Imran Jan |
Yet another ISI-bashing book unsurprisingly by Steve Coll. It is merely a repetition of the boring and bias-laden anti-ISI narrative. It is a bellyache for some that the ISI is an organization, which blocks Indian designs of harming Pakistan. In the chapter Tough Love, Coll writes, “Chuck Hagel asked [Hamid Karzai] if Zardari could control the army and I.S.I.” Karzai replied, “No, not without the help of the U.S.”
This mindset of taming the ISI so that it cannot act as a bulwark in the way of the destabilizing activities of the West and India inside Afghanistan is troubling. Coll describes the ISI as this lunacy driven organization, which is mistakenly and excessively focused on India, which as Coll describes with great subtlety, is a victim of ISI’s nefarious actions.
Coll’s favorite character in the book is Amrullah Saleh, who was the head of the primary Afghan intelligence agency National Directorate of Security until 2007. Saleh more than anything is interested in anti-ISI propaganda. Coll treats his statements as gospel truth. Saleh is the man who clashed with Karzai for his peace overtures toward the Taliban, an agenda Washington was pursuing secretly through figures such as Tayeb Agha who had direct link to Mullah Mohammad Omar.
This mindset of taming the ISI so that it cannot act as a bulwark in the way of the destabilizing activities of the West and India inside Afghanistan is troubling.
Peaceful negotiations with the Taliban has been a Pakistani advice to the Americans since 2001. Today, the peace talks with the Taliban has become an American strategy of exit from the empires’ graveyard.
One of Saleh’s fraudulent statements about the ISI is this: “They [Pakistan] developed their nuclear bomb under the watchful eyes and smelling nose of the West.” Now, the American strategy to counter Pakistani General Zia’s nuclear ambitions was through Pressler Amendment. It is noteworthy that the Pressler amendment was passed in 1985 and it basically said that military and technology equipment [aid] to Pakistan should be discontinued unless the US president certified that Pakistan did not “possess” or the American assistance would “reduce significantly the risk that Pakistan will possess a nuclear explosive device”.
The Pressler Amendment was passed by US Congress in 1985 but it did n’t hit Pakistan until October 1990. This does n’t sound like the “watchful eyes and smelling nose of the West” but rather willful ignorance of the West so that Pakistan could help the CIA take its revenge for the KGB inflicted American defeat in Vietnam. So, Saleh and Coll are being disingenuous. Even in a picture in the book, General Kayani has been wrongfully captioned as Major-General Asif Akhtar. It is hard to tell mistakes from bias.
Coll’s favorite character in the book is Amrullah Saleh, who was the head of the primary Afghan intelligence agency National Directorate of Security until 2007.
Coll tries very hard to sound neutral but the truth is he’s repeating the same boring narrative that Pakistan is responsible for all the mess in Afghanistan. It takes extreme discipline, which American mainstream journalists have mastered through years of working, to say that the mess in Afghanistan is the work of the ISI. I wonder what Coll would call invading a nation, changing war aims, and killing countless innocent civilians while occupying their country? Let me guess; bringing democracy or helping women achieve equal status to that of men?
In the chapter Conflict Resolution Cell, Coll talks about General Kayani’s talk before a group of former American policymakers, journalists, and intelligence analysts. There, Kayani basically talks about how Pakistan has paid dearly because of the failed American invasion of Afghanistan. Kayani argues that Pakistan wants a “peaceful and stable Afghanistan, a friendly Afghanistan”, which Coll treats as code for “Pakistani influence, through the Taliban.” Does Washington’s statements about wanting a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan mean code for American influence through the Northern Alliance and India?
Does India mean to control Afghanistan and use it to weaken Pakistan when Modi says India wants “durable peace” in Afghanistan? Does India want to have a permanent presence in Afghanistan to threaten Pakistan’s security when Modi says, “We must support Afghanistan without timelines…” Coll, in the same chapter, says that Pakistani generals while not acknowledging propping up the Taliban basically argue that this is meant to contain the spillover effects from the violence emanating from Afghanistan instead of telling the truth that they (generals) are using the Taliban for the future ulterior motive of “retaking Kabul”.
This is interesting because when Washington deals with the threat in the ‘now’ mode, it is given benign names such as Petraeus’s “reintegration” or Holbrooke’s “réconciliation”. Those who argue that America’s real ulterior motive in coming to Afghanistan and staying here is the eventual containment of China are rebuffed as conspiracy theorists. But when Pakistan deals with its security issues in the ‘now’ mode and employs strategic manoeuvres, Coll says well the real aim is “retaking Kabul” eventually. Now, is Coll a conspiracy theorist?
Imran Jan is a political analyst, he can be reached at email@example.com. The article originally appeared at The Express Tribune and has been republished with author’s permission. The Views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.