This is a guest note by General Asad Durrani, who previously served as the head of Pakistan’s ISI, or Inter-Services Intelligence. Durrani later served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany and to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As a side note, current Pakistan Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Kayani was a student of Durrani‘s.
The WikiLeaks “Coup”
There is general consensus that these “tens of thousands of classified documents” procured by the Wikileaks are mostly raw battlefield reports from Afghanistan, and reveal little that was not already known.
All the same, it has created an impact and confirmed many fears: that the war in Afghanistan was not going too well for the US led forces; that it was largely because of Pakistan’s inter-services intelligence (the ISI) playing a “double game”; also that the Karzai led dispensation in Kabul did little to help; and that the indiscriminate use of force by the American military, a euphemism for war crimes, too has contributed to this failure.
If that was the intended message, the leak was obviously deliberate. The number and the nature of reports reinforce this inference. The following developments lead me to believe that it was done to win more support for the course correction that Obama’s administration has undertaken.
During the last two years, it has often been claimed, and may even be partly true, that under the new counterinsurgency strategy, “collateral damage” was generally avoided.
Again, during the same period, since Pakistan has been successfully persuaded/ coerced to undertake military operations against some of the groups allied with the Afghan resistance, its support to the latter (must have) considerably reduced.
Most importantly, as the ‘project Afghanistan’ has gone so hopelessly awry, Obama’s decision to start withdrawing the military next year was, at the very least, the least bad option.
Pakistan and its sympathisers will indeed now find their own arguments to control the damage.
The official spokespersons cannot do much better than reiterating that the “situation on ground” was different, that Pakistan has taken effective measures against the militants operating on its side of the AfPak borders, and that its policies have now won applause all around.
A number of regional experts have rationalized Pakistan’s (alleged) support to the Afghan Taliban because it needs a countervailing force against the growing Indian influence (some of them even believe that in due course Pakistan would employ them in the Indian held Kashmir). Since this perception also exists in Pakistan and provides us with a reasonable excuse to keep the Afghan Taliban in good shape, I have no intentions to contest it in the present scenario.
Not many would pick up the courage to suggest that some other countries in the region — Iran, Russia and China for example — too are genuinely concerned about the presence of the US-led alliance in Afghanistan. All of them would therefore take their own respective course to subvert the NATO’s “out of area” missions. While Pakistan and Iran would be the obvious suspects interested in a potent Afghan resistance, there are other players as well in this new Great Game.
An unintended consequence of these “leaks” may well be the ISI’s enhanced stature in the eyes of the ordinary Pakistanis. With the all pervasive “anti-Americanism” in the country, if the agency has had the gumption of supporting the Afghan resistance against the US occupation, it would be credited with “yet another” coup.
Hamid Gul may also reap similar benefits thought at a much reduced scale. People here have a fairly good idea that his overt support to the Taliban notwithstanding, he has no wherewithal to covertly contribute.
— Asad Durrani