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Book Reviews - Books about Pakistan

The following is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the far right sidebar.

Two recent books tell the story of how Pakistan should not be considered an American ally.  Both Carlotta Gall in The Wrong Enemy:  American in Afghanistan, 2001 – 2014, and Husain Haqqani in Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding, take a critical look at relations between Pakistan and the US. Their significant resumes qualify them to explore why the nation of Pakistan can be considered a “frenemy” at best.

9780544046696_p0_v1_s260x420Gall, Afghanistan’s bureau chief and correspondent for The New York Times between 2001 and 2011, writes a compelling narrative of the US experience in Afghanistan since 9/11 and how Pakistan has aided and abetted the Taliban and Al Qaeda.  She shows that the Pakistani military and their intelligence service, the ISI, support, fund, train, and arm these groups in an attempt to disrupt the Afghani government.  In the book she states, “For years American officials failed to recognize the huge investment in time, money and military effort that Pakistan had put into the Taliban from 1994 to 2001. This changed for a couple of years after 9/11, but the Pakistani security and military establishment were still determined to dominate Afghanistan.” There is startling evidence of Pakistan’s fueling and protecting terrorist groups, including Osama Bin Laden.

Gall commented to, “The nation of Afghanistan and its people are not the bad guys.  They are in fact, hospitable, warm, tough, traditional, have personal values, and are very loyal.  The major enemy is the instigator across the border, the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan that are being directed by the ISI and the military.  This country is a state sponsor of terrorism that encourages the insurgency against civilian targets.”

She feels that the world, and specifically the US, needs to wake-up to stop the training and abetting of these terrorist groups through the use of pressure and economic leverage.  In writing this book Gall hopes to show how Anti-American sentiment is fostered by the Pakistani intelligence through its media sources.  She also notes that the Pakistani people are more hostile today than in the twenty years she has covered that area because of the indoctrination.  As evidence the author points out how journalists, including herself, are intimidated.  In fact, this book is not available in Pakistan and when the Express Tribune tried to run a story on it the only thing people saw was a blank page.

9781610393171_p0_v5_s260x420Husain Haqqani is also intimidated.  The former Pakistani Ambassador to Washington from 2008 to 2011 now lives in exile in Boston because of his espoused views.  He also writes in his book how the Pakistani government and military have been focused on acquiring funds and weapons from the US government to fight India.  The US government has always felt that if America would only provide more aid, Pakistan would help America against its enemies, whether the Communists during the Cold War or the Islamists today.

He told, “Nothing will improve in Pakistan until its political and military leaders face reality and until the political leaders in Washington stop catering to the delusions of the Pakistani military and its intelligence agencies. The military and ISI has never permitted a democracy to flourish in Pakistan.  There is irrefutable evidence that ISI has been deeply involved with the Taliban and other Islamists on both sides of the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Pakistan has received billions from the U. S. to supposedly join in the war on terror.”

In the book he makes it very clear that Pakistan should stop supporting militant armies and terror groups. He urges a reversal of attitudes toward India, which he sees not as a threatening enemy but as a potential partner. Domestically, he wants the government to redefine the meaning of security away from military prowess and toward the development of a modern society. The author does this by tracing 67 years of the ill-matched partnership between the United States and Pakistan, since its formation in 1947. 

He noted, “Both countries pretended to the point of not facing reality.  I have advocated in my book that America should not have an oversimplified approach and needs to get clarity from Pakistan.  I tried to show how there has been episode after episode when Pakistan publicly says one thing and privately says another.  America never forced Pakistan to reconcile its private and public outlooks.  Look no further than the Osama Bin Laden incident and who had knowledge about him living there. The groups that should be supported by America are the ones that want to move Pakistan into the 21st Century. The US should confront the Pakistani leaders publicly to prevent the Islamists from becoming a strong force.”

Both authors have done a great job in documenting and giving a very honest review of the mindset and thinking of the Pakistani military and intelligence services that support Islamic militants in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.  These books are an important read for anyone who wants to understand the region and how to influence nations to become religiously tolerant, economically prosperous, and a supporter of the rule of law. The Wrong Enemy:  American in Afghanistan, 2001 – 2014, and Husain Haqqani in Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding are must reads.