STEVE Coll, a US writer has recently published a book titled ‘Directorate S-the CIA and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan’. In this book the writer has said the US has not won its war on terror in Afghanistan because the Diretorate-S of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has been training the Afghan Taliban. Although facts would prove Coll’s allegation against the ISI as wrong, his book will take some sympathy merely due to the credibility of his earlier book titled, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden till 2001. In this Ghost Wars, Steve Coll has written about the CIA-ISI joint campaign in establishing training camps along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 1980s to train Islamist fighters from the world over to fight a successful guerilla war against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
However, Mr. Steve’s claim made in his latest book ‘ Directorate S-the CIA and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan’ that the US failure in Afghanistan is due to Pakistan ISI’s training of the Afghan Taliban is negated by the facts and the ground realities that existed in Afghanistan. There are three main reasons for the US failure to bring peace in Afghanistan. Firstly, since the beginning of the US led NATO offensive in Afghanistan, the support of about 42 percent Pashtuns in Afghanistan was available to the Taliban. Moreover, the NATO and ISAF have failed in gaining control over the Pashtun habituated 40 percent rural areas of Afghanistan, which were available to the Taliban to stay there safely without any worthwhile threat.
But, rather, the US goes along to blame Pakistan for providing sanctuaries to the Taliban just to scapegoat it for US failures in Afghanistan. No doubt, this criticism washes off all the valuable contributions Pakistan has made in the war on terror as a Non NATO ally. Although since 1947 many people from Pashtun tribes from both countries have the facility to cross to either side to meet their relatives, under cover of which some terrorist suspects could also cross. In any case, to rule out crossing over by terrorists from either side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan porous border, in the guise of Pashtun civilian visitors to meet their relatives, allowed by both the countries as per the old tradition, Pakistan has been seeking cooperation of the US and the Afghan Government, to fence the border area to regulate the border crossing of legitimate persons to meet their relations, which never came. Then ultimately Pakistan has itself started fencing its border with Afghanistan.
Secondly, as far as training of the Afghan Taliban by ISI is concerned, there was no such need as they were already battle hardened with their inbuilt training system as they had defeated all warlords of Afghanistan before coming to power in the 1990s. Therefore, blaming Pakistan’s ISI for their training is nothing more than a wishful conclusion. And that too at this stage when Pakistan has eliminated Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) based terrorism of the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan and any hiding elements of the Afghan terrorists by undertaking the arduous military operations in Swat and FATA, culminating in operation Zarb-i-Azb, by sacrificing 60,000 men and suffering economic losses of above $ 103 billion. Now, operation Radd UL Fassad is in progress to hunt down any hiding terrorists in the country.
Thirdly, the main reasons for the Pashtun population’s sympathy for the Taliban are that comprising 42 per cent of Afghanistan’s population, they have not been given fair representation in the Government, as per their population. Moreover, the US and the Afghan Government have been reluctant to include the Taliban in the Afghan peace process. Even now the US can conveniently succeed in bringing peace in Afghanistan if it supports Afghan Government’s recent initiative of accepting the Taliban as a political reality and starting a sincere peace process between all ethnic groups in Afghanistan with the prior commitment of giving fair representation in the Interim Afghan Government to them as per their population and giving a firm programme of the withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan, which may be acceptable to the majority of the Afghans..
In view of the above ground realities and the discussed reasons, it is opined that the criticism by Steve Coll in his book, that US has been defeated in Afghanistan because the Pakistan ISI has been training the Afghan Taliban is not logical. At the most, Steve has tried to project the US Government’s policy of blaming Pakistan for providing sanctuaries to the Afghan Taliban, which is meant to scapegoat Pakistan to cover the US and ISAF failures in Afghanistan. Hence, by doing so, without sufficient evidence, Steve Coll has himself put the credibility of his book in doubt.
—The writer, retired Lt Col, is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.