NEW DELHI: The late head of Pakistan’s highly effective Inter-Providers Intelligence (ISI) company, Lieutenant Common Hamid Gul, was keen on boasting that when Afghanistan’s historical past got here to be written, it might document that the ISI, with the assistance of America, defeated the Soviet Union.
And subsequent, he would slyly add, historians would state that the ISI, with the assistance of America, defeated America.
Gul’s boast was not the form of empty rodomontade that army males are infamous for as soon as they cling up their uniforms and recall their previous as being extra superb than the main points would possibly warrant.
He was proper to argue that it was the ISI’s tactic of sponsoring militants and terrorists – amply armed, provided, and financed by the US – towards the Purple Military in Afghanistan that pressured the Kremlin to withdraw ignominiously.
Subsequently, utilizing the identical method and initially lots of the similar personnel and strategies, Pakistan created and sponsored a mujahideen group calling themselves the Taliban, or “college students” of Islam, who swiftly took over Afghanistan and dominated it as a completely owned ISI subsidiary.
Issues had been rosy for Gul and his ilk till Osama bin Laden, a former mujahideen fighter who loved the hospitality of the Taliban’s new “Islamic Emirate”, ordered the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist assaults towards the US from his Afghan hideout.
America’s livid response resulted within the overthrow of the Taliban and the exile of bin Laden, underneath ISI safety, to refuge in a Pakistani army redoubt.
The ISI had even much less to crow about when US tracked down bin Laden to a safe compound in Abbottabad and particular forces killed him there in 2011.
US WITHDRAWAL FROM AFGHANISTAN IS A DEFEAT
However as America wearied of being slowed down interminably in Afghanistan, and the ISI helped its Taliban purchasers to rearm, reorganise, and resume their operations towards the US-backed regime in Kabul, the tide turned within the ISI’s favour.
President Joe Biden has introduced that US forces will withdraw fully from Afghanistan by Sep 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 assaults. The date that lengthy symbolised America’s willpower to strike on the root of the terrorist assaults towards it now signifies its lack of will to proceed.
No matter face-saving successor preparations the US could put in place to masks its capitulation, its withdrawal from Afghanistan, with none of its long-term targets achieved, is a defeat.
With the Taliban extra highly effective than ever and poised to reclaim energy in Kabul, the one exterior victor would be the ISI. As Gul foresaw, it’s going to have defeated America with America’s assist.
Pakistan has now obtained twenty years’ price of US army help, totalling an estimated US$11 billion.
The ISI has lengthy been obsessive about the concept that controlling Afghanistan would give Pakistan the “strategic depth” wanted to problem its principal adversary, India. A Taliban regime (or perhaps a Taliban-dominated coalition authorities) in Kabul is one of the best assure of that.
The Taliban factions are so beholden to their Pakistani benefactors that, as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani acidly remarked, their decision-making our bodies – Quetta Shura, Miramshah Shura, and Peshawar Shura – are named after the Pakistani cities the place they’re primarily based.
NOT ALL GOOD NEWS FOR PAKISTAN
However Gul’s successors could be clever to tone down their celebrations. First, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan removes an important supply of leverage for Pakistan in Washington. It might not be excellent news for Pakistan if the People want it much less.
Moreover, because the ISI is aware of, the issue with creating and sponsoring militant teams is that they don’t all the time stay underneath your management.
The lesson of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – that the creatures we give life to can develop minds and desires of their very own – has been obvious elsewhere as nicely, not least in Israel’s position in build up Hamas as a rival to the Palestine Liberation Group.
The identical factor has occurred in Pakistan, the place the interval of sullen cooperation between the Pakistani authorities and the US through the post-9/11 American crackdown in Afghanistan spawned the rebel of the “Pakistani Taliban”.
Whereas the Afghan Taliban wanted Pakistani refuge, ISI protected homes, funding and arms to mount the insurgency that has introduced the US to the purpose of withdrawal, the Pakistani Taliban have attacked their very own erstwhile godfathers for inadequate fealty to militant Islam.
The ISI little doubt hopes that when US forces are gone and the Afghan Taliban is securely entrenched in Kabul, it might probably persuade the Pakistani Taliban to forgive and overlook the company’s earlier transgressions.
If that occurs, the considering goes, peace will likely be restored, the ISI will management Afghanistan, and the Pakistani mujahideen will cease focusing on Pakistani military installations and convoys, and be part of the ISI in intensifying assaults on the “actual enemy”, India.
However a nightmarish different state of affairs for the ISI can be attainable. Pakistani militant teams, emboldened by the success of their brethren in Afghanistan, would possibly not be prey to the army’s blandishments.
As a substitute, they might launch terror assaults with the intention of emulating in Pakistan what the Taliban have achieved in Afghanistan.
If Afghanistan might be run as an Islamic emirate, they could ask, why can’t we do the identical in Pakistan? Why dance to the ISI’s tune once we can name our personal?
In such a state of affairs, the ISI’s heady second of triumph on 9/11 this yr may appear more and more hole, because the vipers it has nurtured strike at its personal breast.
True, the Pakistani Taliban – with no state sponsor of their very own – has much less probability of success than their Afghan counterparts. However they’ll nonetheless do appreciable harm, within the course of intensifying the Pakistani public’s disenchantment with the army’s domination of their nation.
Ought to that occur, we might want to lengthen Gul’s account and say that the ISI, because the agent of the Pakistani army, helped to “defeat” or at the very least discredit itself.
Shashi Tharoor, a former UN under-secretary-general and former Indian Minister of State for Exterior Affairs and Minister of State for Human Useful resource Growth, is an MP for the Indian Nationwide Congress.