Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Beast Within

What you have here is a BBC report on the spread of Taliban influence in Pakhtunkhwa suggesting that only 38% of NWFP and FATA areas is under government control.

The immediate reaction to this when it was put out was one of vehement denial by President Asif Ali Zardari who was in London meeting with PM Gordon Brown negotiating an aid package.

The BBC continues, asking:

Is the Pakistan army serious in its objectives?

There have been a lot of questions raised about the commitment of the Pakistan's security establishment. In particular, the role of the country's powerful but shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has been the subject of much debate.

Most of it is focused on the agency's relationship with the Taleban. The Taleban were very much a creation of the ISI as part of the army's doctrine of 'strategic depth'.

This doctrine saw Afghanistan as a friendly satellite that would give Pakistani forces geographic strategic depth in case of war with its perennial rival India and its much more powerful military.

The army also saw the Taleban as an instrument in Pakistan becoming a player in the new great game for energy resources in Central Asia. While post 9/11, the country ostensibly threw in its lot with the US, many believe the army and the ISI continue to secretly support the Taleban.

While all Pakistani authorities deny this on the record, many senior security personnel have admitted some support to the Taleban. They point to the growing influence of India in Afghanistan, and say Pakistan cannot allow this 'encirclement' as it directly imparts on its national security.

I should add, that it was the President's late wife, Benazir Bhutto who in her tenure as PM gave the initial green light to the Taliban when they came prominence in Afghanistan back in 1994. Denial or irony?

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