The ISI And the Taliban: But You Knew That
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
The BBC has obtained a leaked NATO report on the relationship between the ISI and the Taliban.
The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul says the report - on the state of the Taliban - fully exposes for the first time the relationship between the ISI and the Taliban.
The report is based on material from 27,000 interrogations with more than 4,000 captured Taliban, al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters and civilians.
It notes: "Pakistan's manipulation of the Taliban senior leadership continues unabatedly".
It says that Pakistan is aware of the locations of senior Taliban leaders.
"Senior Taliban representatives, such as Nasiruddin Haqqani, maintain residences in the immediate vicinity of ISI headquarters in Islamabad," it said.
It quotes a senior al-Qaeda detainee as saying: "Pakistan knows everything. They control everything. I can't [expletive] on a tree in Kunar without them watching."
Right. So now what?
If you've been watching the 'three-quarters Surge' we've been conducting in Afghanistan, you'll have noticed a few trends. The Taliban fighters increasingly rarely commit to battle with ISAF forces; that level of violence has dropped quite a bit, and it is that decrease that is driving our claims that the Surge is working. The Taliban has apparently removed its shadow government efforts from the contested areas, which we are interpreting as a success; but it also serves the function of preserving their administrative structure for a rapid reinsertion when facts on the ground change. For that matter, this approach preserves Taliban fighters for the period after the departure of ISAF strength.
Intimidation attacks -- assassinations of prominent GoIRA supporters, attacks that take down services like cell phone towers, night letters, etc -- are up. The Taliban are moving to open a political office in Qatar, and it's clear that our State department intends to try to foster a dialogue.
This suggests to me that the Taliban effort in the south and southwest is geared to a Maoist strategy of waiting until the (known) withdrawal of US forces, when the ANA will have to try to hold gains with increasingly small support. During the waiting period, now, they are preparing the ground by destroying government supporters and spreading the message that only the Taliban really controls the future. When they come against the ANA, the ANA will thus find relatively weak support among the population in many areas. The Taliban will have preserved their shadow government apparatus, so that they can rapidly reinsert and take administrative control of areas won from the ANA. Early Taliban success in those areas will force the US government to either recommit -- in the middle of a Presidential election season, with a US population that does not think we can win -- or step up the State department's pace in obtaining a settlement with the Taliban negotiators. That means more concessions from us, faster.
The Taliban's name means "students," so perhaps after ten years they have gotten around to studying Mao. On the other hand, the ISI is a professional intelligence service whose leadership includes many who have formal military educations. You can be sure they have read Mao. (It would appear that relatively few of our own leadership may have done so, since they seem to be walking right into this trap.)
So, now the cards are on the table. What do we do about it?