The Wikileaks document dump containing classified reports giving a worm’s eye view of what is happening in Afghanistan, also contained intelligence reports revealing the not very well kept secret that the Pakistani intelligence agency – the ISI – has been assisting the Taliban with killing Americans in Afghanistan.
The complete extent and nature of that support is unknown. As the New York Times points out, some of the intelligence in the documents pointing to Pakistani support for the enemy may be self-serving or even part of a disinformation campaign, given their provenance. After all, the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai considers Pakistan an enemy. They created the Taliban in the early 90’s and have constantly sought to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
They also have upwards of 70 nuclear weapons — perhaps as many as 90 — with missile delivery systems possessing a range capable of delivering a nuke up to 2,500 miles. And there has been a long-standing US concern that those weapons are not guarded as well as they should be. A study by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University titled “Securing the Bomb 2010,” found that Pakistan’s stockpile “faces a greater threat from Islamic extremists seeking nuclear weapons than any other nuclear stockpile on earth.”
You don’t have to go very far to find extremists in Pakistan. This from Daniel Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, at the Council on Foreign Relations:
Only in Pakistan do you have the juxtaposition of a significant nuclear arsenal and the world’s most sophisticated terror network. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not uniquely vulnerable, but they are geographically close to al-Qaeda’s core leadership, which has a declared intention to obtain a nuclear device.
Markey points out that not only foreign extremists have set up shop in Pakistan, but the home grown variety is well ensconced in the Pakistani body politic with Islamist parties making inroads against the more secular-oriented governing coalition. Religious schools dominate education in the country, indoctrinating the young with hatred against the west and the glory of jihad. (Note: Not all madrassas are breeding grounds for terrorists, but with many being funded by the Saudi Wahhabis, it gives most of the more than 13,000 madrassas a decidedly anti-Western orientation.)
Then there is the Pakistani version of the Taliban who are currently engaged in a hot war with the military in the Northwest Frontier Provinces. Allied with al-Qaeda, their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, has claimed a connection with the failed Times Square car bombing. Meshud most recently gave the central government fits in the Swat region, using that stronghold as a base to strike against Pakistani population centers with suicide attacks, while carrying out assaults against government police and army bases. With such boldness, it is no wonder that the US and our allies fear that Meshud would attack a nuclear base with catastrophic results.
But the document dump revealing ISI involvement in the Taliban should not come as a surprise to anyone. The US government has lodged complaint after complaint, going back to the regime of President Musharaff, regarding Pakistani support for the Taliban. At that time, Musharaff appeared to be trying to play both ends against the middle. He signed a “peace treaty” with the Taliban in North and South Waziristan, in effect allowing the terrorists a free hand in the border regions with Afghanistan, while representing to the United States government that the treaties would keep the Taliban pinned down. Meanwhile, it gave breathing room to Musharaff both with the US government, and his political allies in the Islamic parties who were agitating for an end to Pakistan’s dealings with the US.
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