U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) meets with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (L) on September 23, 2021, on the sidelines of the 76th UN General Assembly in New York.
Kena Betancur | AFP | Getty Images
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. But either side nonetheless want one another.
With the Biden administration searching for new methods to cease terrorist threats in Afghanistan, it’ll doubtless look once more to Pakistan, which stays essential to U.S. intelligence and nationwide safety due to its proximity to Afghanistan and connections to the Taliban leaders now in cost.
Over 20 years of conflict, American officers accused Pakistan of taking part in a double recreation 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 jap Afghanistan and launched lethal assaults all through Pakistan.
But 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 support and good relations with Washington, at the same time as its leaders brazenly have a good time the Taliban’s rise to energy.
“Over the last 20 years, Pakistan has been vital for various logistics purposes for the U.S. military. What’s really been troubling is that, unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of trust,” mentioned U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. “I think the question is whether we can get over that history to arrive at a 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 20 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 new Taliban authorities consists of officers that American officers have lengthy believed are linked to Pakistan’s spy company, the Inter-Services Intelligence.
Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., mentioned he understood “the temptation of officials in both countries to try and take advantage of the situation” and discover widespread floor. But Haqqani mentioned he anticipated Pakistan to offer “all possible cooperation to the Taliban.”
“This has been a moment Pakistan has been waiting for 20 years,” mentioned Haqqani, now on the Hudson Institute suppose tank. “They now feel that they have a satellite state.”
U.S. officers are attempting to shortly construct what President Joe Biden calls an “over the horizon” capability to observe and cease terrorist threats.
Without a associate 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 essential to search out widespread floor with different governments which have extra sources within the nation.
Pakistan might 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 aren’t any identified agreements to this point. CIA Director William Burns visited Islamabad earlier this month to fulfill with Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s military chief, and Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, who leads the ISI, in response to a Pakistani authorities assertion. Burns and Hameed have additionally individually visited Kabul in latest weeks to fulfill with Taliban leaders. The CIA declined to touch upon the visits.
Pakistani Foreign 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 conflict.
“We have often been criticized for not doing enough,” Qureshi informed The Associated Press on Wednesday. “But we’ve not been appreciated enough for having done what was done.”
Qureshi wouldn’t immediately reply whether or not Pakistan would enable the basing of surveillance tools or overflight of drones.
“They don’t have to be physically there to share intelligence,” he mentioned of the U.S. “There are smarter ways of doing it.”
The CIA and ISI have a protracted historical past in Afghanistan, courting again to their shared purpose of arming bands of mujahedeen — “freedom fighters” — in opposition to the Soviet Union’s occupation within the 1980s. The CIA despatched weapons and cash into Afghanistan by way of Pakistan.
Those fighters included Osama bin Laden. Others would change into leaders of the Taliban, which emerged victorious from a civil conflict in 1996 and gained management of many of the nation. The Taliban gave refuge to bin Laden and different leaders of al-Qaida, which launched lethal assaults on Americans 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 University’s National Security 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 tons of of drone strikes launched from Pakistan focusing on al-Qaida leaders and others alleged to have ties to terrorist teams. Hundreds of civilians died within the strikes, in response to figures stored by outdoors 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, house 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 amassing 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 would say, ‘You just come to my office, tell me where the location is,'” he mentioned. “They would just usually pay lip service to us and say they couldn’t confirm the intel.”
London, creator of the forthcoming e-book “The Recruiter,” mentioned he anticipated American intelligence would take into account restricted partnerships with Pakistan on mutual enemies corresponding to al-Qaeda or Islamic State-Khorasan, which took accountability for the lethal suicide assault outdoors the Kabul airport final month in the course of the ultimate days of the U.S. evacuation.
The threat, London mentioned, is at instances “your partner is as much of a threat to you as the enemy who you’re pursuing.”