Connect to share and comment

Pakistan’s Taliban captive: an accident or a turning point?

Pakistan wants to be part of possible US negotiations with Taliban over Al Qaeda.


Pakistan has not let the Americans talk to their high level prisoners, and were reluctant to even let the United States know whom they had captured.

So what’s Pakistan’s game? According to Rashid, Pakistan resents Karzai and the Americans for sending out feelers to the Taliban without cutting Pakistan in. If there are going to be peace talks, “Pakistan wants to be a major broker,” Rashid said.

Pakistan helped create and arm the Taliban in order to bring stability and a pro-Pakistan government to Afghanistan, which fell into civil war after the Soviets left. The American invasion after 9/11 merely replaced a pro-Pakistan Taliban government in Kabul with the pro-Indian Northern Alliance, in Pakistani eyes. Pakistan will do everything in its power to insure a friendly power on its western frontier, not a cat’s paw for arch-enemy India.

Pakistan’s harboring of the Afghan Taliban has been a source for frustration for the Americans. In the recent fighting in Waziristan, the Pakistani army targeted the so-called Pakistani Taliban, but left alone the Taliban that is fighting the United States, NATO, and the Karzai government. In so doing, the Pakistanis are doing what the British did in their long years of fighting Pashtuns on the Northwest Frontier — buying off some tribes while they went after others.

Rashid is optimistic that the time might just be ripe for a compromise with the Taliban: power-sharing in Kabul and an eventual pull out of NATO forces, in exchange for expelling Al Qaeda and giving up armed struggle. A grand bargain with a grand betrayal.

The Americans look more towards encouraging defections from the Taliban than a deal with incorrigibles. The theory is that much of the Taliban fights because there are no jobs, and for ethnic Pashtun nationalism, rather than for religion.

If he really was discussing a deal with the Saudis and Karzai, Baradar’s arrest, whether by Pakistani design or accident, will complicate matters. But it is very clear that Pakistan wants in on any deal that might be made in the future.

So far, the Taliban have never shown any interest in expelling Al Qaeda from their midst , even though they have been offered many carrots and been beaten with many sticks over the years. That they might do so now would be a triumph of hope over experience.