recruiting ground
for young British and other European citizens that are being drawn
and attracted by the ideology and doctrines that al-Qaeda and
its affiliate preach. Pakistan needs to recognise the terror groups
for what they are. Dangerous institutions which they have become,
whose resources and reach have continued to grow over the years
and which now are threatening to destabilise and bleed not just
Pakistan but the entire region and beyond.
169. The symptoms are evident in Afghanistan
but the disease is located in Pakistan. Indeed, the root lies
in the inability of the Pakistani state to decipher the problem
correctly. The situation can no longer be easily reversed and
the Pakistani state has to move beyond the colonial policy of
segregating the tribal areas and leaving the people to the mercy
of the redundant tribal maliks, Islamists or the warlords. Islamabad
tends to fight the symptom while the disease is left undiagnosed
and untreated. Pakistan has to now ready itself for a long-term
effort to integrate these areas and mainstream its population
through political consensus. Parts of Pakistan too are in the
process of Talibanisation which is gathering momentum and the
influence of radicals is fast spreading beyond the tribal areas,
where groups calling themselves Pakistani Taliban are operating.
170. In formulating its Afghan policies, Pakistan's
leaders seem often to ignore the long-term and wider implications
of their decisions both at home and abroad. Preoccupied with tactical
policy goals such as achieving foreign military aid and gaining
strategic depth, Islamabad has nevertheless turned a blind eye
to domestic radicalisation and the impact this is having on its
ability to govern within its own borders. It has acted too often
out of convenience rather than conviction in choosing its allies,
with the Government's credibility among its own people a frequent
casualty. In Pakistan, the permissive conditions enabling the
Taliban must be confronted, not with rhetoric and empty promises,
but with action and not vacillating, half-hearted measures, but
strong and consistent Pakistani military action wherever required.
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