U.S., Pakistan face each other again on Afghanistan threats

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) meets with Pakistani International Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (L) on September 23, 2021, on the sidelines of the 76th UN Common Meeting in New York.

Kena Betancur | AFP | Getty Photos

The Taliban’s takeover of Kabul has deepened the mutual mistrust between the U.S. and Pakistan, two putative allies who’ve tangled over Afghanistan. However each side nonetheless want one another.

With the Biden administration on the lookout for new methods to cease terrorist threats in Afghanistan, it can doubtless look once more to Pakistan, which stays vital to U.S. intelligence and nationwide safety due to its proximity to Afghanistan and connections to the Taliban leaders now in cost.

Over twenty years of warfare, American officers accused Pakistan of taking part in a double sport by promising to combat terrorism and cooperate with Washington whereas cultivating the Taliban and different extremist teams that attacked U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Islamabad, in the meantime, pointed to what it noticed as failed guarantees of a supportive authorities in Kabul after the U.S. drove the Taliban from energy following the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults as extremist teams took refuge in japanese Afghanistan and launched lethal assaults all through Pakistan.

However the U.S. desires Pakistani cooperation in counterterrorism efforts and will search permission to fly surveillance flights into Afghanistan or different intelligence cooperation. And Pakistan desires U.S. army help and good relations with Washington, whilst its leaders brazenly rejoice the Taliban’s rise to energy.

“Over the past 20 years, Pakistan has been very important for numerous logistics functions for the U.S. army. What’s actually been troubling is that, sadly, there hasn’t been a whole lot of belief,” mentioned U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat who sits on the Home Intelligence Committee. “I believe the query is whether or not we are able to recover from that historical past to reach at a brand new understanding.”

Former diplomats and intelligence officers from each international locations say the chances for cooperation are severely restricted by the occasions of the final twenty years and Pakistan’s enduring competitors with India. The earlier Afghan authorities, which was strongly backed by New Delhi, routinely accused Pakistan of harboring the Taliban. The brand new Taliban authorities consists of officers that American officers have lengthy believed are linked to Pakistan’s spy company, the Inter-Providers Intelligence.

Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., mentioned he understood “the temptation of officers in each international locations to attempt to make the most of the scenario” and discover widespread floor. However Haqqani mentioned he anticipated Pakistan to offer “all doable cooperation to the Taliban.”

“This has been a second Pakistan has been ready for 20 years,” mentioned Haqqani, now on the Hudson Institute suppose tank. “They now really feel that they’ve a satellite tv for pc state.”

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U.S. officers are attempting to shortly construct what President Joe Biden calls an “over the horizon” capability to watch and cease terrorist threats.

And not using a companion nation bordering Afghanistan, the U.S. has to fly surveillance drones lengthy distances, limiting the time they can be utilized to look at over targets. The U.S. additionally misplaced most of its community of informants and intelligence companions within the now-deposed Afghan authorities, making it vital to search out widespread floor with different governments which have extra sources within the nation.

Pakistan could possibly be useful in that effort by permitting “overflight” rights for American spy planes from the Persian Gulf or allowing the U.S. to base surveillance or counterterrorism groups alongside its border with Afghanistan. There are few different choices amongst Afghanistan’s neighbors. Iran is a U.S. adversary. And Central Asian international locations north of Afghanistan all face various levels of Russian affect.

There are not any recognized agreements to this point. CIA Director William Burns visited Islamabad earlier this month to satisfy with Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s military chief, and Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, who leads the ISI, in accordance with a Pakistani authorities assertion. Burns and Hameed have additionally individually visited Kabul in latest weeks to satisfy with Taliban leaders. The CIA declined to touch upon the visits.

Pakistani International Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi famous this week that Islamabad had cooperated with U.S. requests to facilitate peace talks earlier than the Taliban takeover and that it had agreed to U.S. army requests all through the warfare.

“We’ve got typically been criticized for not doing sufficient,” Qureshi informed The Related Press on Wednesday. “However we have not been appreciated sufficient for having accomplished what was accomplished.”

Qureshi wouldn’t instantly reply whether or not Pakistan would enable the basing of surveillance gear or overflight of drones.

“They do not should be bodily there to share intelligence,” he mentioned of the U.S. “There are smarter methods of doing it.”

The CIA and ISI have an extended historical past in Afghanistan, courting again to their shared aim of arming bands of mujahedeen — “freedom fighters” — in opposition to the Soviet Union’s occupation within the Eighties. The CIA despatched weapons and cash into Afghanistan by way of Pakistan.

These fighters included Osama bin Laden. Others would turn out to be leaders of the Taliban, which emerged victorious from a civil warfare in 1996 and gained management of a lot of the nation. The Taliban gave refuge to bin Laden and different leaders of al-Qaida, which launched lethal assaults on Individuals overseas in 1998 after which struck the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.

After 9/11, the U.S. instantly sought Pakistan’s cooperation in its combat in opposition to al-Qaida and different terrorist teams. Declassified cables printed by George Washington College’s Nationwide Safety Archive present officers in President George W. Bush’s administration made a number of calls for of Pakistan, from intercepting arms shipments heading to al-Qaida to offering the U.S. with intelligence and permission to fly army and intelligence planes over its territory.

The CIA would perform lots of of drone strikes launched from Pakistan focusing on al-Qaida leaders and others alleged to have ties to terrorist teams. Tons of of civilians died within the strikes, in accordance with figures stored by exterior observers, resulting in widespread protests and public anger in Pakistan.

Pakistan, in the meantime, continued to be accused of harboring the Taliban after the U.S.-backed coalition drove the group from energy in Kabul. And bin Laden was killed in 2011 by U.S. particular forces in a secret raid on a compound within the Pakistani metropolis of Abbottabad, residence to the nation’s army academy. The bin Laden operation led many within the U.S. to query whether or not Pakistan had harbored bin Laden and angered Pakistanis who felt the raid violated their sovereignty.

For years, CIA officers tried to confront their Pakistani counterparts after gathering extra proof of Pakistani intelligence officers serving to the Taliban transfer cash and fighters right into a then-growing insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan, mentioned Douglas London, who oversaw the CIA’s counterterrorism operations in South Asia till 2018.

“They might say, ‘You simply come to my workplace, inform me the place the situation is,'” he mentioned. “They might simply normally pay lip service to us and say they could not verify the intel.”

London, creator of the forthcoming e book “The Recruiter,” mentioned he anticipated American intelligence would contemplate restricted partnerships with Pakistan on mutual enemies corresponding to al-Qaeda or Islamic State-Khorasan, which took duty for the lethal suicide assault exterior the Kabul airport final month in the course of the remaining days of the U.S. evacuation.

The danger, London mentioned, is at occasions “your companion is as a lot of a risk to you because the enemy who you are pursuing.”

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