Just about everyone has weighed in on US accusations that the ISI is funding and training the Haqqani network. Now it’s the Taliban’s turn. A statement released by the Afghan Taliban on the Voice of Jihad website states unequivocally that the Haqqani network is controlled by the Taliban, not Pakistan. This statement further advised Pakistan to give up trying to please the US, whom it accused of deflecting blame on to Pakistan for their defeat in Afghanistan. A statement from the Taliban hardly counts as the kind of support Pakistan would have been hoping for and may, in fact, further suspicions that we are aiding the insurgency in Afghanistan. And the statement does nothing to prove or disprove whether we are working with the Haqqani network.
A string of statements by Pakistani officials has done nothing to allay the fear that we are playing both sides in Afghanistan. Interior Minister Rehman Malik accused the CIA of originally training and creating the Haqqani network, a remark that is true but neglects to mention that this was done with the willing cooperation of Pakistan and that it happened nearly 30 years ago when the two countries were training and arming militants to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Its relevance to the current situation is hard to see. It seems that pointing out past US support for the Haqqani network has become a talking point, as even Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar called them the CIA’s “blue-eyed boys”.
Trying to pin the blame on the US is not going to exonerate us. The Haqqani network is credibly accused of being behind attacks on the US in Afghanistan and we need to clarify our role in those attacks. If we have chosen not to take military action against the Haqqani network because of a lack of military capability, then that could be justified. However, what cannot be justified is to allow it to carry attacks across the international border in other countries, since that would risk Pakistan being labelled a sponsor of terrorism.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2011.