Pakistan spy agency controls the Taliban and plans attacks … Pakistan's intelligence services are supporting the Taliban with training, cash and sanctuary on a larger scale than previously thought as they battle Nato forces in Afghanistan, according to a survey of insurgent commanders. … The study also claims that President Asif Ali Zardari made a secret visit to Taliban prisoners in a Pakistani prison to arrange their release earlier this year. It adds fresh evidence to long standing concerns that the country's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency retains ties to Afghan insurgents they first backed during their battle against Soviet occupation in the 1980s. It also suggests the policy is sanctioned within the highest levels of government. … The Pakistani military dismissed the report as "rubbish". However, Matt Waldman, a Harvard researcher whose research is published by the London School of Economics, said there was extensive collaboration between the ISI and the Taliban, led by Mullah Omar, as well as a second faction, the Haqqani network. He drew his conclusions from interviews with nine Taliban field commanders in Afghanistan who said ISI agents were working closely with the groups. – UK Telegraph
Dominant Social Theme: Well, this is bad news but now we (NATO) will deal with it.
Free-Market Analysis: This is an astonishing revelation from our point of view. We have tended to analyze the war from the point of view of the Afghan Pashtuns – which is a lot better than the mainstream media does, anyway – but we were always aware of the larger element of Pakistani Pashtuns. In fact, the Pashtuns do not recognize the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, so making the distinction is somewhat ephemeral.
What is the reason to go public with this information now? Is it possible that Western intel agencies did NOT know that the Pakistanis were playing a double game? Was it really up to the London School of Economics to ferret out this important information, which also appeared in the London Times on Sunday, apparently? Somehow we doubt it. But let us begin at the beginning …
Historically, the Taliban draws from the Pashtuns and it was in Pakistan that many of the "madrassahs" – the fundamentalist Muslim schools that have tended to educate prospective Taliban – were located. Why would the leaders of Pakistan want to create an elite, fundamentalist fighting unit? Because Pakistan's leaders are obsessed with India, and saw that radicalizing and empowering the Pashtuns would help secure Afghanistan against Indian influence.
Why wouldn't the Western alliance want to point out Pakistani involvement with the Taliban movement in the past? Several reasons come to mind. First of all, the initial Afghanistan war was supposed to be a triumph for the Bush administration, so it wouldn't do to mention inconvenient facts such as Pakistan sponsorship. Second, when the war did heat up again, mentioning that Pakistan was behind the Taliban would immediately turn a small, regional war into a confrontation with a major, Muslim, nuclear power. This is a level of escalation that the Western powers-that-be probably preferred not to have – at least not in the past.
And so we come to the question … why now? Again several thoughts occur. First, there is the possibility that this is a false report and Pakistan is not so intimately involved with the Taliban at leadership levels – but that Western leaders have decided to make it look that way. Second, it could be that the West and NATO want to put yet more pressure on the Pakistani government and military by bringing these linkages out into the open. Third, it could be that the Western power elite has decided to generally ratchet up tensions between the West and Muslims.
Given the above options, we think we shall go with options number two and three. The West is engaged in an escalating confrontation with Iran and it could be that raising the level of tension with Pakistan is part of a general effort to create an adversarial situation with the Muslim world. The news would certainly seem to have the potential of inflaming inattentive Westerners against the Pakistani government – as a further enemy of the West.
Nonetheless, it is a very strange tactic – if it is a tactic. (Given the level of control and propaganda that is currently swirling around the war in Afghanistan, we cannot believe that the London Times would publish an article that British and American military-intelligence agencies did not know about pre-publication.) As aficionados of Occam's Razor, we think the simplest explanation is best. So, yes, for now we will conclude that this is an attempt to intimidate and embarrass the more anti-Western elements in Pakistan and to further polarize the military situation.
Occam's Razor also seems to indicate that the reason for such an attempt is one of growing desperation on the part of the Western military alliance. The Western powers are likely losing war in Afghanistan, and these revelations could be seen as confirmation of it. Now, there may be other reasons that will emerge in the near future. (Maybe as soon as tomorrow?) We will have to watch carefully to see. We will read the mainstream press looking for clues in various articles, etc.
It is a big deal of course. The Afghanistan war is a Western war against the last remaining tribe of power in the world – 40 million Pashtuns that want little or nothing to do with the ways of the West. They are seemingly a "stick-necked" and independent people; Pakistan has left them alone for the most part and they have tended to treat Afghanistan as their preserve from a leadership point of view, though there are other important ethnicities in the area as well.
Upcoming offensives by the West in Afghanistan seem to be stalled. European support for the war has waned and shows no sign of returning. American support is likely waning as well. The situation "on the ground" in Afghanistan is likely untenable for the NATO alliance in the long-term. If the revelations about Pakistan are to be believed, the West is not fighting 40 million Pashtuns but 300 million Muslims.
Again, if this were pre-1945, escalating and widening a war – especially a religious war – would make a lot of sense. One could embroil the whole of the Western world in such a confrontation and create a situation that would serve as a significant distraction from the current collapse of Western economies. But it is nuclear weapons that make such a widening untenable from our point of view. It is the reason, in our humble opinion, that confrontation against the Iranian Shias or the Afghanistan Sunnis is destined to be no more effective than previous 21st century gambits in the Middle East. The Western elites created Pakistan, apparently, as a way of "dividing and conquering" India, but such strategies are increasingly difficult to take advantage of in a post-nuclear world.
Does the power elite have the answers for winning this war? Unlike the US-Asian wars, we think it is one that Western elites wish to win. But as we wrote just recently, the strategy of "winning the hearts and minds" of Afghanistan Pashtuns is about eight years too late. Western powers can continue to pour armaments and men into Afghanistan but the logic escapes us, especially with the revelation (if one can call it that) that Pakistan is aligned at the highest levels with the Pashtuns.
Breaking News: – The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials … An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys. (- NY Times) … Editor's note: Fabulous stuff. Not only can the Pentagon run a war, it can also "prospect" with the best of them. Now that these valuable minerals have been discovered, we assume the Afghan government will invite many countries to participate on special terms. Perhaps a request will be made that such countries provide troops to secure these deposits as well?
What next we wonder? Does the West really have in mind widening the war to Pakistan? And Iran, too? The only way this would work, so far as we can tell, is if there is a tremendous attack on the West itself that would polarize public opinion against the Muslim world in general. Then perhaps the West could launch an all out attack on the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan besides. Given all that the Internet has taught us, we wonder if this is really an option, and if, in any event, it would prove effective.